Threats against Turkey remain, defense minister says

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson completed his first official trip to Turkey since taking office, apparently without resolving any of the fundamental differences that have sunk relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies to their weakest since the 2003 occupation of Iraq.

Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, right, looks as U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, during their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday, March 30, 2017.

"I think the... longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people", Tillerson said.

Another key point of the press conference was the United States diplomat's comments on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad - the closest indicator to date on the Trump administration's attitude towards Damascus.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was in Turkey on Thursday to meet leaders in a nation that has been a crucial ally in the U.S. government's fight against the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

In that vein, Tillerson conveyed a desire to strip ISIS of control over its de facto capital of Raqqa, Syria.

The two sides do not always see eye-to-eye over the Syrian war - disagreements are growing, principally over who should be involved in retaking the stronghold of Raqqa from the so-called Islamic State (IS) group.

The PYD is the Syrian offshoot of PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and EU.

But his trip has been further clouded by the arrest in NY on Monday of an executive of Turkey's state-run Halkbank HALKB.IS , who is accused of conspiring in a multi-year scheme to evade USA sanctions on Iran.

"The previous United States administration's collaboration with a terrorist organisation such as the YPG has strained our relationship", he added.

Ankara considers the PKK and any groups it believes are in contact with it to be terrorist organizations, which are trying to carve out an independent state in Turkey and Syria. Tillerson says the two countries have to continue discussing the way forward and that the options are hard. He did, however, hail Turkey as a "key partner" in the coalition against the jihadis.

Turkey wants the United States to partner with its military and Turkish-backed forces in Syria. Officially the USA insists any decision on returning him to Turkey remains a judicial - rather than a political - decision.

But Mr. Flynn did recently file Justice Department paperwork disclosing more than $500,000 he received previous year from a Dutch consulting company for work that may have benefited the Turkish government. -Turkish ties, the countries continue to clash over many matters, including the fate of a Pennsylvania-based cleric that Turkey blames for a failed coup attempt last July.

Shortly after Tillerson's arrival in Ankara, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told broadcaster A Haber that the arrest was a "completely political move" created to tarnish Turkey and Erdogan, and questioned the evidence in the case.

  • Leroy Wright