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Erdogan hopeful for breakthrough in dispute on arming Kurds

Erdogan hopeful for breakthrough in dispute on arming Kurds

Erdogan will travel to Washington with demands that are non-negotiable, leaving little room for diplomatic maneuvering.

The press service of President Erdogan reported that the high-level delegation will include the Hulusi Akar, Hakan Fidan, and İbrahim Kalın who held preliminary talks in last week.

The composition of this team already points to the issues at stake.

The choice of allies and partners on the ground and, in particular, the reliance on the Syrian-Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) has put the US-led anti-IS coalition in a direct clash with a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ally-Turkey.

Turkey says the fighters are an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. In the absence of a policy in Syria and the counter-terror strategy taken against Daesh, the Obama administration considered the operational outcome of the heavily supported YPG a strategic tool.

"They can solve their problems in their own country", he said, in reference to Turkey. That strike elicited a reprimand from Washington and Moscow, with both characterizing it as "unacceptable".

Turkey responded angrily to a Pentagon announcement this week that the United States would move to equip and arm Kurdish fighters in Syria.

Ties have also been strained by Turkey's demand for the extradition of US -based cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Turkey blames for last year's failed coup attempt. Ankara said the plan was "unacceptable" and a threat to its national security.

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The news of the meeting came a day after Trump gave the Pentagon the permission to deploy Kurdish militias in Syria as part of a renewed move to drive the Islamic State out of the pivotal city of Raqqa, despite the strong opposition received from Erdogan and the Turkish government.

None of this has deterred Erdogan from upping the ante prior to traveling to Washington, though. Additionally, a video of United States military vehicles seen during a funeral ceremony organized for the people killed in the Turkish airstrikes brought irritation in Ankara (YouTube, April 30).

He said that weapons the White House has approved for the YPG had yet to arrive.

While Turkey could impose limits on the use of the Incirlik base, that would hamper operations against Islamic State, which also menaces Turkey itself and has claimed responsibility for attacks including the bombing of Istanbul airport. Erdogan was quoted by Turkish media as saying he hoped the US decision would be reversed at the earliest possible opportunity. US officials told VOA there was shock earlier this month when a senior Erdogan adviser publicly threatened Washington with accidental Turkish strikes against USA forces working with the YPG in northern Syria.

The city is largely surrounded and it is only a matter of time before YPG and other forces in a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance launch an offensive against the city.

This April 30, 2017, photo provided by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) shows a fighter from the SDF carrying weapons as he looks toward the northern town of Tabqa, Syria. But this step is necessary in order for our forces to liberate Raqqa.

Ulutas says this reveals a lack of long-term planning by Trump, and he reasons that even if Raqqa is liberated in this way, terrorism will increase there, as will US losses. "Turkey knows that the US position is serious".

The bigger worry is Turkey.


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