Arming YPG to stop after Trump, Erdoğan talk last week: Mattis
U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced on Dec. 1 that arming the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) will stop in accordance with a telephone conversation held between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump last week.
“Yeah, we are going to go exactly along the lines of what the President announced,” Mattis told reporters on a military plane en route to Cairo when asked whether the U.S. would stop arming the group, its main ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria.
Trump and Erdoğan spoke over the phone last week to discuss the recent Sochi summit, the Syria crisis and bilateral ties.
During their conversation, Trump told Erdoğan that Washington will not give the YPG weapons anymore.
Ankara considers the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the YPG, as the Syrian branches of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), hence terrorist groups.
Mattis also said the U.S. will change the formation of its military power in Syria in order to support ongoing negotiations in Geneva.
The Geneva talks on Syria is a U.N.-backed international conference with the aim to end the catastrophic Syrian civil war by bringing together the Syrian government and opposition groups to discuss clear steps toward a transitional government.
Recalling a recent U.S. announcement that it would withdraw its artillery units from Syria, Mattis said the focus would move toward holding territory instead of arming the YPG.
“The YPG is armed and as the coalition stops offensive then obviously you don’t need that, you need security, you need police forces, that is local forces, that is people who make certain that ISIS doesn’t come back,” Mattis said, using another acronym for ISIL.
He said that the U.S. took this decision in Syria in order to support diplomats to bring an end to the war.
“The troops are changing their stance...that includes with our allies who are now changing their stance as they come to the limits of where they are going,” Mattis added.