US approves heavier weapons for Syrian Kurds

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The United States on Tuesday announced it would supply weapons and military equipment to Kurdish fighters battling ISIL in Syria, despite intense opposition from North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey.

But Ankara says the YPG is a terror outfit and the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), who have waged an insurgency since 1984 inside Turkey that has left tens of thousands dead.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has been vocal about the issue and has said he would try to convince Trump that Turkish-backed forces should be used to retake Raqqa from IS when the two meet in mid-May.

NBC reported Trump and members of his Cabinet spoke about it during a meeting late Monday at the White House.

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And in Denmark earlier Tuesday, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the USA and Turkey are working out their differences.

Troops from Kurdish militia units known as the YPG stand guard next to United States fighting vehicles near the Syrian-Turkish border.

The Obama administration had been leaning toward arming the Syrian Kurds but struggled with how that could be done without torpedoing relations with Turkey, which is a USA ally in North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and a key political actor in the greater Middle East.

On Tuesday, a U.S. official told Reuters the White House has approved supplying arms to Kurdish YPG fighters.

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The Kurdish contingent being equipped has "partnered with enabling support from US and coalition forces, [and] are the only force on the ground that can successfully seize Raqqa in the near future", the statement adds. A full list wasn't immediately available, but officials had indicated in recent days that 120mm mortars, machines guns, ammunition and light armored vehicles were possibilities.

The U.S. support for the SDF has been a major strain on relations between Washington and Ankara. The move also reinforces the idea that the entire Syrian Democratic Force, Syrian Kurds (YPG) and the Syrian Arab Coalition, has the backing of the U.S.The order has been signed and that "allows the process to begin to function", one official said. "It's natural that they would provide weapons" to the SDF and the armed groups fighting as part of it, Muslim said.

"The YPG is an arm of the PKK".

The US-backed campaign against the Islamic State is just one of several parallel conflicts unfolding in Syria after more than six years of civil war.

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The Pentagon would like to arm the Syrian Kurds as part of the planned push to recapture Raqqa, but the Turks have been adamantly opposed. "We'll figure out how we're going to do it". Last month, Turkish warplanes launched assaults on Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, killing more than a dozen people, and prompting a public condemnation from Washington.

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