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US to stop arms supplies to Syria Kurds, Turkey claims

The US saw the YPG as the most effective fighting force against IS [AFP]

Date of publication: 25 November, 2017

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The US will no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish militias, President Donald Trump told Ankara on Friday, Turkey’s Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed.
President Donald Trump told Ankara on Friday that the US will no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish militias, Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday. 

Trump delivered the message during what the Turkish presidency called a "productive" phone call with his counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the White House hailed as reaffirming a "strategic partnership".

"Mr Trump said he gave a clear order and that after this, weapons would not be supplied to the YPG (People's Protection Units), essentially he said this nonsense should have been ended earlier," Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a press conference in Ankara.

The group has been at the forefront of US-backed efforts to capture Islamic State group-held territories, including Raqqa.

The White House was less explicit about the US military's intentions towards the YPG.

But it confirmed that Trump had told Erdogan "of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that [IS] cannot return".

The YPG is the Peoples' Protection Units Kurdish militia in Syria, which the US has seen as the most effective fighting force on the ground against the Islamic State group.

Threat to divide Syria

"Naturally, we welcomed these statements," said Cavusoglu. "Of course we want to see this put into practice."

In recent months, the YPG has recaptured territory from the IS jihadists, including the former de-facto "capital" Raqqa in northern Syria.

But Turkey views the YPG and its political wing, the Democratic Union Party (PYD), as "terror" groups linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

Cavusoglu again repeated that Turkey saw the YPG as a "threat" trying to divide Syria.

The PKK - blacklisted as a "terror" group by Turkey and its Western allies including the US - has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.

Relations between the US and Turkey have been strained since the administration of former president Barack Obama over Washington's support for the YPG and the failure to extradite Pennsylvania-based Fethullah Gulen blamed for ordering last year's coup bid.

Gulen strongly denies the charges.

Bilateral ties are at further risk of fraying over a scheduled trial in New York of Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, the deputy chief executive of Turkish lender Halkbank, both accused of defying US sanctions on Iran.

The trial is expected to start early next month but there are fears over possible fines against one or more Turkish banks in the event of a guilty verdict.

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