A Syrian Kurdish boy sits on a destroyed tank in the Syrian town of Kobane, also known as Ain al-Arab, on March 27, 2015. Islamic State (IS) fighters were driven out of Kobane on January 26 by Kurdish and allied forces. AFP PHOTO/YASIN AKGUL        (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
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02:22 - Source: CNN

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Turkish Foreign Minister says every weapon sent is 'a threat to Turkey'

The Obama administration had long supported Kurdish fighters in Syria

CNN  — 

Turkey has lashed out at Washington’s plan to send arms to Kurdish rebels fighting ISIS in Syria, calling for an end to the US strategy that has long rattled Ankara.

The Pentagon announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump had authorized arming the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), green-lighting a US policy that had sat on the backburner for years to avoid confrontation with Turkey, a key NATO ally.

It said that the provision of supplies and weapons was aimed at aiding the only group it sees fit enough to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa, the ISIS group’s de facto capital, in the near future.

The YPG is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of rebel fighters that Washington considers its main ally in the country. But Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist organization threatening Turkish sovereignty.

A US official said that small arms, machine guns, construction equipment and armored vehicles were among the provisions.

“Every weapon that they deliver is a threat to Turkey,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, according to state-run media Anadolu.

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces on the outskirts of Raqqa in December 2016.

He repeated government claims that the YPG was simply a Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which both Turkey and the US consider a terrorist organization. The PKK has waged an insurgency in southern Turkey since the 1980s.

Analysis by CNN's Arwa Damon in Istanbul

  • The timing of this announcement, a week before Turkish President Erdogan travels to the US, has raised eyebrows. Government officials had hoped the Trump administration would pull the support that Obama gave the Kurds, so of course, they are expressing outrage.
  • Turkish officials want reassurances from the US that the Kurds will not remain and occupy Raqqa, and that the Arabs within the SDF will lead the actual fight within the city. Some have even called for the Kurds and Arabs in the SDF to be separated.
  • From Erdogan down, there have been numerous statements that the US needs to effectively choose between Turkey and the YPG. It has created tensions between the NATO allies, but underlying everything are political and power deals.
  • One must also bear in mind that both Trump and Erdogan have volatile and unpredictable personalities, and when pushed into a corner or feeling offended, their rhetoric can quickly turn into devastating action. That will mean more civilians invariably caught in the crossfire and the region even more destabilized.

    “Weapons given to the YPG end up in the hands of the PKK. The American administration knows well what we think about this,” he said.

    Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the decision was unacceptable and asked the US to reverse its decision.

    “If the opposite decision is made, the consequences will bring negative outcomes, not only for Turkey but also for America,” Anadolu quoted him as saying.

    Ankara has repeatedly warned it will do whatever is necessary to prevent an official Kurdish region developing near its border with Syria, pointing to Iraqi Kurdistan, the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq.

    Pentagon chief spokesperson Dana White tried to allay Turkey’s concerns, saying that the the United States fully supported returning Raqqa to Syrian Arabs, not the Kurds.

    “We do not envision (that) a long-term YPG presence and governance in the city is acceptable or consistent with the wishes of the local population,” she said.

    “We want to reassure the people and government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks an