Erdogan slams Tillerson, says he was speechless during private meeting

During a speech at the Presidential Complex in Ankara on Wednesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan revealed striking details of the private meeting he held with the former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in February. 

Erdogan told the local headmen attending the speech that he had demanded of Tillerson, "Is there an American border here? What business do they have here?”

The U.S.-led coalition’s plans to set up a new border force of 30,000 personnel sparked outrage in Turkey earlier in 2018 and triggered Ankara’s launch of Operation Olive Branch against Kurdish forces in Afrin on Jan. 20. The border force was projected to include many fighters from the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its affiliates, which Turkey views as terrorist groups for their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“I told Mr. Tillerson especially these matters,” said Erdogan. “I asked him ‘why did you bring them here?’ Believe me he had nothing to say."

President Erdogan, who has on numerous occasions responded to concerns around the humanitarian impact of Operation Olive Branch by asserting that Turkish soldiers are taking special care not to harm civilians in Afrin, used the speech to respond to criticism from France on that issue.

"Those who killed 5 million people in Algeria have no right to question us,” said Erdogan. “First they need to be held accountable. They ought to first give an account about tens and hundreds of thousands of people killed in Libya, Rwanda. If Turkey targeted civilians, we could have taken Afrin a long time ago."

Erdogan went on, "we do not care what others say. We look at what Allah orders and what our nation wants.”

Erdogan once again vowed to "cleanse Afrin as well as Manbij from terrorists" during Wednesday's speech.

Political tensions between the United States and Turkey have intensified since Ankara launched the operation in Syria against Kurdish forces loyal to Washington in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS). Turkey says the militants are indistinguishable from fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), recognized as terrorists by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

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