Backed forces take key Syrian city, dam

by Garry Watts May 13, 2017, 0:38

He was speaking to reporters before leaving for China, followed by a trip to Washington.

US -backed Syrian Kurdish fighters say they expect to push on and capture the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria this summer, after receiving heavy weapons from the USA military.

A Pentagon spokesperson says both leaders affirmed their support for peace and stability in Iraq and Syria.

Commanders in the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, and the USA -led coalition against the Islamic State say Washington's decision to send more arms to the YPG will accelerate their advance into Islamic State's de facto capital, Raqqa. Turkey has already conducted limited strikes against the US -backed Kurdish fighters in the past month on its border with Syria.

Trump's defence secretary, Jim Mattis, met Turkey's prime minister, Binali Yildirim, in London on Thursday. "We never have and never will". "It is conducting an active insurgency in Turkey, it has orchestrated the killing of innocent Turkish civilians and Turkish soldiers, and we support Turkey in its fight against PKK as a fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member, just like all the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries stand with Turkey against the PKK", Mattis said.

Shortly before Erdogan's comments, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu asserted that "every weapon seized by [the YPG] is a threat to Turkey", including those that the United States provides.

Turkey expressed outrage Wednesday at the USA decision to further arm the YPG.

The Turkish PM is expected to meet the USA defence chief in London to discuss the USA decision to arm the YPG.

The United States took this long to commit to arming SDF, despite its stated objective of destroying ISIS, because of concerns from the Turkish government.

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"The secretary reiterated US commitment to our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally", stated the readout, provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White.

The Syrian Democratic Forces scored one of their biggest victories against IS militants as controversy intensified over a United States decision to arm the alliance's Kurdish component. Without that base, the USA would have considerable difficulty operating in the region.

Turkey slammed the USA decision to arm the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers terrorists but which Washington sees as an indispensable ally in the fight against IS.

Erdogan repeated Ankara's criticism of Trump's decision, saying it ran counter to the two countries' strategic interests - but also sought to portray it as a relic of the Obama administration's Middle East policy. Syrian Kurds could receive mortars, heavy machine guns and armored tactical vehicles as part of the Trump administration's plan.

A spokesman for the US -led coalition against IS, Col. John Dorrian, said Wednesday that the weapons would be delivered to the Kurds soon.

Some 70 Islamic State fighters conceded to the terms of the Syrian Democratic Forces and left the area.

"It doesn't change the fact that when we see ISIS fighters on the battlefield and have a clean shot at them, we will continue to take it".

An alliance of US-backed Syrian fighters said on Friday it could launch an assault on ISIL's Syrian bastion of Raqqa as soon as next month with new weapons and armoured vehicles promised by Washington. So to the frustration and horror of us Turks, they not only train them for combat but also give them heavy arms that will sooner or later be turned against Turkey in the hands of PKK terrorists.

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