Turkey warns US against arming Syrian Kurd ‘terrorists,’ ponders end of ‘strategic partnership’

Ankara expressed disappointment with the US decision to send heavy weapons to Kurdish militants, while the Kurds praised Washington’s decision as a “historic” move that greatly expands the group’s capabilities to “fight terrorism.”

The Turkish government has asked the US to reverse its decision to broaden support for Syria’s Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (YPG), stating that it is unacceptable for a NATO ally to support “terrorist groups.”

 

Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) head a convoy of U.S military vehicles in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017. © Reuters

The decision to supply arms to Kurds would have “consequences” and a potentially “negative result” for Washington, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim warned on Wednesday.

“We cannot imagine [the US] making a choice between our strategic-level partnership and a terrorist organization,” Yildirim said, as quoted by the Sabah daily. “The US administration still has a chance to consider Turkey's sensitivities of highest level on the PKK. If the decision is taken otherwise, this will surely have consequences and will yield a negative result for the US as well.”

Every weapon given to the YPG represents a threat to Turkey, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavushoglu told reporters on Wednesday.

“If we support the territorial integrity of Syria, we should take lessons from the mistakes we made in Iraq and abstain from making any wrong moves. YPG and PKK are the same entity, there’s no difference between them,” Cavushoglu said, according to NTV broadcaster. “Every weapon which gets into their hands represents a threat to Turkey.”

“We cannot accept the presence of terrorist organizations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state,” Turkish Deputy PM Nurettin Canikli told broadcaster A Haber on Wednesday. “We hope the US will put a stop to this wrong and back down from it. This policy will not be beneficial to anyone; you can’t be in the same sack as terrorist organizations.”

While the YPG is a US ally in Syria, Ankara perceives it as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist group in both Turkey and the US. 

As the decision to supply heavier weapons was announced, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that the US “reassures the people and the government of Turkey that the US is committed to preventing additional security risks and protecting our NATO ally.”

 

Damaged vehicles that belonged to Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) are transported from their headquarters after it was hit by Turkish airstrikes in Mount Karachok near Malikiya, Syria April 25, 2017. © Rodi Said

 

The US responded to the comments by the senior Turkish officials, with US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promising to “work out” concerns over arming the YPG fighters.

“We will work very closely with Turkey in support of their security on their southern border. It's Europe's southern border, and we’ll stay closely connected,” Mattis said on Wednesday, according to Reuters.

The YPG militia praised the US’ decision, stating that it would boost the group’s capability to “fight terrorism.”

“We believe that from now on and after this historic decision, (the YPG) will play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism at a fast pace,” Reuters cited YPG spokesman Redur Xelil as saying in a written statement.

The decision to supply weapons to YPG militia came amid recent tensions between the US and Turkey after Ankara’s strikes on Kurdish-held areas in Syria and Iraq late in April. The aerial bombing and artillery shelling killed a number of YPG militants and Iraqi Peshmerga fighters. Several civilians also perished in the strikes on Syria, according to the militia groups’ statements. Turkey, however, claimed that it had targeted solely PKK “terrorists.” Iraqi Kurds acknowledged a PKK presence in the targeted areas, but the YPG did not.

After the incident US troops arrived to the targeted locations to inspect the damage The demonstration of American military presence in the region met a harsh reaction in Ankara.

President Erdogan’s senior aide Ilnur Cevik said the US forces in Syria could be “accidentally” hit by Turkish strikes, as their presence wouldn’t shield “PKK terrorists” from Turkey’s forces.

Cevik, however, later somewhat softened his stance, stating that “has never and will never hit its allies anywhere and that includes the US in Syria,” while adding that “no one should allow our US allies to become a shield for them.” 

Erdogan threatens more strikes on US-backed Kurdish forces in Syria

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Putin: I discussed de-escalation zones in Syria with Trump, Erdogan

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has discussed introducing de-escalation zones in Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during talks in Sochi on Wednesday and with US President Donald Trump in a phone call the previous day.

Consultations with Tehran and Damascus have also been held on the issue, Putin said.

"For the development of the political process [in Syria], a ceasefire must be provided... Russia, Turkey and Iran have all the time been thinking of how to secure this practice of a ceasefire. One of the methods is creating safe zones, or de-escalation zones," Putin said on Wednesday during a joint press conference with Turkish President Erdogan in Sochi.

Moscow has already conducted "preliminary consultations" with Damascus and Tehran on the matter, Putin said, adding that the issue has also been discussed with US President Trump, who appears to support the idea of safe zones.

"We all reason from [a position] that mechanisms to guarantee the end of bloodshed and provision for the beginning of a political dialogue must be created," the Russian president said, adding that Turkey also fully supports this position.

However, the different sides in the Syrian conflict should themselves make "the final decision," Putin added.

"In the end, only they are in charge of their country's fate. On our side, we – Russia, Turkey and Iran – as guarantors of a ceasefire, will make everything for such mechanisms to improve and be efficient," he told the media.

READ MORE: Putin, Trump speak by phone, discuss Syria, N. Korea – Kremlin

Moscow and Ankara both agree that "the creation of safe zones must lead to further conciliation and strengthening of the ceasefire regime" in war-torn Syria, Putin said.

The Russian president pointed out that regardless of safe zones, the fight will continue against terrorist organizations in Syria such as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), Al-Nusra Front and other groups seen as terrorist by the United Nations.

The question of ceasefire monitoring in possible de-escalation zones is "an issue for separate talks," Putin added, saying that international military officials are in contact on the subject.

"In terms of air force flights, aviation will also not be deployed in de-escalation zones, on condition of no military activity there," the Russian president told journalists in Sochi.

The Turkish leader said that while he and the Russian president had discussed the issue of safe zones in Syria during their Sochi negotiations, it is the Astana peace talks participants who will work on the question. "I hope that a de-escalation zone will be implemented," Erdogan said.

The topic of de-escalation zones is especially related to the province of Idlib, where "many people from Aleppo have found refuge," the Turkish president pointed out.

READ MORE: Some trade restrictions between Russia and Turkey to remain for now – Putin

Having reiterated calls to stop the bloodshed of innocent people in Syria, the Turkish president said that both Moscow and Ankara back punishment for those behind an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria's Idlib province.

"Such a barbaric attack must not be left unpunished," Erdogan said.

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Pentagon: 45 civilians killed by coalition strikes on Islamic State

Investigations conducted during the month of March reveal that US-led coalition airstrikes targeting Islamic State killed 45 civilians, mostly in and around the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to a Pentagon statement released on Sunday.

In each incident, the Pentagon said "all feasible precautions were taken," but the strikes still resulted in "unintentional" loss of civilian life.

The report did not include findings from an ongoing investigation into a March 17 strike targeting Islamic State fighters in Mosul. That strike resulted in more than 100 civilian deaths, according to reports from residents. Last month, the US acknowledged coalition planes conducted a strike "at the location corresponding to allegations of civilian casualties," but did not confirm the reports of high civilian casualties.

A car bomb explodes next to Iraqi special forces armored vehicles as they advance towards Islamic State held territory in Mosul in 2016A bomb explodes next to Iraqi special forces armored vehicles as they advance towards Islamic State held territory in Mosul in 2016 Credit: AP

The March 17 strike sparked outrage in Iraq and beyond with calls from local government officials as well as the United Nations for greater restraint in the fight against IS for Mosul. The United Nations reported nearly 2,000 civilians have been treated for trauma since the fight for western Mosul began in February following the formal launch of the operation to retake Mosul in October 2016.

Coalition officials have declined to give a time frame as to when the investigation into the incident will be complete.The Pentagon acknowledged at least 352 civilians have been killed by coalition strikes in Iraq and Syria since the start of the air campaign against Islamic state, also known as Isil, in 2014. Activists and monitoring groups put the number much higher. The London-based monitoring group Airwars reported that coalition strikes have killed more than 3,000 civilians in Iraq and Syria since 2014. 

Iraqi forces declared Mosul's eastern half "fully liberated" in January, but have since struggled to retake the city's western side. Claustrophobic terrain and tens of thousands of civilians being held by the extremists as human shields have bogged Iraqi and coalition forces down.

The Sunday statement also included the findings of an audit begun in March that inspected the way the US-led coalition reports and tracks civilian casualties in the fight against Islamic State. The statement said the audit found that 80 civilian deaths caused by coalition airstrikes had not been previously publicly reported and two civilian deaths previously reported were found to have not been caused by the coalition.

The US began the campaign of airstrikes against Islamic State in 2014 after the extremists pushed into Iraq from Syria, overrunning Mosul and large swaths of Iraq's north and west. Since then Iraqi forces have slowly clawed back territory. Now a cluster of western Mosul neighborhoods are the last significant urban terrain under Islamic State control in Iraq. 

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Tear gas, over 200 arrests at May Day clashes in Istanbul (PHOTOS)

May Day rallies in Tukey’s most populous city descended into clashes with the police, as several activist groups tried to get into cordoned-off areas of the city. Over 200 people have been detained, and at least one man was reportedly killed.

Labor Day celebrations in Istanbul turned violent as multiple groups of demonstrators attempted to march towards central Taksim Square, despite police cordons and warnings.

“Some illegal groups who want to damage the peace and safety of our people attempted illegal marches and demonstrations, primarily around Taksim Square... under the pretext of May Day celebrations,” the governor’s office said, as cited by Reuters. “A total of 207 people have been detained, and some 40 Molotov cocktails, 17 hand grenades, 176 fireworks ... and lots of illegal posters have been seized.”

https://pbs.twimg.com/amplify_video_thumb/858979298165878784/img/HbsjcVIc-x5NLh4R.jpg

The clashes erupted at multiple locations throughout the city, as members of left-wing and anarchist parties, as well as trade unions, attempted to march towards Taksim Square.

A group of protesters was dispersed in the Mecidiyekoy neighborhood, when police used tear gas and rubber bullets as activists tried to march towards Taksim Square.

A 57-year old man was run over and killed by a police water cannon truck, CNN Turk reports. The governor's office said he was hit as the vehicle was maneuvering, as cited by Reuters.

@fgeffardAFP Protesters attempt to defy a ban and march on Taksim Square to celebrate May Day in Istanbul. @yasinnakgul

alanı 'dir. Yaşasın Taksim Mücadelemiz

After the botched July 2016 coup attempt, Turkey’s authorities tightened their grip on security by imposing a state of emergency that has been extended a number of times since. Consequently, Taksim Square was entirely cordoned off well beforehand on Sunday, and numerous riot and plain clothes police officers had been deployed to the area.

Nevertheless, two female activists shouting communist slogans and brandishing a banner managed to slip into the well-guarded area. The two were overwhelmed by police and placed in a cruiser after a brief yet violent struggle.

 

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Why Now? Turkey's Decision to Stop Euphrates Shield Op Raises Questions

After Ankara suddenly announced that its Euphrates Shield Operation was successfully completed the question on everyone's lips was: "Why now?" Yet another question is whether or not the Turkish government will kick off a new operation on Syrian soil.

On Wednesday Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced that Ankara's Euphrates Shield Operation came to an end.

"Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished. Any operation following this one will have a different name," Yildirim told NTV broadcaster.

A Turkish soldier on armoured military vehicle patrols the border between Turkey and Syria, near the southeastern village of Besarslan, in Hatay province, Turkey, November 1, 2016

The operation was kicked off August 24 to clear the Syrian border town of Jarabulus and the surrounding area from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL). In addition, Ankara's maneuvers were aimed against the emergence of an independent Kurdish entity in northern Syria.

"It was noted that the Operation 'Euphrates Shield' which was started with the goal of ensuring national security, preventing the threat from Daesh and return of Syrian refugees to their homes has successfully completed," a statement by the Turkish National Security Council read.

Meanwhile, the question remains: "Why now?"

Speaking to Russian media outlet RBC, Ilshat Sayetov, a researcher with the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS), suggested that the major goal of the operation was to capture Manbij and to prevent the Syrian Kurds from maintaining control over the Syrian-Turkish border.

However, while Ankara had managed to throw a wrench into the Syrian Kurds' works, it failed to take Manbij under its control, he noted.

This Tuesday, March 7, 2017 frame grab from video provided by Arab 24 network, shows U.S. forces patrol on the outskirts of the Syrian town, Manbij, a flashpoint between Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters and U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters, in al-Asaliyah village, Aleppo province, Syria

Indeed, in early March Turkey and the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) nearly clashed in Manbij. Fortunately, Moscow stepped in and prevented the conflict by brokering a deal between the Turks, the Kurds and Damascus.

As a result, the Manbij Military Council handed control of several areas west of the city of Manbij to the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), as part of a Moscow-brokered deal to create a buffer zone between the Kurds and the Turkish armed forces.

Ankara accepted the deal and signaled that it by no means opposed the establishment of the SAA's control over the northern Syrian city of Manbij.

Commenting on the matter, Ünal Çeviköz of Hurriyet.com explained that Turkey risked prompting Washington's wrath by attacking the Kurdish militia, which is regarded by the Pentagon as a US ally on the ground in the fight against Daesh.

A Turkish soldier uses binoculars to check the Syrian border near the Mursitpinar border crossing on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern town of Suruc, Sanliurfa province, on October 4, 2014

Çeviköz highlighted that Turkey needed to seize Manbij to launch an offensive on Daesh's stronghold in Raqqa.

With the operation stalled, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had found himself in an embarrassing position, Sayetov noted. The truth of the matter is that Ankara is going to hold a referendum on constitutional amendments April 16. The amendments envisage Turkey's transformation into a presidential republic.

In light of this, the only way out for the Turkish government to save its face ahead of the vote was to officially halt the operation, Sayetov explained.

For his part, Volkan Ozdemir, director of the Institute for Energy Markets and Policies, suggested that Ankara is no longer able to pursue its goals in Syria as it contradicts the policies of two global players, Russia and the United States, in the region.

Both Moscow and Washington are unlikely to allow Turkey to continue to crack down against the Syrian Kurds, he assumed.

"But this does not mean that Ankara will abandon its plans to clear Syria from Kurdish terrorists in the long run," Ozdemir told RBC.

Ankara considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as an affiliate to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey.

So, is it possible that Ankara will kick off Euphrates Shield 2.0?

According to former Turkish special forces operative Abdullah Agar, this option is on the table.

"Turkey has been unable to achieve all of its goals as part of Operation Euphrates Shield since the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the People's Protection Units (YPG) received support in the region," Agar told Sputnik Turkey.

Agar explained that the Turkish military failed to complete their mission in Manbij and Tell Rifaat.

"Taking this into account, Turkey is likely to come up with a series of new initiatives with regard to ensuring its national security, strengthening its unitary state and fighting terrorism," the security analyst predicted.

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Trump wading into Mideast quagmire over Turkey and Kurds in Syria

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave notice this week that the Trump administration was stepping up its military involvement in Syria and Iraq. But the military road map he laid out is in danger of leading the US even deeper into problems.

Most problematic perhaps is the fact that US forces are deepening their alliance with Kurdish militants in northern Syria. That has grave implications for a rupture with Washington’s key NATO ally Turkey, as well as the danger of an eventual confrontation with Syrian government forces.

Tillerson, the top US foreign policy official, was addressing leaders of the 68-nation American-led coalition gathered in Washington on plans to defeat Islamic State (IS or ISIS) terrorism.

Recall that President Trump had made signature promises during his election campaign that he would “knock the hell out of ISIS” – as well as “drain the swamp” of government inefficiency in Washington DC.

Keeping to his word about coming up with a master plan to defeat terrorism, the Trump administration this week announced a much more vigorous military intervention in Syria and Iraq than was seen under President Barack Obama.

@StateDept Secretary Tillerson outlines progress, successes in fight against ISIS.

The irony, however, is that while Obama spent eight years trying to get the US out of a quagmire in the Middle East created by his predecessor, GW Bush, now President Trump seems to be heading right back into the morass. Even more ironically is that Trump had used his inauguration speech on January 20 to say that his administration was done with “nation building” and costly military interventions overseas.

At least from what Tillerson announced this week during the coalition summit, it would appear that US military forces are preparing to occupy areas of Syria and Iraq for the long term. Said Tillerson: “The military power of the coalition will remain where this fraudulent caliphate has existed in order to set the conditions for a full recovery from the tyranny of ISIS.”

There seems little ambiguity about what that entails. US troops are being committed to, if not nation building, then “region building” within countries.

Secretary of State Tillerson added: “Local leaders and local governments will take on the process of restoring their communities in the wake of ISIS with our support. The development of a rejuvenated civil society in these places will lead to a disenfranchisement of ISIS and the emergence of stability and peace where there was once chaos and suffering. But none of this will happen automatically. We all need to support this effort.”

Granted, it could all be just grandiose hot air from Washington, which will blow away as soon the military going gets tough.

Nevertheless, the Trump administration appears to be indeed wading deeply into the Middle East.

The clearest sign was the major airlift this week by US forces of Kurdish insurgents to Raqqa, the strategic ISIS stronghold in Syria. Up to 1,000 US marines were reportedly involved in the operation. The development evidently goes beyond Pentagon claims that its troops are acting merely as “military advisers” to Kurdish fighters. American forces are digging in as part of the anticipated offensive to take Raqqa.

And if the plans laid out by Tillerson are held to, then the US troops will remain in the area to help the Kurds build governance. The same goes for other areas in northern Syria and Iraq where American forces are deployed to “liberate from ISIS”.

Turkey is claiming that US military supplies to Kurdish militias have been boosted. It appears that Washington has decided to throw its weight behind the Kurds as the most effective fighting force against the Islamists. Previous attempts by the US to organize Sunni Arab formations have reportedly proven lackluster, to say the least.

However, in backing the Kurds, the Trump administration is risking a rupture with NATO ally Turkey. Ankara has repeatedly warned of a “collision course” if Washington persists in working with the Kurds. The Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) are viewed by the Ankara government as “terrorists” affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) based inside Turkey.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party fear that the Syrian Kurds will form an autonomous state in northern Syria, which in turn will serve to bolster the separatist Kurds across the border in Turkey.

When Turkey launched its incursion – dubbed Euphrates Shield – into northern Syria last August, the main reason cited by Ankara was to contain Kurdish militants and prevent them gaining a foothold around the Euphrates River.

Now it appears to Ankara that the US is sacrificing its longtime alliance by taking up arms with the Kurds – a sworn enemy of Turkey.

Reuters quotes one senior Turkish official fuming with exasperation, saying: “It appears that the US may carry out this operation with the YPG, not with Turkey. And at the same time the US is giving weapons to the YPG. If this operation is carried out in this manner there will be a cost for Turkey-US relations, because the YPG is a terrorist organization.”

In a separate report, another senior Turkish security official said Ankara had given Washington an ultimatum on the issue: “Our soldiers will not be fighting together with people who shot us and killed our soldiers and are trying to kill us… This message was delivered to the Americans.”

Turkey is demanding that the US backs Arab militias belonging to the so-called Free Syrian Army. But past experience has shown these units to be unreliable. Besides, the die seems to have already been cast, with Washington moving decisively to align with the Kurds.

US airlifts Syrian fighters in bid to surround in

If the Trump administration holds to its plan, as outlined this week by Rex Tillerson, of deploying US troops to consolidate self-governing areas, then the American presence with the Kurds will inevitably be for the long haul. That is going to intensify strains between Ankara and Washington. Just when Erdogan was hoping that the new Trump administration might be more amenable than the Obama one, which he fell afoul with over Syrian policy and the attempted coup in Turkey last July.

But a potential quagmire for Trump does not stop there. Syrian President Bashar al Assad recently warned that any US troops present in his country would be viewed as “aggressors”.

If American troops were to set up long-term missions to help the Kurds around Raqqa and northern Syria, it seems only a matter of time before the Syrian national army will be compelled to challenge the presence of US forces in the country. Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies have repeatedly said that Syrian sovereignty and territorial integrity are inviolable.

Thus if Trump tries to make a gung-ho success of policy in the Middle East – and let’s face he needs to show some achievement given his domestic woes – his administration is liable to encounter multiple snafus. From the Turks, Kurds and Syrians, not to mention serious implications with regard to Russia, Iran and Hezbollah.

Trump is already having wearisome trouble draining the swamp in Washington. The last thing he needs is to wade further into a Middle East quagmire.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Turkey could send 15k refugees a month to Europe to ‘blow its mind’ – interior minister

Turkey's interior minister says Ankara could send 15,000 refugees a month to Europe, to “blow its mind.” He said the bloc is “playing games” to prevent Turkey from becoming strong, taking direct aim at Germany and the Netherlands.

“I’m telling you, Europe, do you have that courage? If you want, we could open the way for 15,000 refugees that we don’t send each month and blow your mind,” Süleyman Soylu said late Thursday, according to Hurriyet.

The minister was referring to a deal between the EU and Ankara, under which Turkey agreed to help stop the flow of refugees across its border and take back migrants rejected for asylum in Europe.

 
FILE PHOTO. © Eric Vidal

Ankara agreed to the deal in exchange for billions in refugee assistance from the EU and accelerated talks on becoming a member of the bloc.

It also rallied for visa-free travel to Europe's Schengen zone as part of the deal, but was told by the EU that a list of 72 conditions must first be met – a key sticking point of which is Turkey's strict anti-terrorism laws, which Europe has said must be loosened in order for the agreement to go ahead.

The EU parliament has also expressed concern about Turkey's “disproportionate” reaction to last year's failed coup attempt, which prompted Ankara to launch a mass crackdown. Those targeted included Turkish opposition figures, teachers, journalists, and civil servants deemed sympathetic to Kurdish separatism and self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey says was the mastermind behind the unrest.

Europe's hesitation to fulfill its side of the refugee deal has led to Ankara threatening to pull out of the agreement numerous times. However, a German government spokesman said on Friday that there are no signs that the refugee deal has been suspended, Reuters reported.

Soylu went on to specifically address Germany and the Netherlands, both of which have interfered with rallies aimed at encouraging expatriate Turks to vote ‘yes’ in an upcoming referendum which would give Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping new powers.

 
© Umit Bektas

“Who are the main ones trying to get things done? Germany and the Netherlands. Are the elections going to be held in Germany? Will the charter change in Germany or the Netherlands?” he asked, referring to the April 16 referendum.

“This is our internal issue. What do you care? Why are you getting involved in it? Did you accept Turkey into the European Union? Did you provide support to Turkey in its fight against terrorism?” he said.

“There are games being played against Turkey in order to prevent it from becoming strong in the future,” Soylu said.

He went on to state that Turkey is in its strongest period and that “some people can't handle it.”

Turkey has been particularly vocal against the Netherlands in recent days, after Dutch authorities banned ministers from addressing a rally in Rotterdam and dispersed hundreds of protests outside the Turkish consulate on Sunday.

Erdogan has made his distaste for the country well known since then, accusing it of acting like “Nazi remnants,” state terrorism, and having a “rotten” character.

Ankara has also imposed diplomatic sanctions on the Netherlands, suspending high-level talks and barring the Dutch ambassador from returning to Turkey.

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Turkey Uses Incirlik Air Base to Put Pressure on Washington

Turkey could deny the use of Incirlik Air Base to the United States if Kurdish militias in northern Syria participate in the offensive against Raqqa in the hands of the Islamic State (IS), according to Yeni Safak.

The leak is not official, but Ankara usually uses this large-scale Islamist newspaper to probe and prepare states of opinion, and on this issue it has repeatedly expressed its refusal for the Democratic Union and People's Protection Units (YPG), considered by Turkey terrorist organizations, to participate in the military campaign.

Washington senior officials showed the Turkish government days ago their intention to have Kurdish units in the operation against Raqqa, so today's announcement would be a form of pressure using an air base of strategic importance for the United States in the region.

Incirlik Air Base, near the border with Syria, is used by the international coalition against the IS and it has troops and combat aircraft from 13 NATO countries, in addition to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

However, Ankara also previously denounced the lack of air support by its NATO allies in the cross-border offensive called the Euphrates Shield, directed against the IS in northern Syria and started on 24 August 2016.

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