Tillerson and Turkey's Erdogan had productive conversation

16 February, 2018, 06:11 | Author: Roderick Gutierrez
  • Operation Olive Branch

-Turkish clash in Syria loomed over Thursday's meeting between the top American diplomat and Turkey's leader as the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies scrambled to ease some of their worst tensions in years.

Canikli said he presented documents to Mattis proving "organic" links between the YPG and Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

Syrian Kurds, Arabs, and Syriacs bussed in from across northern Syria demonstrate in the Kurdish town of Jandairis near the Syrian-Turkish border, and 18 kilometers southwest of Afrin, on February 6, 2018, in a show of solidarity with residents of the enclave against Turkey's offensive.

The PKK, which has been waging a deadly insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984, also has a significant presence in the region.

Tillerson is on a two-day working visit to Turkey.

According to a Turkish presidential source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media, Erdogan and Tillerson also exchanged views on the fight against terrorism.

Canikli said he told Mattis that USA support for such militants has enabled Kurdish rebels in Turkey "to grow and strengthen", posing an increasingly "existential" danger to Turkey.

Analysts said the level of tension was similar to 2003 when Turkey refused to let United States troops operate from its territory for the Iraq war, or even the aftermath of Ankara's invasion of Cyprus in 1974. Tillerson and Cavusoglu planned a news conference Friday after their meeting.

He is also expected to meet his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday to discuss bilateral relations and global developments.

But Syria is not the only cause of strained ties between Washington and Ankara. Canikli brushed off USA concerns and claimed the YPG and ISIL cooperated in some areas in recent months, stressing that the YPG had secured armed ISIL members' evacuation from Raqqa when the jihadist group was ousted from their de facto capital by the Kurdish militia in October 2017.

Mattis met with Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak in Brussels today to reaffirm the longstanding defense relationship between the United States and its strong North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally, Poland, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said.

His statement came hours after Canikli said Mattis had told him the USA was working on a plan to take back heavy weapons delivered to the YPG.

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on worldwide law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

"I believe we are finding common ground and there are areas of uncommon ground, where sometimes war just gives you bad alternatives to choose from", Mattis told reporters on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting after his meeting with Canikli. After McMaster's meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Cavusoglu warned that Turkey-US ties had hit a critical point and would either be repaired or be completely damaged.

Turkey is livid over America's military support for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces.



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