U.S. defense chief affirms commitment to protecting Turkey

Posted May 15, 2017

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addresses a news conference during a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation defence ministers meeting at the Alliance headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, February 16, 2017. On Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that every weapon obtained by the YPG constitutes a threat to Turkey.

"Both leaders affirmed their support for peace and stability in both Iraq and Syria".

The YPG has joined with another militia group called the Syrian Arab Coalition under the banner of the USA -backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to battle ISIS.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White disclosed little about Mattis' meeting with Binali in London, where both men were attending a conference on Somalia.

They captured Tabqa "thanks to the sacrifices of the SDF's heroes and with the full, unlimited support of the USA -led global coalition", said SDF spokesman Talal Silo.

"I would characterize it as the usual sort of honest, transparent and helpful discussion between two long-term North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies on issues that directly impact the security of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation alliance, directly impact the security of Turkey and how we work out the way ahead in regards to the continued offensive against ISIS", Mattis said.

This is while Yildrim said, "There is still an opportunity for the United States to take Turkey's sensitivities into consideration. Otherwise, the outcome won't only affect Turkey, a negative outcome will also emerge for the United States".

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Mattis has repeatedly downplayed the friction between the two nations, saying that while "it's not always tidy", they will work out any differences.

Erdogan vowed to bring up the issue in talks with US President Donald Trump on May 16 in Washington, their first face-to-face encounter as heads of state.

For its part, the YPG praised on Wednesday the "historic" U.S. decision to arm its fighters battling ISIL and said it expected to play a stronger and more influential role in what it called the fight against "terrorism". Erdogan accused the Trump administration on Wednesday of siding with terrorists.

The Trump administration has not specified the kinds of arms to be provided, but US officials have indicated that 120 mm mortars, machine guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said artillery or surface-to-air missiles would not be provided.

"This is yet another victory by the SAC and the SDF, our most committed and capable ground force partners in the fight against ISIS", coalition spokesman U.S. Col. John Dorrian said in a Central Command statement released Thursday. He and other officials have said the US will closely monitor the weapons' distribution and insure that they are used only against IS.

The capture of Tabqa, a key step in the advance on Raqqa, the extremist group's de-facto capital, came seven weeks after the launch of the Kurdish-led offensive, backed by the USA -led worldwide coalition.