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US tells Ankara will stop arming Syrian Kurd militia: Turkey

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Ankara (AFP)

The US has reiterated a pledge to Turkey to stop arming a Syrian Kurdish militia that Ankara is fighting, the Turkish presidency said Saturday, after the allies' ties were strained by Turkey's offensive in Syria.

The Turkish presidency said US National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster "confirmed" to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin in a phone call late Friday that Washington would "not give weapons to the YPG" militia.

Turkey launched its operation "Olive Branch" on January 20 against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, supporting Syrian opposition fighters with ground troops and air strikes.

Relations between NATO allies Ankara and Washington have been further strained by the offensive, with Washington urging restraint and fearing an impact on the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

One of the issues marring relations between the two countries was the US supplying the YPG -- which has spearheaded the anti-jihadist fight -- with arms since last year in battles against IS.

During Friday's call, the officials cited Turkey's "legitimate security concerns" and agreed to coordinate closely in order to prevent misunderstandings, the presidency said in a statement.

The call came just days after Washington and Ankara bitterly contested each other's accounts of a telephone conversation between Erdogan and US President Donald Trump.

A White House statement said Trump urged Turkey to "limit its military actions", but a Turkish official said this was not an accurate reflection of the leaders' call.

In addition, Turkish officials said in November that Trump had promised to stop supplying arms to the YPG.

Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist" offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is proscribed as a terror group by Ankara and its Western allies.

The PKK has waged an over three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, which has resulted in about 40,000 people being killed since the 1980s.

But the YPG has been working closely with Washington against IS in Syria as part of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

With the support of the US-led coalition's air power and special forces, the SDF led the battle last year against IS during which the jihadists lost their de facto capital of Raqa.

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