First Published: 2017-08-23

Pentagon chief arrives in Turkey for talks on Syria, Kurds
Mattis in Ankara to hold talks with Erdogan over US-arming of Kurdish militia in Syria, potential independence referendum for Iraqi Kurds.
Middle East Online

Mattis expressed US opposition to Kurdish independence vote

ANKARA - Pentagon chief Jim Mattis arrived in Ankara on Wednesday for talks with Turkish leaders expected to focus on Washington's arming of a Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey views as a terror group, in the fight against Islamic State.

Mattis flew in for the one-day visit after stopping in Iraq to review progress in the campaign against IS militants, where he urged coalition partners to prevent other political issues from disrupting the growing momentum against the jihadists.

In Ankara, he will hold talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli.

Turkey, an important NATO ally of the United States and part of the coalition against IS, is incensed that Washington has been arming the Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG) militias in the assault on the jihadists' stronghold Raqa, in northern Syria.

Turkey regards the YPG as the Syrian affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

In May, the Pentagon said it had begun transferring small arms and vehicles to the YPG to support their role as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance fighting IS.

The weapons include AK-47s and small-calibre machine guns.

The SDF is currently leading the assault on Raqa, with artillery and air support from US-led coalition forces.

- Kurdish referendum concerns -

US officials on Tuesday said the grinding fight was the "priority" in the counter-IS campaign since the fall of Mosul last month, the jihadists' Iraqi hub.

The Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq -- which is also playing a key role in the fight against IS -- is planning its own independence referendum in September.

Mattis met Tuesday with Iraqi Kurdish leader Massud Barzani in Erbil to express US opposition to the referendum.

On the same day, Erdogan vowed Turkey would thwart any attempt by the YPG and its political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD) to carve out a Kurdish state in northern Syria.

"We do not and will never allow a so-called state to be established by the PYD, YPG in northern Syria," Erdogan said.

The US is also concerned about warming ties between Iran and Turkey. Iranian armed forces chief General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri visited Turkey last week.

Erdogan on Monday said a joint operation with Iran against Kurdish militants which "pose a threat," including the PKK, is "always on the agenda." Iran's Revolutionary Guards, however, denied the claim.

 

Lebanon’s Hariri suspends resignation

Divided Syria opposition meets in Riyadh

Revolt in US State Department over child soldier law

US carries out air strikes against IS in Libya

Morocco bans bitcoin transactions

Saudi-led coalition to reopen Yemen airport, port to aid

Turkey court rules to keep Amnesty chief in jail

France calls for UN meeting on Libya slave-trading

Egypt detains 29 for allegedly spying for Turkey

WTO panel to hear Qatar’s complaint against UAE blockade

Three dead as diphtheria spreads in Yemen

Israel seizes explosive material at Gaza border

Activists call for release of UK journalist held by IS

Bahrain upholds jail sentence for activist

Iraq attacks at lowest since 2014

Turkey continues crackdown in post-coup probe

Hariri back in Lebanon

Putin to hold Syria peace talks with Erdogan, Rouhani

Lebanon's Hariri in Egypt ahead of return home

Rebels say Sanaa airport 'ready to run' after coalition bombing

Greece to amend historic sharia law for Muslim minority

Turkey to ask Germany to extradite top coup suspect

Car bomb in northern Iraq kills at least 24

13 million Syrians need aid despite relative drop in violence

Sudan urged to improve plight of Darfur's displaced people

Brain drain means Syria can’t recover for a generation

Palestinians close communication lines with Americans

Anti-IS coalition strikes drop to lowest number

German police arrest six Syrians ‘planning terror attack’

Palestinian factions in Cairo for reconciliation talks

Turkish opposition daily web editor sentenced to 3 years in jail

Israeli police arrest 33 in ultra-Orthodox draft riots

Turkish lira at new low against US dollar

Islamic republic declares end of Islamic State

Assad in Russia for talks with Putin

UN chief horrified by Libya slave auctions

Qatar 2022 chief has no regrets over hosting World Cup

Gheit says Lebanon should be 'spared' from regional tensions

Saudi Arabia, Arab allies push for unity against Iran, Hezbollah meddling

Syria ‘de-escalation zone’ does nothing to stop civilian deaths

Is a demilitarised Palestinian state a viable option?

S&P affirms good Saudi credit ratings

Israel president faces big backlash over Palestinian scarf

Sudan leader to visit Russia Thursday

Seven years into Libya’s civil war, the chaos continues