US committed to Turkey's security, Mattis tells Turkish PM Yildirim
Iran Press TV
Thu May 11, 2017 3:28PM
US Defense Secretary James Mattis has assured Turkey that Washington is committed to protecting its NATO ally, while Ankara is infuriated by a US plan to arm Kurdish fighters.
Mattis met with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in London on Thursday in what appeared to be the highest level talks between the two nations since Tuesday, when US President Donald Trump approved a plan to directly arm Syrian Kurds against Daesh terrorists to retake Raqqah.
"Yesterday the president authorized the Department of Defense to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIL in Raqqah, Syria. The SDF partnered with enabling support from US and coalition forces are the only force on the ground to successfully seize Raqqah in the near future," White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed on Wednesday.
Shortly after, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged Washington to immediately overturn its decision to arm Kurdish fighters that Ankara regards as members of a terrorist group.
Erdogan further emphasized that he would mention the issue in upcoming discussions with Trump when the two are scheduled to meet in Washington on May 16 in their first formal encounter as heads of state.
Mattis said that Washington will be cooperating with Turkey to liberate the Daesh-held northeastern Syrian city of Raqqah.
"We'll work out any of the concerns," Mattis said referring to Turkey's concerns.
This is while Yildrim said, "There is still an opportunity for the United States to take Turkey's sensitivities into consideration. Otherwise, the outcome won't only affect Turkey, a negative outcome will also emerge for the United States."
The US currently provides air support for members of the SDF -- a Kurdish-dominated and anti-Damascus alliance. They have largely surrounded Raqqah and are expected to begin an offensive soon.
The SDF is led by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) which Ankara views as a terrorist organization over its alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the PKK militant group, which is labeled a terrorist organization by both Ankara and Washington. The PKK fights for an independent Kurdish region in Turkey.
The Syrian government has censured and protested the US and Turkish support for armed militants in Syria, and has vowed to resist any moves by foreign-sponsored militants to seize territories inside the Arab country.
Different foreign-backed terrorist groups have been wreaking havoc in Syria since 2011.Over the past few months, Syrian forces have made sweeping gains against Takfiri elements who have lately increased their acts of violence across the country following a series of defeats on the ground.
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