Sunday, 08 December, 2019

Syrian Kurds clear mines after taking town, dam from IS

Christy Curtis | 13 May, 2017, 10:12

The SDF is a multiethnic group spearheaded by the YPG, an organization Ankara considers the Syrian affiliate of the PKK, a designated terrorist organization in Turkey, the US, and EU.

Erdogan's charge on the USA follows this week approval by President Trump to provide the Syrian militia group with additional arms as the group pushes edges on Deach in a move to take the terrorist group's stronghold of Raqqa.

Syrian Kurdish-led forces say they are carrying out mine-clearing operations at the country's largest dam and the nearby town of Tabqa a day after seizing them from Islamic State militants.

Turkey's deputy Prime Minister denounced the decision as "unacceptable" and said it "amounts to support to a terror organization".

"The secretary reiterated US commitment to protecting our North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally", she said in a statement after the talks. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu added that "every weapon that turns up in their hands is a threat directed toward Turkey".

A US official told Reuters that the United States was looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK.

The coalition said Thursday that Islamic State had moved its external attack planning operations to Tabqa after their defeat in Manbij in order to avoid coalition airstrikes in Raqqa.

Erdogan further emphasized that he would mention the issue in upcoming discussions with Trump when the two are scheduled to meet in Washington on May 16 in their first formal encounter as heads of state.

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Defense Secretary James Mattis talks with the Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation eFP battalion battlegroup and the German contingent in Lithuania Lieutenant Colonel Christoph Huber as they meet with USA troops deployed in Lithuania, with representatives of the Lithuanian Armed Forces, and with soldiers of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation enhanced Forward Presence Battalion Battlegroup in Lithuania at the General Silvestras Zukauskas Training Area on May 10, 2017.

Ankara considers the Syrian group as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging insurgency in Southeast Turkey and blacklisted as terror group by Ankara, Washington and Europe. Like Turkey, the USA considers that group a terrorist organization.

The Syrian Kurds have been encircling Raqqa, preparing for the launch of what the US military predicts will be a long and hard battle to retake the city.

"We do not ever give weapons to the PKK, we never have and never will".

The capture of Tabqah came a day after the Trump administration announced it will supply the SDF with heavier weapons ahead of a push on Raqqa.

The spokesman for the Kurdish militia that forms the backbone of the fighting force known as the People's Protection Units, or YPG, told The Associated Press on Thursday that his group will seek "neighborly relations" with Turkey.

Commenting on the weapons that will be supplied by the United States, the SDF spokesman noted that since Raqqa had a strategic meaning for Daesh terrorists, the Kurdish forces would need heavy arms. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey strongly objects to the alliance because it sees the Kurds as an extension of the insurgency raging in its southeast.

The Turkish leader vowed to table the issue during next week visit to Washington.

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