Turkey ends 'Euphrates Shield' military operation in Syria, PM says
- Author: Leroy Wright Mar 31, 2017,
Mar 31, 2017, 16:49
"We have told them that it is a huge risk", he told reporters.
Seemingly not to anger Turks any further and put strained relations in any more jeopardy, Tillerson did not meet with any members of the Turkish opposition while in Ankara, criticized by European nations of having launched a major crackdown of suspected followers of the Gulen network after the failed coup.
Tillerson is now in Ankara on a one-day official visit. Rex Tillerson says the U.S. is no longer insisting President Assad must step down.
Tillerson's trip was further clouded by the arrest in NY on Monday of an executive of Turkey's state-run Halkbank, who is accused of conspiring with Turkish-Iranian gold trader Reza Zarrab in a multi-year scheme to evade USA sanctions on Iran.
"We are expecting concrete steps", he said.
The Turkish operation was also aimed at preventing the Kurdish Popular Protection Units (YPG) from gaining more ground in northern Syria, which Ankara fears would fuel an insurgency being waged by the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in south-eastern Turkey.
"Trying to fight against Daesh through terrorist organizations such as. extensions of the PKK, would be like shooting yourself in the foot", Erdogan's senior advisor, Ibrahim Kalin, said ahead of Thursday's meeting. Then Vice President Joe Biden said during a January 2016 visit that Turkey was setting a poor example for the region by intimidating the media and curtailing internet freedoms. Oksuz was arrested at Akinci Airbase - the headquarters of the plotters, later renamed Murted Airbase - the day after the coup but was later released.
There will be plenty to discuss as the two countries continue to work together to defeat ISIS even as the State Department has warned of "an increase in anti-American rhetoric" in Turkey that could "inspire independent actors to carry out acts of violence against us citizens".
Cavusoglu said he hoped Turkey-U.S. relations could be reinvigorated under the new Trump administration, as both countries have important roles to play in regional issues. Turkey called the arrests politically motivated. Officially the United States insists any decision on returning him to Turkey remains a judicial - rather than a political - decision.
Clouding Tillerson's visit was Monday's arrest in NY of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, a senior executive of a Turkish state-owned bank, on charges of money laundering and Iranian sanction busting.
Cavusoglu also accused Bharara of supporting anti-Turkish campaigns on social media. The U.S. -led coalition looks nearly certain to back the Kurds in the assault on the city itself.
It was a change in tone from USA visits under Obama.
During the meeting, Erdogan and Tillerson addressed the ongoing efforts to clear ISIS from Syria and Iraq as well as the extradition of Pennsylvania-based Turkish cleric Fetullah Gullen.
The country has NATO's second-largest military and hosts about 1,500 USA military personnel and aircraft - as well as troops from Italy, Spain and elsewhere - at Incirlik Air Base, a staging point for the fight against the Islamic State group.
"We look forward to facing challenges together".
However, Cavusoglu said Ankara expected "better cooperation" with the Trump administration regarding the YPG.
The crucial question facing the coalition against ISIS is how it will proceed with the offensive against ISIS in Raqqa, the group's its de-facto capital in Syria.
The end of Turkey's military operation in northern Syria does not mean threats are over, Defense Minister Fikri Isik said Friday.
Turkey is viewed as a critical North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally given its strategic geographic position between Europe and Asia, a bridge that has served as an entryway for refugees fleeing violence in Syria.