US, Turkey strain for deal on key element of anti-IS fight

But he's suggesting no agreement has been reached.

Indicating a possible shift in USA policy on the war in Syria from the days of the Obama administration, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on a trip to Turkey that the "longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people".

As the USA prepares an operation to retake the de facto ISIL capital of Raqqa in Syria, the Turks and Americans are deadlocked over who should do the fighting. The U.S. airlifted hundreds of so-called Syrian Democratic Forces behind enemy lines in Syria last week in what officials described as a key step toward Raqqa.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. and Turkey face "difficult choices" over the best way to fight the Islamic State, highlighting their disagreements on whether Kurdish forces should play a role in the battle to retake the jihadis' stronghold in Syria.

"They are hard options, let me be very frank". Turkey is concerned that the plan could strengthen Syrian Kurdish fighters it regards as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, a Kurdish separatist group outlawed in Turkey.

"We used to be afraid of the Syrian regime strikes or the Russian strikes, but not the Americans", a Raqqa resident who lost 11 family members told the New York Times. But all signs point to Washington continuing to bet on the Kurds.

FSA troops have also been fighting Syrian Kurdish fighters that Ankara says are "terrorists". "These are not easy decisions", Tillerson said at a joint news conference Thursday in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu.

But Tillerson did not appear willing to withdraw USA support for the Kurdish militias, which have often proved to provide the most effective fighters on the battlefield. But he added that "it is not correct to fight against one terrorist organization while co-operating with another".

"It has negatively affected the Turkish people's sentiments toward the United States", Cavusoglu said in Turkish.

"This is a powerful sign that the Trump Administration is taking the plight of this wrongfully imprisoned USA citizen very seriously", said Sekulow, who is working to help free the pastor.

Turkey has been angered by U.S. support for Kurdish YPG militia fighters, which Turkey considers an extension of the PKK, a terrorist group according to both Turkey and the United States.

Christian Lekon, an assistant professor in global relations at the same university, said there was an urgent need to discuss how politics can be conducted overseas by countries with large diasporas.

In response to a question regarding the future Syria's President Assad, Tillerson commented, "I think the status and the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people".

As the Syrian Kurds carve out a self-governing territory in northern Syria, Turkey fears that it will embolden its own large Kurdish minority to try to forge a similar autonomy inside its borders.

Mr Tillerson's visit came a day after Turkey declared the "successful" completion of its Euphrates Shield operation in northern Syria.

"Life is back to normal".

In a statement, Yildirim's office said the ministers discussed Syria and efforts to wipe out ISIS from Syria and Iraq. "That means the Euphrates Shield is over and any potential actions, if necessary, will be named differently".

  • Leroy Wright