Acrimony flares ahead of Tillerson visit to Turkey
Tensions are increasing between the United States and Turkey ahead of visits by top U.S. officials, with the Turkish press accusing Washington of supplying Kurds with weapons that are used to destroy Turkish military hardware.
Turkey’s pro-government media says the United States is becoming an enemy of Ankara as Turkish troops push further inside the Kurdish Syrian enclave of Afrin to do battle with Kurds allied with Washington, Thomas Seibert said in the Arab Weekly. Turkey says the Kurds are terrorists due to their affiliation with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, meanwhile, accused the U.S. government of lying about troop withdrawals and is preparing for another summit with his Russian and Iranian counterparts after trilateral meetings in November.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is heading to Turkey's capital Ankara this week as part of a regional tour, while national security adviser H.R. McMaster will be in Istanbul.
Analysts said Tillerson and McMaster should brace for tough rhetoric in their meetings with Turkish officials, Seibert said.
“In Ankara, it’s better to be a Russian official than a NATO ally these days,” said Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Washington think-tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a former Turkish lawmaker, according to Seibert.
Meanwhile, a survey by polling company Optimar showed almost 72 percent of Turks describing themselves as “anti-American” and another 23 percent saying they were partially so. Anti-U.S. sentiment has never been higher in Turkey, Optimar’s head, Hilmi Dasdemir, told the government-run Anadolu news agency.
During a trip to Italy, Erdoğan accused former U.S. President Barack Obama of lying about a Kurdish withdrawal from Manbij, an enclave adjacent to Afrin, where U.S. forces station troops as advisers and trainers of the Kurds
“Unfortunately, Obama lied to us in this respect,” Erdoğan said, adding that the Trump administration was “apparently going in the same direction.”