U.S. defense chief affirms commitment to protecting Turkey

Turkey slams US decision to arm Syrian Kurds

USA -backed Syrian militias said they fully seized the town of Tabqa and Syria's largest dam from Islamic State on Wednesday, a major objective as they prepare to launch an assault on Raqqa city.

The U.S. -led coalition fighting the Islamic State group says the Kurdish-led Syrian opposition forces' capture of a key town and nearby dam in eastern Syria from the militants undermines IS's ability to defend its de facto capital, Raqqa.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet Trump at the White House on Tuesday.

Turkey's leader on Wednesday warned U.S. President Donald Trump against arming Kurdish rebels in Syria as the resistance looks to take the fight to terrorists in their stronghold of Raqqa.

With the Trump administration's decision to supply Syria's Kurdish fighters with heavier weapons, USA troops inside Syria are in the crossfire between Turkey, a powerful North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, and the Kurdish fighters that Ankara deems as terrorists.

US special operations forces are embedded with the Kurdish-led fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Forces as they prepare for battle around Raqqa.

Mr Erdogan said: "I hope that they (the US) will turn away from this wrong".

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Turkey's defense minister has described a US decision to supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters as a "crisis" between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies.

Fikri Isik told NTV television that Turkey had the power to defend its national interests in Syria, but he didn't elaborate further on what he meant.

Its warplanes have targeted YPG fighters with air strikes. Turkish warplanes attacked Kurdish YPG fighters in northeastern Syria and Iraq's Sinjar region late last month.

Turkey has repeatedly called on the U.S.to end its ties to the PKK/PYD and offered to help take Raqqah.

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

"We are keenly aware of the security concerns of our coalition partner Turkey", said chief Pentagon spokesman Dana White on Tuesday.

Weapons supplied to the YPG have in the past fallen into PKK hands, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

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But Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli told A Haber television, "We can not accept the presence of terrorist organizations that would threaten the future of the Turkish state".

The YPG makes up the bulk of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which on Wednesday scored a major victory against IS in the Syrian city of Tabqa.

Turkey considers the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the YPG, to be the Syrian affiliates of the PKK, a terrorist organization listed by Turkey, the US, and the EU.

YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said the United States decision would "provide a strong impetus" to all forces fighting IS, but noted it came "somewhat late".

Mattis was upbeat, however, and told reporters traveling with him that Turkey remained committed to the campaign against Islamic State in Syria.

"Every single one" of the weapons will be accounted for, and the USA will "assure they are pointed at ISIS", Dorrian said, using an alternate acronym for IS.

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