10:44 GMT +312 December 2018
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    US forces, accompanied by Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters, drive their armoured vehicles near the northern Syrian village of Darbasiyah, on the border with Turkey on April 28, 2017. (File)

    US Continues to Supply Kurds With Arms, Provoking Turkey - Moscow

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    Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has commented on the developments in Syria, including the issue of arms supplies to Kurds from the US and the American military presence in al-Tanf.

    "The Americans have sent the Kurds convoys with weapons through the territory of Iraq, provoking Turkey. Turkey, in turn, has continued its military activity against Kurds in the Afrin area in northwestern Syria as part of the Operation Olive Branch," Zakharova said at a briefing on Thursday, noting that the ongoing battles between Turkish troops and Kurds were fierce.

    Meanwhile, in Lebanon, the US Secretary of State, who is expected to head to Ankara, addressed the issue after meeting with the Lebanese president, stressing that the US has "never given heavy arms to the YPG," (the People's Protection Units) a Kurdish militant group that Ankara has deemed to be a terrorist organization.

    The Turkish officials have repeatedly claimed that the arming of the Syrian Kurds is one of the major factors that have contributed to the deterioration of Ankara-Washington relations. Turkey has claimed that the US was making a mistake in supplying weapons to the YPG. Turkish officials say the YPG is linked to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist organization in the country, and claims that the American weapons they received could be directed against Turkey.

    US forces are seen at the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) headquarters after it was hit by Turkish airstrikes in Mount Karachok near Malikiya, Syria April 25, 2017.
    © REUTERS / Rodi Said
    US forces are seen at the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) headquarters after it was hit by Turkish airstrikes in Mount Karachok near Malikiya, Syria April 25, 2017.

    The tensions between the US and Turkey have been on the rise as the Turkish Armed Forces launched the operation against Kurdish forces in Afrin on January 20. The decision to launch the military operation was made in the wake of a US decision to establish a border force that would involve Kurdish militias, including YPG. Damascus has strongly condemned Ankara's actions, with the Syrian Foreign Ministry calling them a violation of the country's sovereignty.

    US Presence in al-Tanf 'Occupation'

    Zakharova said that the US, along with its Kurdish allies, are openly confronting Syrian government forces.

    "The occupation of the 55-km zone in the area of al Tanf by the US military persists; [The area] has become a secure zone for remnants of Daesh units in the region," she added, stressing that the US forces have started almost open confrontation with the Syrian army on the eastern banks of the Euphrates river.

    US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter IS (also known as Daesh) Brett McGurk announced in late December that the US would maintain a military presence at the al-Tanf garrison and other areas of Syria to make sure Daesh terrorists don't return to the liberated areas. The Russian Defense Ministry said earlier that the US military presence prevents the refugees in the al-Rubkan refugee camp, located some 11 miles south of al-Tanf, from receiving humanitarian aid.

    Related:

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    Syrian Army Announces Major Breakthrough Near al-Tanf After Coalition Strikes
    Al-Tanf Standoff: US Coalition Risks 'Open Confrontation With Syria, Iran'
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    military, Turkish Armed Forces, Turkey, United States
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