Turkish foreign minister says normalized ties depend on US keeping promises on the fight against terrorism, Syria policy. Anadolu Agency reports in its article Turkey gave US another chance: FM Cavusoglu that the U.S. and Turkey will either normalize relations or bilateral ties will grow even worse, Turkey’s foreign minister said.
Speaking to journalists during the Munich Security Conference, Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey has lost confidence in the U.S. due to Washington’s support for the PYD/PKK terrorist group in Syria. "Our relations with the U.S. have been going through a critical period. Either we are going to normalize relations, put relations back on track, or they will get even worse,” he stressed.
Cavusoglu said that during U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Ankara last week, the sides agreed to establish two mechanisms, with the goal of addressing issues of disagreement between the two NATO allies. “One is on bilateral issues,” he said, explaining that this mechanism would particularly focus on Ankara’s expectations from Washington regarding the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader, who orchestrated a defeated coup in 2016.
Ankara has sought the extradition from the U.S. of Fetullah Gulen since the July 2016 coup bid - which took 250 lives and left 2,200 injured - but without success. Mentioning the YPG/PKK, the terrorist PYD/PKK’s armed wing, he added: “The second one is on the situation in Syria, and how they are going to meet our concerns, how the YPG is going to leave Manbij, and how we coordinate this together, and how those [Syrian] towns and cities are going to be governed, by whom, and who is going to ensure the security of these cities and towns.”
Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained over U.S. support for the terrorist group PYD/PKK in northern Syria, with the U.S. viewing the group as a “reliable partner” in the fight against Daesh, against strong Turkish objections.
'US must keep its promises'
Cavusoglu underlined that the normalization of ties between Ankara and Washington depends of the U.S. keeping its promises. “You can say that we gave another chance to bilateral relations,” he said. “From our side we didn’t do anything wrong. They can’t claim that Turkey actually undermined bilateral relations. They can’t say that Turkey acted hostilely towards the U.S.,” he added. He said that, under the new mechanism, senior Turkish and American officials will hold their first working group meeting in the first half of March. “Let’s see how they’re going to deliver,” he said, warning that if they do not deliver, “then we have to deal with that.”
‘The YPG used US arms in terror attacks'
Cavusoglu said one of Ankara’s central demands of Washington is that it take back the U.S. weapons it gave to the PYD/PKK. Cavusoglu said this has been a serious concern for Ankara, as the PYD/PKK tried to smuggle some of these weapons into Turkey. "And we also caught some of them in the hands of PKK terrorists in Turkey, they were using them to attack our security personnel and also civilians,” he said. As Daesh has lost its control in most of the region, there is no other explanation for any additional arms supplies, he noted. “And the weapons delivered to them should be taken back,” he stressed. Cavusoglu also insisted that the YPG, the terrorist PYD/PKK’s armed wing, should leave Manbij, a predominantly Arab town with a strategic position west of the Euphrates River. "The YPG cannot control predominantly Arab cities. They have to leave,” he stressed.
He said the U.S. side has long promised Turkey that the YPG would leave Manbij, but so far has not kept this promise. As Turkish leaders have said the current Turkish-led Operation Olive Branch will eventually move from Afrin, Syria to Manbij, the presence of the terrorist PYD/PKK and U.S. forces in Manbij has also been a thorny issue. On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove terrorist groups, including the PYD/PKK and Daesh, from northwestern Syria.
The PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU, has waged a terror campaign against Turkey for more than 30 years, killing nearly 40,000 people. According to the Turkish General Staff, the Syrian operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty. The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.