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US Says Committed to Turkey’s Security after Syria Kurds Arming Controversy | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. Reuters

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Thursday that the US was committed to protecting Turkey amid Turkish anger over Washington’s decision to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria.

Mattis told Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in London that Washington was committed to protecting its NATO ally, his spokeswoman said.

The roughly half-hour meeting in London, where both men were attending a conference on Somalia, appeared to be the highest level talks between the two nations since the US decision was announced on Tuesday to arm the Kurdish fighters in a break with its previous policy of arming only the Syrian Democratic Froces’ Arab fighters.

As the meeting took place, the SDF, dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), scored one of their biggest victories against ISIS in Syria.

Turkey views the Kurdish fighters as an extension of militants fighting on its own soil.

The US-backed fighters hunted for jihadist holdouts in Syria’s Tabqa on Thursday after overrunning the city and nearby dam in a step forward for their advance on ISIS stronghold Raqqa.

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 arms include heavy machine guns to be used against ISIS truck bombs, mortars, small arms and ammunition, as well as armored vehicles and equipment to detect landmines, coalition spokesman Colonel John Dorrian said.

“Every single one of these weapons that are being provided to our partner force, we intend to account for them, and to ensure that they are pointed at ISIS,” he added.

The SDF seized Tabqa and the nearby dam on Wednesday and was conducting clearance operations on Thursday morning, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“The SDF were able to deploy onto the dam itself during the night,” Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said.

“But civilians are still unable to enter some parts of Tabqa because of explosives” left by ISIS, he added.