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No US involvement in deal with IS fighters: Pentagon

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".

He earlier said that after Tabqa is secured, the forces will continue operations to "isolate and seize Raqqa".

Ahead of Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan's meeting with Donald Trump in Washington next week, USA defense secretary Jim Mattis met with the Turkish prime minister Binali Yildirim in London on Thursday to assure Ankara that the weapons provided to the Kurds would not be used against Turkey and "reiterated US commitment to protecting our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally", White said.

Turkey believes the Kurds in Syria are linked to the PKK.

The news of the USA directly arming Kurdish forces made global headlines and prompted strong condemnations from Turkey, but it is not that drastic a move. The way everyone else sees it, though, Turkey is at war with America's best and only real allies in Syria at a time when every other country on earth wants ISIS destroyed yesterday.

That has infuriated Turkey, which sees the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) that has fought a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy and rights inside Turkey.

The Pentagon "grew tired of denying reports it was already arming the YPG", former Obama administration official Fred Hof recently told Alex Ward at Vox in an interview.

On Tuesday, the Pentagon announced that US President Donald Trump had approved the arming of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) ahead of an attempt to drive Daesh from Raqqah. "We will storm and liberate (Raqqa) city", Qahraman Hassan told AFP. The United States, the European Union and Turkey all agree the YPG is a terrorist organization. A recent bombardment of the PKK position in Sinjar, Iraq, served as a reminder of Turkey's frustration.




Ties have also been strained by Turkey's demand for the extradition of USA -based cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Turkey blames for last year's failed coup attempt. Arslan is portrayed by pro-Erdogan media in Turkey as a high-ranking Gulen follower, something he denies.

In remarks to reporters Friday, Erdogan appeared simultaneously to hold out hope that he could persuade Trump to change his mind - and to prepare for failure.

In April 2016, Obama criticised a "troubling" path that Erdogan might be putting Turkey on with respect to freedom of the press, a day after the two leaders met in Washington.

"Trump has prioritized protecting USA national security interests over lecturing allies on democratic values or human rights", said James Phillips, a senior research fellow for Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation.

For weeks, policymakers in Ankara had been waiting for President Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan's meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House. That is not to say that Turkey would not have any problem with Kurdish autonomy in northern Syria even if its Kurdish policy were more moderate, but Turkey would have not faced so many crises in the region in such a case.

The spat over Syria represents the deepest crisis in bilateral ties since Ankara denied Washington permission to deploy USA troops to attack Iraq from Turkish soil in 2003.

"We have sent a delegation ahead to the USA, and they have held meetings with officials", Erdogan said before he headed to China en route to Washington.

The Kurdish fighters have also proved themselves on the battlefield. "In order to do this, the US evidently prioritized Raqqa over Turkey's objections", Sam Heller, a Beirut-based analyst and fellow at the Century Foundation, told Syria Deeply.

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