Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın met with U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor, H.R. McMaster, in Istanbul on Feb. 11, at a time of tense relations between the two NATO allies.
At the meeting, the two officials discussed Turkey and the United States’ long-term strategic partnership and the priorities and concerns of the two countries, the president’s office said in a written statement.
During the meeting, relations between the two allies were discussed on common strategic challenges and regional developments.
“In this framework, the issues that negatively affect bilateral relations have been dealt with in detail and the ways of developing joint action against every kind of terrorism have been investigated,” the statement read.
The meeting came days before a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Ankara as the countries are at odds on various issues, with the biggest problem being the U.S. support for Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
While the U.S. sees the group as an ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Turkey considers it as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), hence a terrorist group.
Turkey launched “Operation Olive Branch” on Jan. 20 to clear its borders off YPG militants, and has increased tis tone of criticism against the U.S. since.
“Those who equate Turkey with those marauders under the pretext of the anti-ISIL fight have now begun to realize which one is a state and which one is a band of gangs,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan told his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) parliamentary group on Feb. 6.
Manbij, a town in northwestern Syria, has become the focus of the growing bilateral spat. Barack Obama administration had pledged to move YPG militants to the east of the Euphrates River after ISIL was pushed out.
“Mr. Obama did not tell the truth. Trump is also on the same path. They said: ‘We will withdraw from Manbij.’ Why don’t you withdraw? Who have you brought to this city with you? The PYD [Democratic Union Party], the YPG and the [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] PKK. You allow them to settle and tell us ‘Don’t come to Manbij.’ We will come to Manbij to hand it over to its real owners,” Erdoğan said.
U.S. consulate employees arrested in Turkey for their alleged roles in the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt, and an extradition request by Turkey for Fethullah Gülen, who resides in Pennsylvania and is widely believed to have orchestrated coup attempt, will also be on the agenda during Tillerson’s visit.