The Latest: Syrian Kurds take largest dam, town from IS

AP News
Posted: May 10, 2017 12:56 PM
The Latest: Syrian Kurds take largest dam, town from IS

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria (all times local):

7:55 p.m.

U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces say they have captured the country's largest dam and a nearby town from the Islamic State group.

The fighters known as Syrian Democratic Forces, which are mostly Kurdish-led but also include Arab fighters, say they expelled IS militants from the Tabqa Dam and the nearby town, also called Tabqa, on Wednesday.

Tabqa is the latest IS stronghold to fall to the Kurdish-led opposition fighters as they advance toward the Islamic State group's de facto capital of Raqqa — the seat of the militants' so-called caliphate along the Euphrates River.

The fall of Tabqa leaves no other major urban settlements on the road to Raqqa, about 40 kilometers, or 25 miles, away.


7:15 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he hopes the United States will reverse its decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters perceived as terrorists by Ankara.

Erdogan also called on the United States to stand alongside a NATO ally — Turkey — and reverse its decision on arming Syrian Kurds before his upcoming visit to Washington.

The Turkish president's remarks on Wednesday came a day after the U.S. announced it would arm Syrian Kurdish fighters as a necessary step to recapture the Islamic State group's Syrian stronghold of Raqqa.

Erdogan says the "fight against terrorism should not be lead with another terror organization" and that "we want to know that our allies will side with us and not with terror organizations."

He spoke during a joint news conference with the visiting president of Sierra Leone. Erdogan said he would take up the issue during a planned meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump on May 16.

Erdogan says: "I hope that they (U.S.) will turn away from this wrong."


5:15 p.m.

Turkey's defense minister has described a U.S. decision to supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters as a "crisis" between the two NATO allies.

Fikri Isik also told private NTV television on Wednesday that Turkey has the power to defend its national interests in Syria, though he did not elaborate.

The United States announced on Tuesday that it would arm Syrian Kurdish fighters in a bid to recapture the Islamic State group's stronghold of Raqqa in Syria, despite Turkey's opposition. Ankara considers the Syrian Kurds as an extension of Kurdish rebels in Turkey that have led a three-decade long insurgency against the authorities.

Isik says it's out of the question for Turkey to support any operation involving the Syrian Kurdish fighters.


5 p.m.

Syria's al-Qaida branch has criticized an internationally brokered cease-fire deal for Syria, threatening to wage war against any rebel faction that tries to take advantage of the deal to try to dislodge it form its main stronghold.

The Levant Liberation Committee, which often fights alongside of rebels against Syrian pro-government forces, says the so-called "de-escalation" agreement signed between Russia, Turkey, and Iran earlier this month is a "betrayal" of Syria's 2011 uprising.

The statement, circulated on social media on Wednesday, warns other factions against taking advantage of the respite in fighting to launch attacks against it in Idlib province.

Syrian rebel groups are under pressure from their Western and Turkish backers to fully cut ties with al-Qaida's affiliate in Syria.


3 p.m.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has spoken out against a U.S. decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters, saying it cannot use one terrorist group to try and defeat another.

Washington regards the Syrian Kurdish fighters as key partners in the fight against Islamic State militants, but Turkey considers the group a threat to its security because of its links to outlawed Kurdish rebels.

Speaking to reporters before departing for London on Wednesday, Yildirim said Turkey cannot accept "direct or indirect" support for the Kurdish rebels, known as the PKK.

Yildirim said "there is still an opportunity for the United States to take Turkey's sensitivities into consideration. Otherwise, the outcome won't only affect Turkey, a negative outcome will also emerge for the United States."

The U.S. announced Tuesday that it would arm Syrian Kurdish fighters as a necessary step to recapture the IS stronghold of Raqqa.


1:15 p.m.

The Syrian Kurdish group labeled a terror organization by Turkey is hailing the U.S. decision to arm it with heavy weapons to fight the Islamic State group.

The YPG militia says the decision is "historic" and a "sign of confidence" in the group, in a statement released Wednesday.

Turkey's deputy Prime Minister denounced the decision as "unacceptable" and said it "amounts to support to a terror organization."

The YPG says the U.S. commitment to the group, and its umbrella coalition the Syrian Democratic Forces, will allow it to expand its operations against IS. It says the decision is a refutation of the "distortions" likening the YPG to a terror organization.


1 p.m.

Turkey's top diplomat has criticized a U.S. decision to provide arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters, saying every weapon given to them poses a threat to Turkey.

The U.S. announced Tuesday that it would arm Syrian Kurdish fighters as a necessary step to recapture the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa despite opposition from Turkey, which views the group as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency in its southeast.

During a visit to Montenegro on Wednesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said there was no difference between the Syrian Kurdish fighters and the outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting Turkey.

"Every weapon that reaches their hands is a threat toward Turkey," Cavusoglu said in comments that were televised live.

Cavusoglu said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would take up the issue with President Donald Trump during a visit to Washington planned for next week.


11 a.m.

Turkish media are quoting Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli as saying the U.S. decision to arm Syrian Kurdish fighters viewed as terrorists by Turkey is "unacceptable."

The U.S. said it would provide arms to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to help them drive Islamic State militants from the extremists' de facto capital, Raqqa. Turkey says the Syrian Kurdish group known as the YPG, which forms the backbone of the force, is the Syrian branch of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, which is waging an insurgency in Turkey.

Turkey, the U.S. and other Western allies view the PKK as a terrorist group.

Hurriyet newspaper quoted Canikli as saying Wednesday: "The United States is providing every kind of aid to the PKK through (Syrian Kurdish forces)."

Canikli expressed hope that Washington would reverse its decision, saying "there is no truth to the claim that the fight against Daesh can only succeed with the (Syrian Kurdish forces)." Daesh is the Arabic acronym for IS.


9:30 a.m.

A top Syrian Kurdish official says the U.S. decision to arm Kurdish fighters with heavier weapons will help legitimize the force, which is denounced as a terrorist organization by Turkey.

The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will arm the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces "as necessary" to recapture the Islamic State stronghold of Raqqa. NATO ally Turkey strongly objects to the alliance because it sees the Kurds as an extension of the insurgency raging in its southeast.

Ilham Ahmed, a top official in the Syrian Democratic Forces' political office, tells The Associated Press Wednesday the decision means the SDF is the force designated to recapture Raqqa.

She said the decision is likely to be met with "aggression" from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is to visit Washington next week.