US defense chief, Turkish defense minister to meet in Europe
WASHINGTON - Reuters
AFP photoU.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Işık will meet next week in Europe, the top U.S. general said on June 19, describing regular U.S. efforts to address Turkish concerns over their decision to arm the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria.
U.S. Marine General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Mattis also wrote a detailed letter to Turkey last week to provide a “routine update” on U.S. efforts in Syria.
The Pentagon on May 30 said it had begun to transfer small arms and vehicles to the Kurdish elements of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-Syrian Arab alliance fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and dominated by YPG fighters.
In announcing the decision, the Pentagon said the U.S. is “keenly aware” of Turkey’s security concerns.
But, the Turkish government considers the YPG to be linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has long pressed Washington to stop its support for the group, as it says that the arms provided to the group are handed over to the PKK.
The U.S.’s arming of the YPG is “extremely dangerous” that could one day harm everyone, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said in May, urging Washington to reverse its “mistake.”
“These weapons could be used against all of humanity, not just Turkey,” Çavuşoğlu had said.
Washington on the other hand has sought to placate Ankara by saying the weapons will be handed out judiciously and stressing that it will monitor them to make sure they do not go into Turkey.