May 10, 2017 / 10:00 AM / 3 months ago

Every weapon obtained by YPG represents threat to Turkey, foreign minister says

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) stand near a U.S military vehicle in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017.Rodi Said/Files

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Every weapon obtained by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia constitutes a threat to Turkey, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, emphasising Ankara's opposition to a U.S. deal to arm the fighters against Islamic State.

U.S. officials said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to the YPG to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State. Turkey has long argued that the YPG is a terrorist organisation and no different from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Cavusoglu, who was speaking to reporters while on a visit to Montenegro, said the United States should distinguish between the YPG and their Arab allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance, and that the Arabs should be the ones to enter Raqqa.

"Both the PKK and the YPG are terrorist organizations and they are no different, apart from their names. Every weapon seized by them is a threat to Turkey," Cavusoglu said, in comments that were broadcast live by TRT Haber.

"Within the SDF, Arabs and the YPG should be distinguished and Arab forces should be the ones entering Raqqa."

Cavusoglu said the United States was aware of its stance and that the issues would be discussed by President Tayyip Erdogan when he meets Trump in Washington next week.

Turkey fears that advances by the YPG in northern Syria will inflame the three-decade insurgency, waged by the PKK, at home. Some 40,000 people, most of them Kurds, have died since the PKK first took up arms against the state in 1984.

The PKK is considered a terrorist organisation by the United States, the European Union and Turkey. However, Washington sees the affiliated YPG as distinct from the PKK and as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.

Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler

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