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Erdogan hopeful for breakthrough in dispute on arming Kurds

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US-backed Syrian forces await weapons for summer assault on Raqqa

Many Turks also still refer to an incident in northern Iraq that year, when USA forces handcuffed 11 Turkish soldiers whom they suspected of plotting to assassinate a top Iraqi Kurdish official.

Such groups will "have no safe quarter", Trump said in the White House's historic Roosevelt Room, where he also commended Turkey's "leadership in seeking an end to the horrific killing in Syria".

Using one terrorist group to destroy another is unworthy of serious states, Turkey's prime minister said Friday while criticizing a US decision to arm the PKK/PYD to defeat Daesh in Syria, Anadolu reported. Turkey has demanded that Washington sever its cooperation with the YPG and extradite Fethullah Gülen, the self-exiled Islamic cleric who resides in Pennsylvania and whom the Turkish government accuses of masterminding the failed coup attempt of July 2016.

The spat over Syria represents the deepest crisis in bilateral ties since Ankara denied Washington permission to deploy US troops to attack Iraq from Turkish soil in 2003. "Our priority is the YPG issue", the official said.

Also hanging over the meeting will be Trump's business interests in Turkey.

"I see this trip as a new milestone in Turkey-U.S. relations", Erdogan said, as he prepared to fly to Washington. "However, the highest level of discussions will be held between President Trump and me".

It was unclear whether Erdogan would be mollified by US offers to compensate for Ankara's acceptance of the YPG role in the battle for Raqqa. The Assad government in Syria long allowed the PKK to operate in Turkey from Syrian bases in pursuit of an independent Kurdistan.

"America is going through a transitional period now", Erdogan said, and Turkey "must be more careful and sensitive". After receiving U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis in London, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım remarked that the Americans offered to work more closely on intelligence sharing and terrorism finance. If Trump does not find solutions to the sensitive issues for Turkey, he can play the role of Stalin, who threw the once friendly USSR into the embrace of the United States after the Second World War by territorial claims to Turkey and his requirement to create military bases of the USSR in the straits. He [Trump] is looking at the situation in Iraq and Syria through the information fed by them.

"The types of action to be taken in Syria by the global coalition against Daesh - in which France participates alongside the United States - will be determined on the basis of this priority", it said. Trump also took the unusual step of calling Erdogan to congratulate him after Turkey voted to give him sweeping new powers in a controversial referendum last month.

The issue was already driving a wedge between the US and Turkey during the Obama administration. Despite Turkey's claims that "the war on terror" should include the fight against the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the YPG, none of the worldwide actors recognize the YPG as a terrorist organization. The decision to arm the YPG was "tantamount to placing dynamite under Turkey-USA relations", a senior Turkish official said.

A decision to directly arm the YPG was made by President Barack Obama before he left office, according to Colin Kahl, a former top national security aide to Vice President Joe Biden. Flynn, Kahl noted, was later found to be a paid consultant to pro-government Turkish interests.

Yet analysts warn that Trump - even if he wanted to - can not simply promise Erdogan that Gulen will be extradited as the process depends on the independent American judicial system. At the moment, however, annihilating Islamic State is the overriding priority in the Syrian civil war-reason enough to make arming the Kurds official USA policy.

The Turks fear any weapons the US provides the Syrian Kurds could well end up with their ethnic brethren in Turkey, who've fought violently as part of a separatist insurgency for more than three decades.

The airport is located in the hardline militants' remaining enclave in the eastern Aleppo countryside, a region where they have mostly lost control to competing forces ranging from the Syrian army, US-backed Kurdish-led forces to Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels. The YPG is the main component of the SDF. They told us there was a requirement. The letter borrows heavily from talking points the Turkish Presidency used previously. These are terrorist organizations.

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

The civil administration of the strategic city of Tabqa is going to be handed over to Tabqa's city council, the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria announced on Sunday, as a monitoring group has reported anti-ISIS coalition ground forces advancing on three northern axes towards Raqqa. "We want to believe that our allies will prefer to side with us, not with a terrorist organisation", the Turkish president reacted to Trump's decision to supply heavy weapons to the Syrian Kurds with restraint, but cold-bloodedly at the same time immediately after it was announced. "They've been saying that for a year now". Tensions got worse in April, when Turkey launched airstrikes against the YPG.

Last month, the Turkish military bombed Kurdish forces in Syria and Iraq, in one case with American forces only about six miles (10 kilometers) away.

Turkey also retains the option of canceling an agreement that allows US and anti-Islamic State coalition warplanes to fly out of its air base at Incirlik.

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