The strained relationship between Turkey and the United States will “either be fixed or completely broken,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said, speaking ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s key visit to Ankara this week.
“Ties with the U.S. are at very critical point. We will either fix these relations or they will break completely,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in Istanbul on Feb 12.
“We want concrete steps [from the U.S.]. Missing trust needs to be restored. The reason for that missing trust is the U.S.,” he said.
On a tour to the Middle East, Tillerson will pay a visit to Ankara on Feb. 15 and 16 where he will hold talks with Çavuşoğlu and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Separately, U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli will meet in Brussels on Feb. 15 on the margins of the NATO ministerial meeting.
These talks come as bilateral strains mount between the two NATO allies over a number of issues, including Washington’s continued alliance with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria. Turkey launched a military operation into Syria’s Afrin district against the YPG and senior officials have repeatedly vowed a follow-up incursion into the Manbij area, where U.S. troops are stationed alongside YPG militants.
“Our demands from the U.S. are clear and have already been conveyed. We no longer want to hear about promises, we want to hear about concrete steps. Trust needs to be rebuilt so we can start to talk about some issues. U.S. actions are the reason behind the loss of trust,” Çavuşoğlu said.
“We will evaluate all this during Tillerson’s visit,” he added.
Turkey wants the U.S. to cease cooperation with the YPG, a group that Ankara considers a terror organization due to its links with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). It also wants a halt to all deliveries of weapons and military equipment, and for all weapons already delivered to the group to be taken back, while insisting on the withdrawal of YPG militants from Manbij to the east of Euphrates, as promised by U.S. administrations since 2016.
The U.S. sees the YPG as an efficient local force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and vows that the partnership will continue until the group is completely eliminated.
“The U.S. is not touching ISIL members in Syria, as an excuse to continue working with the YPG/PKK terrorist group,” Çavuşoğlu said, also claiming that the YPG has released a number of arrested ISIL militants in Afrin on condition of fighting against Turkey.
US should pull itself together: PM
Similar messages on Turkey-U.S. ties were also delivered by Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Feb. 12.
“Terror is the greatest threat for us. Our NATO ally and longstanding strategic partner should pull itself together and make a sound decision. America’s decision to fight against one terror organization with the cooperation of another terror organization has nothing to do with dignity of a state,” Yıldırım told reporters.
Ankara’s only aim in Afrin is to “eliminate terrorists” so that Syrians in Turkey can return totheir homeland, he added, saying Ankara will “never engage in a dirty bargain.”
Yıldırım vowed that Turkey will continue to take “all necessary steps to secure its borders and citizens,” stressing that operations will continue in Afrin and elsewhere “until full security is provided.”