Turkey urges Trump administration to turn back on Syrian Kurdish forces

Turkish government says it expects new US administration to halt supply of weapons to YPG, which Washington has denied doing

Turkey has set out its terms for cooperation with Donald Trump, saying it expects the new US administration to halt the supply of weapons to Syrian Kurdish forces – which Washington has denied it is doing.

“The United States should not allow this strategic partnership [with Turkey] to be overshadowed by a terrorist organisation,” Binali Yıldırım, the Turkish prime minister, said in a speech in parliament.

Washington sees the Kurdish YPG militia, the largest element of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as one of the most effective partners in the fight against Islamic State in Syria. The US president-elect has yet to set out his position on how best to defeat Isis and whether he considers the Kurds an ally.

US officials confirmed in September that they were supplying light weapons to the SDF, but said they were only going to its Arab contingent. This week Washington again insisted it had not supplied weapons to the YPG.

But Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said his government had documents to prove the supply, adding: “Everyone in the world knows it.”

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has previously said he has seen evidence of US planes carrying arms landing at the Kurdish-controlled town of Kobani.

Turkey regards the YPG as a terrorist group and indistinguishable from the Kurdish militants in Turkey who have been waging a 30-year war for independence. Kurdish officials linked to the YPG said they had been promised the US would arm them directly if they led the battle for Isis’s Syrian stronghold in Raqqa.

On Monday Syrian rebel groups announced they had decided to freeze any talks about their possible participation in Syrian peace negotiations being prepared by Russia in Kazakhstan unless the Syrian government and its Iran-backed allies ended what it said were violations of a ceasefire.The rebel groups said the Syrian army and its allies had repeatedly violated the ceasefire in Wadi Barada valley and the eastern Guta region near Damascus, as well as in Hama and Dara’a provinces.

The Syrian government claims it was attacking only the positions of Isis and Jabhat Fateh al-Sham (formerly the al-Nusra Front), two groups that are not party to the ceasefire. The argument underlines the difficulty of enforcing a ceasefire when groups party to it are physically close to groups that are excluded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said government forces were attacking with helicopters and artillery fire after advancing on Monday to the outskirts of the Ain al-Fijah spring, the main water source in the area, including for Damascus.

Syria’s government accuses rebels in Wadi Barada of deliberately targeting infrastructure there, causing fuel to poison the water supply and then cutting the flow to Damascus altogether.


Patrick Wintour Diplomatic editor

The GuardianTramp

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