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U.S. Defense Chief Seeks To Reassure Turkish Leader About Arming Kurds

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has met with Turkey's prime minister in an effort to smooth over relations rattled by a recent U.S. decision to arm Syrian Kurdish groups, which are leading the battle against Islamic State.

In a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in London on May 11, Mattis said he stressed the U.S. commitment to protecting Turkey in what he said was an "honest, transparent, and helpful" discussion.

Mattis acknowledged Turkey's concerns that weapons given to Kurds in Syria could end up in the hands of Kurdish militants in neighboring Turkey and Iraq, known as the PKK. Both the United States and Turkey regard the PKK as a terrorist organization.

"We support Turkey in its fight against the PKK," Mattis said. "We do not ever give weapons to the PKK. We never have and never will."

Washington is offering to step up intelligence sharing with Turkey to ease concerns that the weapons will end up in enemy hands.

Yildirim had warned before the meeting of a "negative outcome" for the United States if it doesn't address Turkey's concerns.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will ask U.S. President Donald Trump to reverse the arms decision in a meeting in Washington on May 16.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP