U.S. appears to root for Kurdish support in Raqqa push-Turkish sources | Reuters

By Orhan Coskun
| ANKARA

ANKARA The United States appears to have decided to enlist the help of Kurdish YPG militia in a campaign to push Islamic State out of its Raqqa stronghold in Syria, thwarting Turkey's ambitions, a senior Turkish official said on Tuesday.Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Turkey, the United States and Russia must coordinate fully to clear Syria of terrorist groups. The three countries' chiefs of staff were working to prevent clashes between the different parties.The Turkish official was speaking as Turkey's military chief of staff met his U.S. and Russian counterparts in the southern Turkish province of Antalya to discuss coordination in Syria. The official said the results of the meeting "could change the whole picture"."We are not sure at this stage but it appears that the U.S. may carry out this operation with the YPG, not with Turkey. And at the same time the U.S. is giving weapons to the YPG," the official said. "If this operation is carried out in this manner, there will be a cost for Turkey-U.S. relations. Because the YPG is a terrorist organization and we are mentioning this at every platform." Ankara has been pressing the United States to change its strategy for fighting Islamic State in Syria by abandoning the Kurdish YPG militia and instead drawing on FSA rebels to retake Raqqa.Turkey views the YPG and its political affiliate, the PYD, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is waging an insurgency against the Turkish government.

The official's comments seemed borne out by remarks by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim who termed it unfortunate that some of Turkey's allies had chosen the YPG as a partner in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.He said Turkey, the United States and Russia must coordinate fully to clear Syria of terrorist groups and the three countries' chiefs of staff were working to preventclashes between the different parties in the country.

MULTI-SIDED CONFLICT
President Tayyip Erdogan said last week the next target of Turkey's Syrian operation was Manbij, which is controlled by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).But Yildirim said then military action by Turkey would not make sense unless coordinated with the United States and Russia.

After clashing with Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army rebels west of Manbij earlier this month, the Manbij Military council declared a deal with Russia to hand front line villages to Syrian government control to prevent their coming under Turkish control.Rapid developments in the war for northern Syria - the most complicated theatre in the multi-sided conflict - are setting new limits on Turkish power, while affirming the role of U.S.-allied Kurdish YPG militia that Ankara entered Syria to fight.The Syrian government has meanwhile emerged as a major player in the war for the north after punching through a swathe of Islamic State-held territory, blocking any further Turkish advances from the buffer zone it has carved out in Syria near its frontier. In August, Turkey-backed forces launched an operation to drive Islamic State away from its border with Syria and prevent the Kurdish YPG militia taking territory in their wake.Since pushing the jihadists out of their al-Bab stronghold, fighting has focused on villages west of Manbij, setting Turkish-backed rebels against the Manbij Military Council, part of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that includes the YPG. (Reporting by Tulay Karadeniz; Writing by Tom Perry and Ralph Boulton; editing by)

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Published Date: Mar 07, 2017 10:02 pm | Updated Date: Mar 07, 2017 10:02 pm

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