Feb 10 2018

Tillerson “will not pull punches” in Turkey - officials

Two anonymous senior U.S. State Department officials were quoted by the department as saying that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson would adopt a firm stance on human rights and the arrest of local consulate officials during his upcoming visit to Turkey.

“Particularly the issue of human rights and the arrest of our citizens and our locally engaged staff, that’s first on the agenda on the bilateral package, and there’s no pulling punches on that,” an official cited only as Senior State Department Official One said.

“We’ve been very public in our call to the Turks to let these folks go, and we’ve been very firm in our private conversations with them as well. That’s an issue that’s going to be a difficult one to work through, but it’s one that we take seriously, because we have no higher priority than the safety of our people overseas.”

There would be a “difficult conversation” over Syria, the official said.

“The rhetoric is hot, the Turks are angry and this is a difficult time to do business, but it’s our belief that there are still some very fundamental underlying shared interests that we have with the Turks, in terms of stability in Syria, defeating ISIS, fighting the PKK and broader questions of regional balance of power, where the Turks play an important role,” the official said.

“So, at times like this, engagement is all the more important, but you’re absolutely right. It’s going to be a difficult conversation.”

Senior State Department Official Two emphasised that the department were calling for “restraint” by Turkey in Syria.

“I think what we’ve said to the Turks in privately – in private has been exactly what we’ve said to them in public, which is: we are urging them to show restraint in their operations in Afrin, and to show restraint further along the line across the border in northern Syria,” the official said.

“Obviously, the quicker we come to a resolution on that situation (Afrin), the better it is for the broader effort.”

https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/02/278160.htm