Turkey hopes U.S. will end support of Syrian Kurdish YPG, Deputy PM says

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FILE PHOTO: U.S military vehicles and Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) drive in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria April 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rodi Said

Turkey hopes the United States will end its policy of supporting the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said on Wednesday, adding that Ankara could not accept its NATO ally backing the group.

Canikli’s comments are among the first official responses after U.S. officials said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump has approved supplying arms to the YPG to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State.

Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe. The United States sees the YPG as a valuable partner in the fight against Islamic State in northern Syria.

“We cannot accept the presence of terrorist organisations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state,” Canikli said in an interview with Turkish broadcaster A Haber. “We hope the U.S. administration will put a stop to this wrong and turn back from it. Such a policy will not be beneficial, you can’t be in the same sack as terrorist organisations.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is expected to meet Trump in Washington next week. Erdogan has repeatedly castigated the United States for its support for the YPG, saying its NATO ally should support it fully in the fight against terrorism.

The Pentagon has sought to stress that it saw arming the Kurdish forces as necessary to ensure a victory in Raqqa, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Syria and a hub for planning the group’s attacks against the West.

Ankara had long argued that Washington should switch support for the planned assault on Raqqa from the Kurdish YPG militia to Syrian rebels Turkey has trained and led against Islamic State for the past year.

But the U.S. administration has been sceptical that the Turkish-backed force was large enough or sufficiently trained.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk and Tuvan Gumrukcu; Writing David Dolan; Editing by Daren Butler)