Erdogan Welcomes 'Decisive' Trump Meeting Amid Tensions on Syria

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 19, 2017

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said after talks in London last week with U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that Trump's meeting with Erdogan would be an opportunity to "correct the mistake" of support for the YPG.

In this April 6, 2017 photo, President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., after the US fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria.

And then there's the thorny issue of Fethullah Gulen, a Pennsylvania-based cleric who Erdogan accuses of orchestrating the last year's failed coup.

Yildirim said USA officials told Turkey they can extend various cooperation to combat the PKK, such as intelligence-sharing and monitoring financial resources.

The French government developed good relations with the PYD and the People's Protection Units (YPG) since the beginning of the fight in Kobani in 2014. Kurds are an ethnic group predominantly concentrated along the borders of four countries — Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Syrian opposition activists and media say Kurdish-led forces are closing in on the de-facto capital of the Islamic State group in Syria, seizing a cotton factory only a couple of miles north of the city.

The SDF is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units [YPG], seen by the United States as an indispensable ally in the fight against IS but considered a "terrorist group" by Turkey.

The U.S. president was one of the few world leaders to call and congratulate Erdogan on his recent victoryin a referendum that gave him sweeping new constitutional powers and extended his potential political lifespan. "I want to consider all the information we have received so far (on USA arming Syrian Kurds) as hearsay..."

Ankara is vehemently opposed to Trump's move and wants the decision reversed in favor of using its own forces.

Announcing the decision without waiting to meet with Erdogan is "humiliating" considering the sensitivity of the matter to Turkey, said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Their first face-to-face meeting, he said, would be a "milestone" in U.S.

The same goes for Zarrab, who was arrested in Miami in March past year and was linked to a 2013 corruption scandal that ensnared the government when Erdogan was prime minister. Showing how much the Turks care about the meeting, the Turkish president's chief advisor, İbrahim Kalın, along with intelligence chief Hakan Fidan and top commander Gen. Hulusi Akar, traveled to the United States last week to meet their counterparts. Putin said that "Russian-Turkish relations are attaining a special character, a special status, and are being fully restored". The YPG is the main component of the SDF. The letter borrows heavily from talking points the Turkish Presidency used previously.

Some senior Turkish officials last week said the US policy toward the YPG amounted to support for terrorism, putting the government on an apparent collision course with Trump ahead of Erdogan's meeting.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by U.S-led coalition airstrikes, advanced as they clashed with the militants in a multi-pronged offensive northeast and northwest of the city.

"There is a huge question mark over which way the relationship is going to go", he said.

Erdogan did not spell out what actions Turkey might take if Washington does press ahead with its plans. "The United States is trying to substitute a threat, which is against the West's interests, with a threat against Turkey".

The reported advance comes a day after SDF commanders said they would launch their assault on Raqqa, the last large IS stronghold in Syria, by early summer. First, enhanced and increased USA assistance against the PKK, without any public expressions of concern about the tactics the Turkish military uses in civilian areas of southeastern Turkey.

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