US defense chief in Turkey for talks on Syria, Kurds

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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. 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-caliber machine guns.

AFP

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