August 23, 2017 / 2:12 PM / 7 months ago

Erdogan conveys Turkey's unease over U.S. support for Kurdish militants

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan told U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis on Wednesday that Turkey felt unease over U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish militant group YPG, presidential sources said.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, August 23, 2017. Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Palace/Handout via REUTERS

A Pentagon spokeswoman said Mattis had expressed the United States’ commitment to bilateral ties with Turkey in his meeting with Erdogan. Relations between the two NATO allies have deteriorated due to the support the United States provides the YPG, which Turkey views as a terrorist organisation.

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She said the two sides agreed to create conditions for a more stable and secure region.

In a statement, the presidential sources said Erdogan and Mattis emphasised the importance of maintaining the territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq, as Kurdish northern Iraq gears up for an independence referendum in September.

Both Turkey and the United States have voiced concerns over the referendum, with the former’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, saying earlier on Wednesday he would ask Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani to cancel it.

Reporting by Tuvan Gumrukcu, Ece Toksabay and Idrees Ali; Editing by John Stonestreet

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