US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at a joint news conference in this file photo.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at a joint news conference in this file photo.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis voiced strong support for Turkey's fight against the PKK terror group after talks with Turkey's prime minister on Thursday. Mattis was speaking after Ankara voiced its strong opposition to a US decision to arm in Syria the YPG, which Turkey considers an extension of the PKK.

Mattis said he was optimistic that Washington and Ankara would work through tensions. Mattis was speaking in London after a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. He described their talks as "honest, transparent and helpful."

It was the highest level talks between the two nations since Washington on Tuesday announced plans to back the YPG in an assault to retake from Daesh the northern city of Raqqa, the de-facto capital of the terror group in Syria.

The YPG is the armed wing of the PYD, a Syrian affiliate of the PKK, a Turkish, US and EU-listed terrorist group which has been fighting an on-and-off war with the Turkish state since 1984.

"We agree 100 percent with Turkey's concern about PKK ... and we support Turkey in its fight against PKK as a fellow NATO member," Mattis said.

Closer intelligence cooperation?

A US official told media that the United States was looking to boost intelligence cooperation with Turkey to support its fight against the PKK. The Wall Street Journal reported the effort could end up doubling the capacity of an intelligence sharing centre in Turkey's capital Ankara.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is scheduled to meet US President Donald Trump in Washington next week. Erdogan has called on Washington to reverse its decision to arm the PKK, saying it hopes its allies will not side with terrorists.

Prime Minister Yildirim on Wednesday said the US decision will "have consequences and will yield a negative result for the US as well."

Ankara is also concerned that weapons given to the YPG will end up in the hands of the PKK.

Mattis said Washington would not give weapons to the PKK. "We do not ever give weapons to the PKK. We never have and never will," he said.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies