US Defence Secretary James Mattis has been warned of unspecified consequences if Kurdish forces are allowed to participate in liberating the city of Syria’s city of Raqqa, according to remarks by Turkish Defence Minister Fikri Isik following a meeting between the two defence chiefs.
“Amongst the issues that we tackled today with the secretary of Defence was the fact that we do not want PYD and YPG elements to be used in operation Raqqa,” Isik told reporters in Washington on Thursday. “We were very frank in our deliberations during the meeting.”
The People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria have provided effective ground forces battling the Islamic State (IS) group.
Isik explained that Turkey views the YPG as an affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been listed as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, and stressed they may cause problems in the long term.
“I have communicated this message to [former US Defence] Secretary Carter and Secretary Mattis,” Isik added. “We were very friendly in tackling these issues, and we do agree upon the fact that we need further revising of those issues.’’
The Turkish Defence Minister called the meeting with Mattis “fruitful,” and said that the two sides discussed various issues, including US missile strike in Syria last week and counter terrorism efforts, among other topics.
Operation Inherent Resolve Spokesperson Col. John Dorrian said on Wednesday that the US-led coalition against the Islamic State remains open to Turkey’s participation in the operation to liberate Raqqa.
On 1 April, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara presented to US President Donald Trump a plan for liberating Raqqa from the Islamic State terrorists.