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Turkey slams US decision to arm Kurdish militants in Syria

Deputy Turkish Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli

Turkey raps as “unacceptable” a US announcement that Washington will be supplying arms and military equipment to Syria-based Kurdish militants.

The Pentagon made the announcement on Tuesday, stressing that arming the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) is to “ensure a clear victory” in operations aimed at liberating the northern Syria city of Raqqah from the Daesh terrorist group.

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Raqqah, which fell to Daesh in 2014, is the Takfiri terror group’s main stronghold in Syria.

The Kurdish-dominated and anti-Damascus alliance of the SDF, to which the US said would be channeling the hardware, is led by the Washington-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli reacted to the US decision on Wednesday, saying, “The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable.”

“Such a policy will benefit nobody,” added the deputy premier.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian branch of the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

The photo taken on April 25, 2017 shows a US officer speaking with a militant from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) at the site of Turkish airstrikes near northeastern Syrian Kurdish town of Derik, known as al-Malikiyah in Arabic. (By AFP)

On August 24, 2016, Turkish air force and special ground forces kicked off the so-called Operation Euphrates Shield inside Syria in a bid to support the so-called Free Syrian Army militants, who similar to the SDF oppose Damascus.

The mission is also meant to rid the border areas of the YPG and their fellow Kurdish fighters of the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

The Turkish and Western military presence in Syria comes without the consent of the central government in Damascus, which slams the uncoordinated intervention as illegitimate and a violation of its sovereignty.

Syrian government forces, backed up by Russian airpower, have been pushing against Daesh from the west of Raqqah, while SDF militias have been squeezing the terror group from the north.

SDF welcomes US decision

Meanwhile, the SDF reacted to the US announcement by saying that receiving US arms and military equipment would “hasten the defeat” of Daesh.

“The US decision to arm the YPG... is important and will hasten the defeat of terrorism,” an SDF spokesman told AFP.

Separately, Saleh Muslim, the co-chair of the PYD, said the US decision was expected.

“The Raqqah campaign is running in parallel with the international coalition against terrorism. It’s natural that they would provide weapons” to the Kurdish forces, Muslim said.

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