The Trump administration and Turkey appeared no closer Thursday to resolving a dispute over the Kurds' role in defeating the Islamic State group in Syria, as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visited America's often nettlesome North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally for the first time. For one, USA airstrikes in Syria are launched from the Incirlik Air Base, not far from Turkey's southern border with Syria. Meanwhile, the United States has stepped up an operation to surround Raqqa.
Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) as a "terror group" linked to Kurdish separatists waging an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984, but the U.S. regards them as the most effective force taking on IS.
Tillerson acknowledged shared common ground on containing Iran.
Tillerson also met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for over two hours and held talks with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
Tillerson and Yildirim "discussed working to enhance our critical security and economic ties in the region", a State Department official said after the meeting. -Turkish relations which have strained during Obama administration over US cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish militia in Syria, which Ankara deems an offshoot of outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). "They are hard choices that have to be made". Tillerson did say that "difficult choices" have to be made. "Yes", she said. "Are we going to sit there and focus on getting him out? No".
Both Turkey and the YPG have asked the U.S. to abandon the other, but Washington relies heavily on both.
Mr Tillerson dodged several questions about continuing USA support for the YPG, saying instead that he and Turkish officials had had "an exchange of views on the best way forward" in Syria that was "very helpful" to both parties. Ankara accuses the PYD of being a terrorist organization affiliated with the PKK or Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is fighting the Turkish state.
A senior State Department official told reporters on background that ceasefires would be important to the success of this strategy and Turkey has been working with Russian Federation and Iran to put these in place.
"We have repeatedly expressed that it is a mistake to consider cooperation with a terrorist organisation in the guise of the YPG, and in the long term that would be a mistake in Syria".
"We can create stability inside Syria".
"Obviously, Turkish politics is not only carried out in Turkey but also in Germany", he said. Ozcan answered this question: "The US chose to carry out the Raqqa offensive without Turkey's aid". He praised Turkey's success in pushing ISIS out of Northern Syria, an assault where Turkey also stopped the advance of YPG fighters. "This could augment Syria- or Iraq-supported terrorism in Turkey and directly influence Turkish domestic political developments". "We are continuing our work, including train and equip", he added.
"There is no rule here but in principle Turkey should be allowed to make political propaganda in any other country. Therefore, both parties react emotionally".
In recent years, Turkey has granted its citizens living overseas the right to vote in domestic elections and the diaspora is the fourth largest constituency behind Turkey's largest cities. He admitted that Turkey is a "key partner" in the fight against extremist groups. Gulen strongly denies the charges and is protected from extradition without a proper investigation under US law. The Turkish government has demanded that Washington extradite Gulen, but it has yet to receive a positive response.
Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey told NBC News on Monday that a plan to get around extradition laws by kidnapping Gulen was discussed at a meeting he attended with top Turkish officials and convened by then-candidate Donald Trump's national security campaign adviser Michael Flynn. "The Americans clearly could not understand our sensitivity in this matter".
The Turkish government's frustration has also fueled significant anti-American sentiment among ordinary Turks, many of whom appear to believe that Gulen is, or was, a Central Intelligence Agency asset. Washington insists the issues are a matter for the courts. "It is unlikely to see a concrete step from American politicians unless a decision is issued by the American judiciary".
Just this week, Cavusoglu said Turkey's objective in Syria has always been to defeat ISIS.
The meeting comes as Turkey angrily criticised the arrest of a leading Turkish banker in the US. Tillerson's visit was an opportunity to improve US-Turkish relations, but there was no progress. However, the Trump administration wants to cooperate with the YPG against [IS].
Turkish officials hope relations will improve under Trump but there has not been any public indication of a change in policy so far.