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YPG and SDF Praise US Arms Move, Turkey Considers it a ‘Threat’ | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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A Kurdish fighter from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) gestures at a convoy of US military vehicles driving in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

The Syrian Kurdish YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling ISIS in Syria said Wednesday that US arms and military equipment to Kurdish fighters would help defeat the jihadists despite objections by Turkey which considered the move a “threat.”

“We believe that from now on and after this historic decision, (the YPG) will play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism at a fast pace,” Kurdish People’s Protection Units spokesman Redur Xelil said in a written statement to Reuters after Washington said Tuesday it would provide weapons and equipment to the YPG, which are a key force in the fight against ISIS in Syria.

Ilham Ahmed, a top official in the SDF political office, said the decision to provide heavier arms carries “political meaning” and “legitimizes the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces.”

A spokesman for the SDF, Talal Sello, also told Agence France Presse that “the US decision “is important and will hasten the defeat of terrorism.”

The SDF, backed by air strikes and logistical support from a US-led coalition, has been advancing on the northern city of Raqqa, the last main stronghold for ISIS in Syria.

It is largely composed of Kurdish YPG fighters.

Sello said the US announcement “is the result of the effectiveness of the YPG and SDF in the fight against terrorism”.

The US decision has however angered Turkey, which views the YPG as a terrorist group.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli on Wednesday said: “The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable.”

“Such a policy will benefit nobody,” Canikli told Turkish Broadcaster A Haber.

“We expect that this mistake is to be rectified,” he said, days ahead of a crunch meeting in Washington between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US counterpart Donald Trump.

“We cannot accept the presence of terrorist organizations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state,” Canikli said in the interview.

The YPG has been seen by Washington as the best ally against jihadists in Syria.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also said that every weapon obtained by the YPG constitutes a threat to Turkey.

“Within the SDF, Arabs and the YPG should be distinguished and Arab forces should be the ones entering Raqqa,” he added.

A Turkish high level delegation made up of Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and Turkey’s spy chief Hakan Fidan have already been in the US to lay the groundwork for Erdogan’s visit to Washington.

Turkey has said it is keen to join the battle to recapture Raqqa but on the condition the offensive does not include the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Last month, Erdogan said if Turkey and the US joined forces, they could turn Raqqa into a “graveyard” for the jihadists.