May 10, 2017 / 8:43 AM / 2 years ago

Syrian Kurdish YPG sees bigger role after U.S. arms move

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The Syrian Kurdish YPG militia said on Wednesday a U.S. decision to arm its fighters battling Islamic State would bring quick results, and it now expected to play a bigger role in the fight against terrorism.

“We believe that from now on and after this historic decision, (the YPG) will play a stronger, more influential and more decisive role in combating terrorism at a fast pace,” spokesman Redur Xelil said in a written statement to Reuters.

U.S. officials said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump had approved supplying arms to the YPG to support an operation to retake the Syrian city of Raqqa from Islamic State, despite opposition from Turkey which is worried by the group’s power.

The YPG has been the main partner on the ground in Syria for the U.S.-led alliance that is fighting Islamic State, and is fighting in the Raqqa campaign as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an alliance of Kurdish and Arab forces.

The YPG had long called on the U.S.-led alliance to supply it with arms for its fight with Islamic State.

Xelil said the decision would “give a strong push to all the democratic forces fighting terrorism and will bring positive, big, and fast results”.

It reflected the confidence generated by the YPG’s battles against “all forms terrorism”, even if the move had come “somewhat late”.

NATO member Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a three-decade insurgency in Turkey. Ankara had been lobbying Washington to instead back Syrian rebel groups in the campaign to take Raqqa.

Reporting by Tom Perry; editing by John Stonestreet

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