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U.S. funding of Syrian YPG militia will impact Turkey's decisions: Erdogan

From Reuters - February 13, 2018

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A U.S. decision to continue funding the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia will affect Turkeys future moves, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday ahead of a visit this week by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

U.S. officials have said that Tillerson expects to have difficult conversations when he visits Turkey on Thursday and Friday, given that the NATO allies have starkly diverging interests in Syria. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tillersons trip showed just how serious this matter is.

This is one of the areas of deep, deep concern on the part of the administration and the U.S. government, she told a briefing on Tuesday. We certainly dont want to see ... violence further escalate.

Turkey has been enraged by U.S. support for the YPG, which Ankara sees as a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been waging an insurgency on Turkish soil for over 30 years. Washington has backed the YPG in the fight against Islamic State in Syria.

Our allys decision to give financial support to the YPG ... will surely affect the decisions we will take, Erdogan said in a speech to members of his AK Party in parliament.

His comments followed the release of the U.S. Defense Departments 2019 budget, which includes requests for funds to train and equip local forces in the campaign against Islamic State militants in Syria.

The Pentagon requested $300 million for Syrian train and equip activities and $250 million for border security requirements, according to a copy of the budget. While it did not specify how much of this, if any, was earmarked for YPG-led forces, Turkish media interpreted it to mean that the Pentagon had allocated $550 million to the YPG in 2019.

It will be better for them not to stand with the terrorists they support today. I am calling on the people of the United States - this money is coming out of the budget of the United States, it is coming out of peoples pockets, Erdogan said.

OPERATION OLIVE BRANCH

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