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Syrian Kurdish forces to push on IS capital this summer

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Reuters

Speaking to reporters today during an official visit to London, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says that the United States has assured Turkey that even though the Kurdish YPG is being used to invade ISIS' capital city of Raqqa, they will not keep control of the city after the battle.

With regard to Washington doubling down on its Kurdish alliance, Redur Xelil, a spokesman for the YPG, said, "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". "They are people that will fight for whichever government gives them money".

"The attack on Raqqa will take place in the beginning of the summer", Syrian Democratic Forces commander Rojda Felat told AFP.

The push to retake Raqqa appears to have gathered strength, after U.S. President Donald Trump announced a decision last week to arm Kurdish-led forces with heavy weapons. The Turkish president also said the U.S.is still in the process of transferring the authority after Donald Trump was elected president. The Pentagon said on Tuesday it was aware of concerns in Turkey, which has given vital support to a US -led campaign against Islamic State insurgents in Syria and Iraq.

Asked if Turkey would continue to bomb the YPG in Syria if the group is armed by the U.S., Yildirim was succinct.

In August 2016, Turkey launched operation Euphrates Shield in northern Syria, targeting IS fighters but also Kurdish Peoples' Protection Units (YPG). The United States, the European Union and Turkey all agree the YPG is a terrorist organization.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to convince Trump to reverse his administration's decision in a meeting between the two leaders at the White House next week. For the US, the PKK is an insurgency that uses terrorist tactics in pursuit of its nationalist goal that does not present a threat beyond the countries that include traditional Kurdish regions, unlike ISIS operates globally, inspiring or directing terrorist attacks in numerous countries far from the Middle East. Even Turkey's best Arab friends, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have refrained from clearly declaring their support for Turkey in its fight against the PKK and the YPG.

"Turkey's concerns are understood but on the ground this was a tactical alliance and they had no choice", he said of the USA policy to add the YPG to the assault against Daesh in Raqqah, Syria. Ankara said the plan was "unacceptable" and a threat to its national security. At the same time Erdogan's actions periodically demonstrate that Turkey does not share the goals and the main principals of the alliance.

Now, the only question is, how far do Trump and Erdogan extend, realizing their geostrategic ambitions?

Erdogan sent several senior officials, including his military and intelligence chiefs, to Washington for preparatory talks but the Turkish delegation failed to prevent the U.S. administration's decision to directly arm the YPG.

Yildirim said US officials told Turkey they can extend various cooperation to combat the PKK, such as intelligence-sharing and monitoring financial resources. "The renewed commitment from the U.S.to provide heavy weapons will double the Kurds' effectiveness in defeating Daesh [ISIS]", Macer Gifford, a British former volunteer with the YPG, told Syria Deeply.

The United States and Turkey have been North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies since 1952 and Turkey, which straddles the geostrategically important juncture between Europe and Asia, has served as a key base for the USA military. "He was very clear that the U.S. regards the PKK as a terrorist organisation and will start tackling the money of the PKK", said the Prime Minister.

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