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Erdogan hopeful for breakthrough in dispute on arming Kurds

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed hope on Friday that his upcoming visit to Washington will constitute a new “milestone” for the troubled relations between the two NATO allies.

Speaking to reporters before leaving for trips to China and the United States, Erdogan said he was confident that talks with US President Donald Trump next week would lead to a “breaking point” in the US decision to arm Syrian Kurdish forces.

Turkey has been angered by a US decision to provide arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters that Turkey considers terrorists and a serious threat to its security. Turkey says the Kurdish People’s Protection Units in Syria (YPG) is an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK.

Ties have also been strained by Turkey’s demand for the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen whom Turkey blames for last year’s failed coup attempt.

The US considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters, known as the YPG, as the most effective group in the fight against Islamic State militants in their Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

Turkey has called for the decision on arming the YPG to be reversed, criticizing what it calls a strategy of using one terrorist group to fight another. Turkey is also concerned about the possibility that the weapons could end up in the hands of the PKK.

“I see this trip as a new milestone in Turkey-US relations,” Erdogan said. “I want to consider all the information we have received so far (on US arming Syrian Kurds) as hearsay… And I think this trip will be a breaking point on this issue.”

Hurriyet newspaper said Friday Erdogan would provide Trump with a list of weapons seized from the PKK that were allegedly given to the YPG by the United States or other NATO allies in the past for the organization to fight the ISIS group.

Source: AP and Agencies

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