BRUSSELS/ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey stated on Thursday it had demanded the United States expel a Kurdish militia from forces it backs in Syria, organising the visiting U.S. secretary of state for powerful talks on a difficulty that has strained ties between the allies to the breaking level.
Rex Tillerson arrived in Turkey on Thursday for 2 days of what are anticipated to be uncomfortable conferences between allies whose relations have been fraying over plenty of points, above all Washington’s assist for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, which Ankara calls terrorists.
Turkey launched an air and floor assault final month in Syria’s northwest Afrin area to drive the YPG from the world.
Ankara considers the YPG to be an arm of the PKK, a banned group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in Turkey. The YPG is the principle floor aspect of the Syrian Defence Forces (SDF), which the United States has armed, educated and aided with air assist and particular forces to battle Islamic State.
“We demanded this relationship be ended, I mean we want them to end all the support given to the Syrian arm of PKK, the YPG,” Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli advised reporters in a briefing in Brussels, a day after assembly U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the sidelines of a NATO assembly.
“We demanded this structure be removed from SDF,” he stated.
Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the NATO assembly, Mattis stated his talks along with his Turkish counterpart had been open and trustworthy, however acknowledged the variations.
“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…. We continue to collaborate on ways to ensure their legitimate concerns are addressed.”
Tillerson, who’s on a five-city tour, advised a information convention in Beirut earlier than arriving in Ankara that the United States and Turkey had the identical major targets, and put their variations all the way down to ways.
“FIGHTING TERRORISTS WITH TERRORISTS”
Islamic State fighters had been pushed final yr from all of the inhabitants facilities they occupied in each Syria and Iraq, however Washington nonetheless considers them a risk, able to finishing up an insurgency and plotting assaults elsewhere.
Ankara has positioned larger emphasis in latest months on the necessity to fight the Kurdish militia and has stated the United States is merely utilizing one terrorist group to fight one other.
Turkey says the United States has but to honor a number of pledges: to cease arming the YPG, to take again arms after Islamic State was defeated in Syria, and to drag YPG forces again from Manbij, a Syrian city about 100 km (60 miles) east of Afrin.
Canikli additionally stated that Mattis had advised him the United States was engaged on a plan to retrieve weapons given to the YPG, particularly heavy weapons. However, Tillerson later stated that Washington had “never given heavy arms” to the YPG and there was subsequently “nothing to take back”.
Turkey is the principle Muslim ally of the United States inside NATO and one in every of Washington’s strongest buddies within the Middle East courting again to the Cold War period. But widening variations on Syria coverage are simply one in every of plenty of points which have induced a rupture in that strategic relationship.
Ankara additionally accuses Washington of sheltering a cleric it blames for plotting a failed coup in 2016. The United States convicted a Turkish banker mast month for violating sanctions on Iran in a case that included testimony alleging corruption by high Turkish officers. The two nations additionally halted issuing visas for months after regionally employed U.S. consular employees had been detained on suspicion of hyperlinks to alleged coup plotters.
The Turkish authorities have jailed tens of 1000’s of individuals and ordered 150,000 fired or suspended from their jobs because the failed coup. President Tayyip Erdogan has more and more used stridently anti-European and anti-American rhetoric.
The Turkish offensive in opposition to the YPG in Syria has to date been restricted to Afrin, a border area the place the United States shouldn’t be believed to have troops on the bottom. But Turkey has overtly mentioned extending it to different areas the place its forces might probably come into contact with models supported by the Americans. It says Washington ought to pull its forces out of the best way; the United States says it has no plans to withdraw.
Additional reporting by Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara; Ezgi Erkoyun and Ali Kucukgocmen in Istanbul; Lisa Barrington in Beirut; Editing by David Dolan/Peter Graff