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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Iran Press TV

Militants promote PKK as Saudi, US envoys visit Raqqah

Iran Press TV

Fri Oct 20, 2017 07:51AM

US-backed militants have celebrated their capture of Raqqah under a huge portrait of PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan after a Saudi minister and a US envoy visited the northern Syrian city.

The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by the US and EU, has been waging an armed campaign against the Turkish state for nearly 40 years, in which tens of thousands of people have been killed.

Footage emerged on social media on Thursday, showing the Kurdish militants with the so-called People's Protection Units (YPG) putting up the poster of jailed Ocalan in Raqqah's central al-Naim Square during a victory parade.

In a statement afterwards, the YPJ command said the victory in Raqqah was a victory for Ocalan.

The YPG operates in northern Syria under the banner of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is engaged in a purported fight against Daesh with the help of the US.

The SDF militants seized full control of Raqqah earlier this week following a months-long military offensive. The SDF has used the fight against Daesh as a pretext to expand the territory under its control in Syria.

The newly-released footage has drawn angry reactions from Syrian activists, including those with the opposition, saying it means "one terrorist group has been replaced by another" after the fall of Daesh in Raqqah.

The tribute paid to Ocalan will certainly infuriate Turkey, which views the YPG as an extension of the homegrown PKK militant group. The YPG considers Ocalan to be its ideological leader.

PKK commanders are also thought to be in control of key institutions in northern Syria, where the YPG is active, the Middle East Eye news portal reported.

Ties between Turkey and the US, two NATO allies, have significantly soured over Washington's support for Kurdish militants operating at Turkish doorsteps.

Turkey itself has deployed troops to northern Syria in a purported bid to fight Daesh and prevent Kurdish militants from linking up with the PKK on its soil.

The deployments have been without the consent of the central Damascus government, which is calling for the withdrawal of Turkish forces.

Russia said last month that SDF forces had targeted Syrian government positions in eastern Dayr al-Zawr Province where the army is making steady advances against Daesh.

With Daesh on retreat in Dayr al-Zawr, the US-backed militants have pushed to capture as much territory as possible in the oil-rich province, including a number of gas fields.

Saudi minister, US envoy in Raqqah

On Thursday, Reuters said Saudi Arabia's Persian Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan and US special envoy to the Syria war coalition Brett McGurk had visited Raqqah to discuss the city's "reconstruction."

Amed Sido, a senior adviser to the SDF, said the Saudi official had met "a reconstruction committee" set up by the "Raqqah civil council" which has been formed to run the city.

"We consider it a first visit, a first step, that could be the beginning of future relations," Sido said.

The London-based Arab news and opinion website Rai al-Youm, however, described the visit "dangerous" in line with the US policy to divide the region.

"It is unclear what Sabhan and his government as well as the Americans are doing in Raqqah. In any case, what they are doing is dangerous that can draw either a direct or an indirect response from Turkey and Iran, and certainly Syria," it wrote Friday.

"So, will the leadership of Saudi Arabia be able to deal with this response in any form, especially at a time when the country's leaders are stuck in the quagmire of the Yemeni war and their allies have been defeated in Syria?" it asked.

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