Pentagon chief, Turkish PM meet after decision to arm Kurds

It is the first face-to-face meeting between senior USA and Turkish officials since President Trump gave the Pentagon the green light to directly provide arms and heavy weapons to Kurdish militias battling the Islamic State in Syria.

"This American support will significantly expedite and ease the war against IS", he said.

Davis said a dam-assessment team was headed to the structure to make sure it had not been damaged by IS, although so far there had been no issues detected.

The Turkish government has been very concerned about the ongoing cooperation between the US-led coalition and the Syrian Kurds, and the recent decision of the Trump administration to arm the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

FILE - This undated image posted online Monday, May.

US -backed Syrian Kurdish fighters say they expect to push on and capture the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa in northern Syria this summer, after receiving heavy weapons from the USA military.

The SDF have also captured a major airbase near Tabqa, some 50 km (30 miles) west of Raqqa, in the latest phase of their operation against IS.

After the SDF surrounded al-Tabqa and battled the terrorist group for weeks, about 70 remaining ISIS fighters surrendered to the SDF this week with the conditions that they dismantle IEDs they had placed around the dam, hand over all of their heavy weapons and get all ISIS fighters out of town. He adds that the US will issue limited ammunition to these weapons and thus will see that they are only used in Raqqa. "We are consuming [using] many bullets every day and many of our guns are tired that need replacement". He said the battle for Raqqa would begin once the group receives the weapons from the US military, adding that he expects the fighters to storm the city in the coming weeks. Syrian Kurds could receive mortars, heavy machine guns and armored tactical vehicles as part of the Trump administration's plan. "Some will be metered out as it's needed", Dorrian told reporters in a weekly televised briefing from Baghdad. "We don't believe America would choose a terror group over our strategic relations", he said.

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"We are going to assure that every step of the way that we are receiving assurances from the SDF that they are using (the weapons) only to fight ISIS". Mattis was speaking after Ankara voiced its strong opposition to a USA decision to arm in Syria the YPG, which Turkey considers an extension of the PKK.

Turkey's defense minister has described a US decision to supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters as a "crisis" between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Before his meeting with Mattis, Yildirim had warned that "there is still an opportunity for the United States to take Turkey's sensitivities into consideration".

But the coalition spokesman said the coalition will "carefully monitor what is given and what it's being used for".

The Americans are creating the impression that they are toying with us.

The Syrian Kurds have been encircling Raqqa, preparing for the launch of what the US military predicts will be a long and hard battle to retake the city.

Fawza al-Yusuf, a political leader of Kurdish self-proclaimed Democratic Federal System, told VOA that if the decision had been made earlier, "we would have seen a lot more advances against IS". A senior US official said the USA will step up joint intelligence-sharing with the Turks to help them better target terrorists.

Erdogan vowed to bring up "our worries" on the issue in talks with U.S. President Donald Trump on May 16 in Washington.

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