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Turkish Official: Trump Has Agreed to Stop Arming Syrian Kurdish Fighters

  • VOA News

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters after Friday prayers in Ankara, Nov. 24, 2017.

U.S. President Donald Trump has told his Turkish counterpart that the U.S. will no longer supply weapons to Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, according to a Turkish official’s summation of the call on Friday between the two world leaders.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Trump made the comment Friday after speaking by phone with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to Cavusoglu, Trump said he had given clear instructions that the YPG not be given arms. Cavusoglu also quoted the U.S. president as saying, “This nonsense should have ended a long time ago.”

A White House statement issued Friday evening said Trump informed Erdogan of “pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria.” The statement described the change as “consistent with our previous policy,” and said it reflects the new phase of the battle after the fall of Raqqa, the capital of the Islamic State's self-described caliphate.

“The battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return," the White House statement said, using an acronym for the militant group.

President Donald Trump prepares to hand out sandwiches to members of the U.S. Coast Guard at the Lake Worth Inlet Station, in Riviera Beach, Fla., on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, 2017.
President Donald Trump prepares to hand out sandwiches to members of the U.S. Coast Guard at the Lake Worth Inlet Station, in Riviera Beach, Fla., on Thanksgiving, Nov. 23, 2017.

The statement did not specifically name YPG.

Erdogan and Trump also discussed the purchase of military equipment from the United States by Turkey, according to the White House.

Turkey has been pushing to persuade the U.S. to abandon support for the YPG as the militia fights the Islamic State group.

The U.S. considers the Syrian Kurds its best fighting force on the ground against Islamic State, but has to balance that interest with maintaining good relations with Turkey, a NATO ally.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in Turkey. The PKK has been fighting Turkey since 1984 in a conflict that has left about 40,000 people dead. Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union consider the PKK to be a terrorist group.

Relations between Ankara and Washington also have been strained over issues that include the U.S. refusal to extradite a cleric wanted by Turkey in connection with a failed coup last year. The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, denies involvement.

Additionally, Ankara has been critical of U.S. plans to try Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab and Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive with Turkish state bank Halkbank, on charges of defying sanctions against Iran. Ankara describes the case as political. The defendants are scheduled to go on trial next month in New York.

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