Mattis tells Turkey's PM: US committed to your security

Yildirim on Wednesday, May 10, 2017, has spoken out against a USA decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters which Turkey regard as terrorists, saying it can not use one terror organization to try and defeat another terror group. "We don't believe America would choose a terror group over our strategic relations", he told reporters.

USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces have defeated Islamic State fighters in the city of Tabqa and have seized Tabqa Dam, a key objective for the militias before a planned attack on the terror group's de-facto capital, Raqqa.

But Washington disagrees and insists the YPG - which leads the SDF's alliance of Kurdish and Arab militias that has driven the extremists from about 6000 sq of northern Syria over the past two years, with the help of US-led coalition air strikes - is needed to capture IS-held Raqqa.

Washington has stepped up its support for the YPG in recent days, announcing that it would arm the Kurdish fighters in a break with its previous policy of arming only the SDF's Arab fighters.

Trump on Monday "authorised the Department of Defence to equip Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces as necessary to ensure a clear victory over ISIS in Raqa", Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White had said in a statement.

Nasser Haj Mansour, an adviser to the SDF, said the town and the adjacent Tabqa dam were now "completely liberated" after the SDF drove all Islamic State militants out.

They pushed into the town almost two weeks ago, capturing most of its districts and encircling Islamic State in the dam. The fall of Tabqa leaves no other major urban settlements on the road to Raqqa, about 25 miles away.

"The US decision to arm the YPG... is important and will hasten the defeat of terrorism", an SDF spokesman told AFP. The YPG, which dominates a US-supported force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), is affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party.

"Turkey's message to the Trump administration was that Turkey reserves the right to take military action, " a senior Turkish official said.

"I hope very much that this mistake will be reversed immediately", Mr Erdogan said.

The US-led coalition said a first consignment of weapons was already in place for delivery and could be dispatched to the Kurds "very quickly". The weapons will not be reclaimed by the US after specific missions are completed, he added, speaking by teleconference from Baghdad, but the USA will "carefully monitor" where and how they are used.

In February, the Turkish foreign minister warned this would be a "red line"; Tuesday, the prime minister said Turkey will not participate in the Raqqa operation. US officials have indicated that 120 mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities.

Defense Secretary James Mattis and Turkish premier Binali Yildirim discussed a host of security issues Thursday during a bilateral meeting in London, according to the Pentagon.

"We will work together".

US Col John Dorrian, spokesman for the US-led coalition against ISIL, said 30,000 residents had been displaced since the fight for Tabqa began on March 21, and that the priority was now to protect those who remained.

  • Rogelio Becker