The head of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said on Feb. 27 that Russia and Iran were trying to undermine the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Turkey, Anadolu Agency reported.
“Russia and Iran are both trying to bolster a brutal regime in Syria, limit U.S. military influence in Iraq and Afghanistan and fracture the longstanding strategic partnership between the U.S. and Turkey,” Gen. Joseph Votel said in a written statement submitted to the House Armed Services Committee before attending its hearing on Terrorism and Iran in Congress.
In his testimony during the hearing, Votel said Moscow plays the role of both “arsonist and firefighter,” fueling tensions among all parties in Syria by supporting the Bashar al-Assad regime and adding complexity to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).
Following Votel’s remarks, South Carolina Republican Representative Joe Wilson asked Votel what has been done in order to continue the important alliance with Turkey, describing it as a valued ally of the United States for nearly a century and a member of NATO that “has been fighting side by side with Americans for freedom.”
Votel said Turkey has been “absolutely vital” throughout the entire campaign against ISIL, adding that Ankara certainly has serious concerns about “PKK terrorism” which has created some tension with some partners of the U.S. in Syria.
The U.S. communicates with Turkish officials in a transparent and clear way about the things the U.S. is doing on a day-to-day basis with its partners, he continued.
However, Votel in his statement to the committee said the tension between the U.S. and Turkey is a result of Ankara’s view of recognizing the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terrorist group.
The different outlooks and an open U.S. support to the YPG under the name of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) has caused for the bilateral relations between the NATO allies to deteriorate, with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visiting Turkey in a two-day workshop on Feb. 15-16.
Turkey and the United States have reached an “understanding to normalize ties” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Feb. 16, announcing the decision to “establish mechanisms” to solve the series of ongoing disagreements between the two NATO allies.