Erdogan urges US to reverse decision on arming Syrian Kurds

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech at the ruling AK Party’s headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, May 2, 2017. (Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called on the United States to immediately reverse a decision on arming Syrian Kurdish fighters considered by Ankara to be a terror group.

“I hope very much that this mistake will be reversed immediately,” Erdogan said after Washington announced it would arm the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) in the fight against militants in Syria. Erdogan vowed to bring up “our worries” on the issue in talks with US President Donald Trump on May 16 in Washington.

After Trump approved the arms supply to support a campaign to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa, Erdogan told a news conference he wanted to believe that Turkey’s allies would side with Ankara and not with terrorist organizations.

Turkey views the Kurdish YPG militia as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought an insurgency in southeast Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

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

“The supply of arms to the YPG is unacceptable,” Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television on Wednesday. “Such a policy will benefit nobody”.

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

Binali Yildirim from reuters

Binali Yildirim from reuters

“From now on, after this historic arming decision, our units will play a more influential, powerful, and decisive role in fighting terrorism at a faster pace,” YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Pentagon chief Jim Mattis said he is confident the United States can allay any concerns Turkey has over the decision.

“We will work very closely with Turkey in support of their security on their southern border,” Mattis said at a news conference in Lithuania.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:50 - GMT 06:50