U.S. reassures Turkey about arming of Syrian Kurdish fighters

Source: Xinhua| 2017-06-22 19:44:47|Editor: ying
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ANKARA, June 22 (Xinhua) -- Turkey said on Thursday that the United States has assured it that Washington's relationship with Syria's Kurdish fighters is only "tactical."

U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis made the remarks in a letter sent to his Turkish counterpart Fikri Isik, according to a press release issued by the Turkish Defence Ministry.

The U.S. has a "forced cooperation" with the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in order to defeat the terror group Islamic State (IS) in Syria, Mattis was quoted as saying.

The Pentagon chief said the U.S. arms delivered in May to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG militia, aim at isolating and seizing Raqqa, the de facto IS capital in Syria.

Mattis said that the arms will be recollected from the YPG fighters once the IS is defeated, apparently in response to Ankara's concerns that the arms may flow into Turkey.

He also assured Turkey that the U.S. would share a list of materials given to the YPG each month with Turkey, emphasizing that the distributed weapons would only be used within Syria and U.S. experts will monitor the operations.

Mattis' move is obviously intended to ease Turkey's concerns about the U.S. arming of Syrian Kurds.

Pentagon announced on May 30 that it had started transferring small arms and vehicles to the Kurdish elements of the SDF, a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance fighting the IS.

However, Turkey has urged Washington to stop supporting the YPG militia, an offshoot of its outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and Europe Union.

The PKK, based in Turkey and Iraq, has been involved in an armed conflict with Turkish government with an original goal of establishing an independent Kurdish state, which has now shifted to a demand for Kurdish autonomy in the Turkish regions near the Syrian border.