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Backed rebels say they wrested key Syrian city from ISIS

23 May 2017

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis today said he is confident the United States can allay any concerns Turkey has over the decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters whom Ankara considers terrorists.

Until Tuesday, official United States policy was to supply weapons only to the Arab components of the SDF - never to its Kurds. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to publicly discuss the matter, said artillery or surface-to-air missiles will not be provided.

The SDF's rapid advance against IS last year prompted Turkey to send ground forces across the border for the first time in the more than six-year-old civil war to help allied Syrian opposition forces to battle IS and halt the Kurds' progress.

US President Donald Trump has approved a plan to arm the Syrian Kurdish militia-an important US ally in Syria in the fight against IS.

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The People's Protection Units, or the YPG, is part of the Syrian Democratic Forces.

A fighter from the Syrian Democratic Forces poses with a machine gun in Tabqa, April 30 2017. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim publicly criticized the decision, saying Wednesday that the USA can't use one terrorist group to fight another. The dispute poisoned ties between Turkey and the United States under the administration of former president Barack Obama but commentators had hoped for a smoother ride under Trump.

"I hope very much that this mistake will be reversed immediately", Erdogan said in Ankara alongside Sierra Leone counterpart Ernest Bai Koroma. "We don t believe America would choose a terror group over our strategic relations", he said.

Mattis, the US defense secretary, said on May 10 that the United States had had very open discussions with Turkey.

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They added that they received support from air raids conducted by US-led coalition jets.

Pentagon chief Jim Mattis sought to allay Turkish concerns, saying at a news conference in Lithuania the U.S. would work very closely with Turkey over security on its border with Syria. "It's Europe's southern border", he said, "and we'll stay closely connected". "Such a policy will benefit nobody", he said. North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey strongly objects to the alliance because it sees the Kurds as an extension of the insurgency raging in its southeast. "Probably yes", Ulutas said. "But the problem is, the U.S.is offering nothing - no way to appease Turkey's security concerns".

"A terrorist group [Daesh] can not be defeated with another one", he said, once again reiterating Turkey's stance on the controversial decision in the fight against Daesh. American officials have been dismissive of repeated assertions by the Turkish government that it could muster an alternative, and equally effective, military force.

Syrian Kurdish-led forces say they are carrying out mine-clearing operations at the country's largest dam and the nearby town of Tabqa a day after seizing them from Islamic State militants.

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"SDF and [the] Syrian Arab Coalition have successfully liberated the vast majority of Tabqah and continue to clear the final two neighborhoods", wrote the Coalition's spokesperson US Col. John Dorrian in a tweet.