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Turkey warns: US ties at risk if Kurds help retake Raqqa

Syria Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters open fire on a Daesh position in Raqqa’s eastern countryside. (AP)

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Friday that the US risks major damage to its relationship with NATO ally Turkey if Kurdish forces are included in the fight to retake Raqqa, Daesh’s de facto capital.

Turkey and the US are locked in a heated dispute about US plans to liberate Raqqa, with Turkey suggesting its own military and allied forces in Syria should mount the fight. Yildirim said Turkey would not be part of any operation including the Syrian Kurdish force.

He said: “If the US were to prefer terrorist organizations over Turkey in the fight against Daesh, that would be their own decision.” But, he said, Turkey will not consent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sought to build cooperation with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Friday over military operations in Syria.

Erdogan told a joint Moscow news conference with the Russian president: “Of course, the real target now is Raqqa.”

Refering to the enlistment of the YPG by the US to fight Daesh, Erdogan said: “It should now be accepted that a terrorist organization cannot be defeated with another one.

“As a country that has been battling terror for 35 years, terrorist organizations like Daesh, the YPG, Nusra Front and others are organizations we face at all times.”

The Syrian regime, meanwhile, called on the UN to force Turkey to pull “its invasion forces” out of Syria, state media said on Friday.

Turkey’s military shelled Syrian regime’s forces and their allies in northern Syria on Thursday, causing deaths and injuries, SANA news agency reported. Syria’s Foreign Ministry urged the UN secretary-general and Security Council to “force Turkey to withdraw its invasion forces from Syrian land and stop the attacks,” SANA said.

US-backed Syrian militias said on Friday they were strong enough to seize Raqqa with support from the US-led coalition, underlining their opposition to any Turkish role in the planned attack.

The campaign against the city is gathering pace as Iraqi forces press ahead with their efforts to recapture Mosul, the terrorists’ base in Iraq. The overlapping US-backed campaigns threaten to deal Daesh a double blow.

In Mosul, Iraq’s elite Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) and Rapid Response units captured new blocks.

US-trained CTS units battled sniper and mortar fire, often moving from house to house, reaching the Aamel district of western Mosul on Friday, in a push to tighten the noose around Daesh fighters dug into the old city center.

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