U.S. and Turkey agree to resolve differences, fight terrorism

Turkey and the United States agreed to set up a mechanism to resolve issues between them after a visit to Ankara by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that his Turkish counterpart said would be “make-or-break” for the two NATO allies.

Relations between the two countries have been strained over Turkey’s nearly four-week-old military operation against the Syrian Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin to rid the area of the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has been fighting in the mainly Kurdish southeast of Turkey since 1984.

The United States also recognises the PKK as a terrorist group, but has armed and trained the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), mainly made up of the YPG, to push back Islamic State from almost all of northern Syria.

A statement issued by Tillerson and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu reaffirmed both countries' commitment to combat terrorist organisations, including the PKK, and their extensions, but did not name the YPG.

“The Republic of Turkey and the United States, as long-standing allies, reaffirm their determination to jointly combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Turkey and the United States reiterate their resolve to fight against DEASH, PKK, Al Qaeda, and all other terrorist organizations and their extensions. We recognize the right to self-defence of our countries against terrorist threats directly targeting our nations.”

ISIS is also known by its in Arabic acronym Daesh, or Deash.

The statement did not provide details of the mechanism to resolve issues between the two countries, but said it would be activated by no later than the middle of March.

Nor did it make any mention of several specific issues that have contributed to the deterioration of relations. These include the failure of the U.S. to comply with Turkish demands for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, wanted on charges of being behind the attempted coup of July 2016.

The two sides affirmed the importance of the longstanding strategic partnership between them and emphasised a range of mutual interests.

 

“As Allies within NATO and strategic partners for over 65 years, both nations consider their relations as vital to furthering their shared goals and interests, as well as to the promotion of democracy, rule of law and individual freedoms throughout the world.”

 

It said the only viable solution to the crisis in Syria must be political and should maintain Syria’s territorial integrity. To implement such a solution, both Turkey and the U.S. agree to intensify their cooperation using the frameworks provided by UN resolutions and through the Geneva process.