Tillerson walks a tightrope in trip to mend U.S. ties with Turkey

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, left, looks at Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, right, following a photo-op prior to their meeting in Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2017.

While the Trump administration's policy on Syria's war between rebels and president Bashar Al Assad has been vague so far, Mr Tillerson said on Thursday that the fate of Mr Al Assad would "be decided by the Syrian people".

The Turkish Foreign Minister also stressed that Ankara wants to see "concrete steps" with regards to the evidence provided for Gulen's extradition.

The United States backs the YPG as a member of a larger cohort of militias, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Haldun Yalcinkaya, a former lieutenant colonel at the Turkish Military Academy and who now heads the global relations department of Ankara's TOBB University of Economics and Technology, said that the current United States administration is just coordinating the last details with its partners for the coming Raqqa operation. But he's suggesting no agreement has been reached.

President Tayyip Erdogan earlier said that Turkey was saddened by the USA and Russian readiness to work with the Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria.

Turkish media reports state Brunson has been charged with membership of the Gulenist Terror Organization, the term which Turkish authorities use to refer to the network of USA -based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, reports Yahoo News. "More than 50,000 people returned to these regions from Turkey", he added.

While extending condolences for PKK attacks in Turkey previous year, Tillerson stressed that the USA and Turkey share many broad goals for the region: reducing Iran's ability to disrupt the region; finding a settlement in Syria that allows Syrians to return home; and supporting Iraqis to build a strong, independent, and inclusive government in Baghdad. The U.S. -led coalition looks nearly certain to back the Kurds in the assault on the city itself.

Tillerson's visit comes less than three weeks ahead of a referendum at which Erdogan is seeking constitutional change to boost his powers, a move which his opponents and some European allies fear will bring increasing authoritarianism.

Halkbank's Mehmet Hakan Atilla is accused of helping to process millions of dollars of illegal transactions through United States banks for Iran's government and other Iranian institutions.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Friday the completion of the military operation did not mean Turkey would ignore what takes place on its southern border.

Turkey accuses Gulen, an erstwhile Erdogan ally who lives in self-imposed in Pennsylvania, of ordering the July military coup bid, charges he strongly denies.

Cavusoglu described the arrest of the banker as a "political" move and said the US attorney who launched the case against Zarrab had close ties with Gulen's supporters.

In addition, he added, the Turks themselves say that they will not participate in the liberation of Raqqa, with Erdogan insisting that to fight terrorism, the USA should rely on "legitimate" partners.

  • Leroy Wright