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Erdogan accuses US-led coalition of backing Daesh; Washington rejects charge as ‘ludicrous’

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he has evidence that US-led coalition forces give support to terrorist groups including Daesh and Kurdish militant groups YPG and PYD, he said on Tuesday.
“They were accusing us of supporting Daesh,” he told a press conference in Ankara.
“Now they give support to terrorist groups including Daesh, YPG, PYD. It’s very clear. We have confirmed evidence, with pictures, photos and videos,” he said. He said the West was breaking promises in Syria.
The US State Department rejected as “ludicrous” Erdogan’s accusations that US-led coalition supported terrorist groups. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said there was no was basis for such an accusation.
At least 37 Turkish soldiers have died in Turkey’s major incursion inside Syria since it was launched in August to back pro-Ankara Syrian fighters battling Daesh and Kurdish militia.
Ankara has become more impatient over the lack of support from the US-led coalition against the extremists for the Turkish operation. “The coalition forces are unfortunately not keeping their promises,” Erdogan said at a news conference alongside visiting Guinean President Alpha Conde.
“Whether they do or they don’t, we will continue along this path in a determined way. There is no going back on the path we have set out on,” he added.
Erdogan complained that rather than supporting Turkey, the West was backing the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD), who work with the US on the ground in Syria, and also Daesh. “They are supporting all the terror groups — the YPG, PYD but also including Daesh,” Erdogan said.
“It’s quite clear, perfectly obvious,” he said, adding that Turkey could provide proof in pictures and video.
Erdogan also said Saudi Arabia and Qatar should join its meeting with Russia and Iran to discuss Syrian peace efforts. Russia, Turkey and Iran, which helped broker the withdrawal of civilians and militants from the Syrian city of Aleppo, have agreed to hold talks on Syria in Kazakhstan next month.
Erdogan said the meeting of foreign ministers should include Saudi Arabia and Qatar, adding that they had “shown goodwill and given support” to Syria.
Erdogan added, however, that Turkey would not take part if any “terror organizations” are also invited, referring to Syrian Kurdish groups affiliated with Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.
Iran, however, said Saudi Arabia should not be allowed to take part in the Syrian peace process. Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan told Russia’s state-backed RT TV station that he thought Saudi Arabia’s insistence that President Bashar Assad should step down meant Riyadh should not participate in future Syrian peace talks.
Separately, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted on Tuesday as saying that the Syrian regime was consulting with the opposition ahead of possible peace talks, but one opposition group said it knew nothing of the negotiations.
Arrangements for the talks, which would not include the US, remain hazy, but Moscow has said they would take place in Kazakhstan, a close ally.
“During the recent meeting in Moscow with my colleagues from Iran and Turkey we approved a joint declaration in which we confirmed our readiness to guarantee a future agreement between the Syrian government and the opposition,” Lavrov said. “Negotiations about that are going on,” he said.
The High Negotiations Committee, a body grouping armed and political opponents of President Bashar Assad, said it had no knowledge of the consultations. “We in the High Negotiations Committee certainly have no connection to this matter,” George Sabra, a member of the HNC, said.
Meanwhile, a US-backed alliance of militias fighting Daesh hopes a US decision to ease some restrictions on arming groups in Syria will lead to them getting anti-aircraft missiles, its spokesman said on Tuesday. The Syrian Democratic Forces alliance wants shoulder-fired anti-aircraft systems to protect its forces from potential future enemies, spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters.

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