US says to end weapons support for Kurdish YPG

ANKARA: The United States has told Turkey it will not provide any more weapons to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, the Turkish presidency said on Saturday, as Turkey’s offensive against the US-backed YPG in Syria entered its eighth day. The Turkish incursion in northwest Syria’s Afrin region against the YPG has opened a new front in the multi-sided Syrian civil war, but has also further strained ties with Nato ally Washington. Washington has angered Ankara by providing arms, training and air support to the Syrian Kurdish forces. Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast for three decades.
The Turkish presidency said in a statement on Saturday that Ibrahim Kalin, spokesman for President Tayyip Erdogan, and US National Security Adviser H R McMaster held a phone call on Friday in which McMaster confirmed the United States would no longer provide weapons to the YPG.
On Thursday, the Pentagon said it carefully tracked weapons provided to the YPG and would continue discussions with Turkey, after Ankara urged Washington to end its support for the YPG or risk confronting Turkish forces on the ground in Syria.
On Friday, Erdogan said Turkish forces would sweep Kurdish fighters from the Syrian border and could push all the way east to the frontier with Iraq — a move which risks a possible confrontation with US forces allied to the Kurds.
Since the start of the incursion, dubbed “Operation Olive Branch” by Ankara, Erdogan has said Turkish forces would push east towards the town of Manbij, part of Kurdish-held territory some 100 km east of Afrin, where US troops were deployed to deter Turkish and US-backed rebels from clashing.
Any Turkish advance towards Manbij could threaten US efforts to stabilise northern Syria, where the United States has about 2,000 troops, officially as part of the international coalition against IS.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Kurds took to the streets of Cologne on Saturday in protest over Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria, as German officials warned against tensions between the country’s huge Kurdish and Turkish communities.
The protest, which organisers expect will see up to 20,000 participants, came a week after Turkish special forces and allied Syrian rebels launched an assault targeting Kurdish militia the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria.
“Freedom for Kurdistan” and “Shame on you, Europe!” read some of the protesters’ placards in the western German city. As the protest got under way, police put the number of demonstrators at 1,000, while an AFP journalist put the figure at several thousand. — Agencies