Turkey wants a new beginning with US amid YPG row: Erdoğan
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed his wish that his upcoming talks
with U.S. President Donald Trump will constitute a new beginning in Turkey-U.S.
ties, hoping that Washington will reverse its decision to arm Syrian Kurdish
groups that Ankara sees as terrorist organizations.
“I see this visit of mine as a new beginning in the Turkish-American relationship. We have observed that some of the information we received [from Washington] is insufficient. God willing, this visit will be a new beginning in that regard,” Erdoğan told reporters before his departure to China on May 12.
He will travel to the U.S. on May 15 directly from China, where he will attend an international forum. The first in-person meeting between Erdoğan and Trump will take place on May 16 in the White House.
The Turkish president will also meet representatives of the Jewish community, as well as chief executives of leading American companies during his visit.
Erdoğan's talk with Trump will come after the latter's signing an executive order for allowing the Pentagon to directly arm the People's Protection Unit (YPG), the armed wing of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), which fights against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as the local ground force. Turkey sees the PYD/YPG as being closely linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and has long been pressing on Washington to cease its alliance with the group.
Erdoğan noted that a high-level delegation composed of Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, National Intelligence Organization (MIT) chief Hakan Fidan, and chief foreign policy advisor İbrahim Kalın held preliminary talks in Washington last week. “Now we are going to hold the highest level talks with Mr. Trump, which will be in the format of a full-stop rather than a comma. This visit is important for that reason,” he said.
US in transition process
President Erdoğan stated that he was “not attaching importance” to press reports on the U.S. decision to arm the YPG.
“There is a still a transition process in the U.S. We can see this. We should be much more careful and sensitive because of this ongoing transition process,” he added.
The transition process he was referring to was the Trump administration's bid to establish itself in Washington, with Erdoğan hinting that arms shipments to the YPG were ordered by the previous Obama administration.
“These are heavy weapons, not ordinary ones. Documents on all these are in our hands. They also acknowledge this. These are of course developments that contradict our strategic ties. We do not wish to see this happen, so we'll talk about on this. I have always said, and I say it again: Trying to fight one terror organization with the help of another terror organization is not an ideal policy,” he added.
‘US, Russia don't look good next to terrorists'
Turkey is the only country that fights most efficiently against ISIL, while others are “just talking about it,” Erdoğan also stated, recalling that the Turkish Armed Forces had long been pursuing a heavy fight against all terror organizations inside and outside Turkey, which will continue in northern Iraq and Syria.
“If they want to do a favor to us, we are together in NATO. As our ally in NATO, such a strong country should move together with its strong ally,” he said.
“We never think that the U.S. looks good next to a terror organization. We don't find it right. The same goes for Russia,” he added.
‘What does NATO do?'
Recalling that he will join a NATO leaders' summit on May 24 and 25 in Brussels, Erdoğan said the fight against ISIL and similar issues will be discussed.
“What does NATO exist for? We'll talk about all these issues. Why does NATO exist if it doesn't take a role in the fight against terrorism? We'll raise all these issues,” Erdoğan said.
Trump's line on Gülen's extradition ‘important'
Another issue on Turkey's agenda is Ankara's demand for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic preacher who lives in Pennsylvania and who is accused of being the mastermind of the deadly July 2016 coup attempt as the head of what Ankara calls the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ).
“We have prepared some documents and information. We will hand them to [Trump]. I place a lot of importance on Trump's willingness on this. We will pursue this issue until the end,” Erdoğan said.
He also urged the U.S. not to become a “breeding farm” of FETÖ, as many FETÖ suspects with links to Gülen have fled to the U.S., as well as Germany and other European countries.