US anti-ISIL coalition envoy visits Ankara amid row over Washington arming Kurds in Syria

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ARLINGTON, VA - MAY 19: Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS Brett McGurk listens to questions from reporter during a Pentagon briefing May 19, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia. Mattis, Dunford, and McGurk briefed members of the press on the status of U.S. President Donald Trump's campaign to defeat ISIS. Win McNamee/Getty Images/AFP

Brett McGurk, the US envoy for the international coalition against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is in Turkey for talks amid Turkey’s frustrations with a decision by Washington to arm Syrian Kurdish militia in the fight against ISIL.

McGurk will meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and military officers, a Turkish official, who spoke to AP on condition of anonymity, said.

“Pleased to be in Ankara today for consults with NATO ally Turkey on mutual efforts to defeat ISIS and ensure it can never return,” McGurk tweeted on Friday.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his counterpart Donald Trump spoke on the phone for 40 minutes on Friday.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) spokesperson and Deputy Chairman Mahir Ünal told reporters on Friday after a Central Decision Administration Board (MKYK) meeting: “[The president’s] phone call with Trump ended a short while ago. Our party chair [Erdoğan] will have a phone call with Putin shortly.”

On Thursday Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that the US has sent a total of 468 trucks of weapons to the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) amid statements from Ankara about a possible cross-border operation into areas in northern Syria controlled by Kurdish forces.

The Turkish armed forces on Wednesday retaliated with artillery fire overnight and destroyed YPG targets, which Ankara considers a terrorist organization due to its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), after Kurdish militia opened fire on Turkish-backed forces in northern Syria, the Turkish military said.

On the same day Erdoğan said Ankara was ready to undertake a new military operation in northern Syria similar to Operation Euphrates Shield, which was launched in August of last year.

In a bid to clear Turkey’s border of ISIL and stop the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), whose armed wing is the YPG, from merging its Kobane and Afrin cantons, Turkey along with Free Syrian Army (FSA) troops took control of a 2,015-square-kilometer area after launching Operation Euphrates Shield last August.

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