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Turkey warns US of blowback from arming Kurdish fighters in Syria



Ankara — Turkey warned the US on Wednesday that a decision to arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State (IS) in Syria could end up hurting Washington, and accused its Nato ally of siding with terrorists.
The rebuke came a week before President Tayyip Erdogan is due in Washington for his first meeting with US President Donald Trump, who approved the arms supply to support a campaign to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State.
Turkey views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the US, Turkey and Europe.
"We want to believe that our allies will prefer to side with us, not with a terrorist organisation," Erdogan told a news conference in Ankara, saying he would convey Turkey’s stance to Trump next week and at a Nato summit later this month.
He said he hoped that recently taken decisions would be changed by the time he visits the US.
Earlier, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the US failure to consider Turkey’s sensitivities "will surely have consequences and will yield a negative result for the US as well".
The US regards the YPG as a valuable partner in the fight against IS militants in northern Syria.
Washington says that arming the Kurdish forces is necessary to recapturing Raqqa, IS’s de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning attacks against the West.
That argument holds little sway with Ankara, which worries that advances by the YPG in northern Syria could inflame the PKK insurgency on Turkish soil.
Weapons supplied to the YPG have in the past fallen into PKK hands, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
"Both the PKK and YPG are terrorist organisations and they are no different apart from their names," he said. "Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey."
The YPG said Washington’s decision would bring swift results and help the militia "play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism".
The Pentagon said on Tuesday it was aware of concerns in Turkey, which has given vital support to a US-led campaign against Islamic State insurgents in Syria and Iraq. Jets carrying out air strikes against the jihadist group have flown from Turkey’s Incirlik air base.
Erdogan has repeatedly castigated Washington for its support of the YPG.
"SAME SACK" Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the US should review its move. "We hope the US administration will put a stop to this wrong and turn back from it," he said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster A Haber.
"Such a policy will not be beneficial; you can’t be in the same sack as terrorist organisations."
But US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said he was confident the US would be able to resolve the tensions.
"We’ll work out any of the concerns. We will work very closely with Turkey in support of their security on their southern border. It’s Europe’s southern border, and we’ll stay closely connected," Mattis said during a visit to the Pabrade Training Area in Lithuania.
Ankara has argued that Washington should switch support for the Raqqa assault from the YPG to Syrian rebels Turkey has trained and led against IS for the past year — despite US scepticism about their military capability.
"There is no reality in the comments that a ground operation against Daesh (IS) can only be successful with the YPG. I hope they turn back from this mistake," Canikli said.
Despite the angry language, Erdogan’s government has little prospect of reversing Washington’s decision, and any retaliatory move would come at a cost.
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