Turkey warned the United States on Wednesday that a decision to arm Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Syria could end up hurting Washington, and accused its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally of siding with terrorists.
After meeting with Yildirim in London, Defense Secretary James Mattis said he has "no doubt" that Turkey and the U.S.
Turkey views the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought the state in the south-east of Turkey since 1984 and is considered a "terrorist group" by the U.S. and EU.
However, Turkey remains opposed to any decision to arm the Syrian Kurds, one of the most effective forces in the fight against ISIS.
"We agree 100 percent with Turkey's concern about PKK, a named terrorist group", he told reporters en route to Washington.
"We support Turkey in its fight against PKK", he said. "The U.S. has clearly taken the risk of alienating a major player on the field, which is Turkey, sharing a 900 km border with Syria", said to Xinhua political commentator Deniz Zeyrek. But vital to that battle is the defeat of Islamic State in Raqqa.
The US change in policy has reignited a dispute with Ankara, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling for an "immediate" reversal. On Wednesday, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the decision was simply "unacceptable".
The United States took this long to commit to arming SDF, despite its stated objective of destroying ISIS, because of concerns from the Turkish government.
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At least seven civilians were reported killed on Wednesday night by airstrikes allegedly from the US-led coalition in al-Sour town in Deir Ezzor, eastern Syria, said human rights organizations.
Erdogan is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump in Washington on May 16, a meeting he said he hoped "will ensure the stability of the region and will lead us to reach a conclusion compatible with the realities of Syria".
In a tweet sent a day after hosting Merkel at the White House, Trump said the U.S. Its leaders have railed against any strategy that, in their view, would involve the USA using one terrorist group to fight another.
Washington regards the Syrian Kurdish fighters as key partners in the fight against Islamic State militants, but Turkey considers the group a threat to its security because of its links to outlawed Kurdish rebels.
An alliance of US-backed Syrian fighters said on Friday it could launch an assault on ISIL's Syrian bastion of Raqqa as soon as next month with new weapons and armoured vehicles promised by Washington.
A high-level Turkish delegation including Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar, presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin and spy chief Hakan Fidan had been in the U.S. laying the groundwork for the meeting.
"Both the PKK and YPG are terrorist organizations and they are no different apart from their names", he told a televised news conference. President Erdogan has every incentive to play up the controversy. Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG, which forms the backbone of the force, is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, which is waging an insurgency in Turkey.
While the USA -led coalition has already supplied weapons to Arab fighters in the SDF, the White House this week authorized for the first time arming its most powerful element - the Kurdish YPG - to help in the Raqqa assault, infuriating Turkey.