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Turkey threatens more strikes on Kurds

China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-02 07:19

BEIRUT - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Sunday his country may take further action against Kurdish militants in Iraq and Syria, as US-backed forces in Syria closed in on the last neighborhoods of a former stronghold of the Islamic State extremists.

The United States views the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces as the most effective partner to counter the IS group in northern Syria, an assessment bolstered by the SDF's steady advances against the extremists. But it has complicated relations with Turkey, which views the group's Kurdish component as an extension of a terror group operating inside its own borders.

In Istanbul, Erdogan insisted that US support for such groups "must come to an end", and said he would bring up the matter at a meeting with US President Donald Trump this month.

The SDF, which include Arab fighters, seized six neighborhoods from IS extremists in Tabqa on Sunday, according to the affiliated Hawar news agency.

Tabqa is 40 kilometers southeast of the IS group's de facto capital Raqqa and an important stronghold for the extremists.

Turkey has remained hostile to the Kurdish People's Protection Units, known by their Kurdish acronym the YPG, which form the backbone of the SDF. The YPG are close to the Kurdish PKK insurgent group in Turkey, which is designated as a terror organization by NATO and the US.

Last week, Turkey struck at YPG positions inside Syria, killing 20 fighters and media activists, prompting Kurdish parties to call for a US-enforced no-fly-zone over northern Syria.

US troops were seen on Saturday in armored vehicles in Syria in Kurdish areas in a show of force apparently intended to dissuade Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces from attacking one another. Kurdish officials describe the US troop movement as "buffer" between them and Turkey.

Video from northern Syria showed the US patrols parked alongside Kurdish units flying the YPG flag.

"We will be forced to continue (our offensives)," Erdogan said. "We won't provide a date and time for when we'll come. But they will know that the Turkish military can come."

Erdogan is due in Washington on May 16 for his first meeting with Trump.

AP - Xinhua

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