Tillerson still under fire for no aides in Erdoğan talks
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is still under heavy attacks from former diplomat colleagues for not taking a translator or any aides to his meeting with the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan two weeks ago.
“Just last week Erdogan implied that the U.S. government are terrorists [for aligning with Kurdish forces in Syria], yet Tillerson can’t be bothered to show up with his own translator,” an unnamed former State Department official said according to Lauren Bohn, The GroundTruth Project’s editor-at-large and Middle East correspondent.
It was reported that Tillerson during his three-and-a-half hour-long meeting on February 16th with the Turkish president did not bring his own translator or policy aides, breaching official protocol. The meeting, according to former State Department officials, and was translated by the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.
Bilateral relations between the NATO allies are becoming increasingly strained as Ankara moved Turkish troops into Syria's Afrin region to fight the Kurdish YPG (People’s Protection Units) that Turkey considers as an offshoot of local Kurdish insurgents, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK.) The U.S. considers YPG as their allies against ISIS. Turkey has been threatening to attack Manbij, in Syria, a town taken from
the ISIS by forces led by YPG forces in 2016 where the U.S. also has soldiers.
During Tillerson’s visit to Turkey, the Turkish government proposed the expulsion of YPG fighters from Manbij and to deploy Turkish and U.S. troops in the town. Tillerson agreed to consider the proposal.
“This is ridiculous. It’s a tense relationship with serious lives at stake, and the U.S. is showing that they don’t care,” said the former official according to report.
Bohn reports that according to the American Foreign Service Association, sixty percent of top-ranking diplomats in the State Department have left and applications to join the corps has fallen by half.
What’s more, this week a Turkish court sentenced Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, one of the country’s leading human rights advocates and one of Erdogan’s leading Islamist critics to two-and-a-half years in jail for “disseminating terrorist propaganda.”
In 2016, he posted a photograph of a World Peace Day demonstration featuring Kurdish mothers protesting behind two symbolic coffins, one covered in the Turkish flag and the other in a Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) flag. The photograph, by all indications, advocated peace.