Ankara, Washington– The White House has announced supplying arms to Kurdish fighters to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from ISIS in a major shock to US-Turkish relations ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington later this month.
Despite Turkey’s strong objection, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday that US President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to the Kurdish forces, as a necessary step “to ensure a clear victory” in Raqqa.
A US official, speaking to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the equipment for the Kurdish fighters could include small arms, ammunition, machine guns, armored vehicles and engineering equipment.
Meanwhile, a Turkish delegation met with Trump on Monday in preparation for Erdogan’s visit. The delegation also met with senior US officials and reiterated Turkey’s concerns over the armament of Kurdish fighters, warning that weapons could eventually fall into the hands of Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK).
The delegation, led by the Turkish Military’s Chief of Staff, General Hulusi Akar, met with Trump briefly in the Oval Office Monday afternoon, an official from the White House told Turkish news agencies.
The delegation, which also included Turkish Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan and Turkish Presidential Spokesman and Chief Advisor İbrahim Kalin, visited the White House to meet National Security Advisor Gen. H. R. McMaster and had the opportunity to meet with Trump.
Fidan separately met with his US counterpart Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The Turkish president is scheduled to travel to Washington on an official visit on May 15-16.