Jun 04 2018

Turkey delighted with Pompeo talks though details remain vague

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has expressed his pleasure at “very successful and fruitful” meeting on Monday with his U.S. counterpart, Mike Pompeo, which the pair confirmed had produced a “roadmap” endorsed by both sides for the departure of Syrian-Kurdish forces from northern Syrian city of Manbij.

Yet the confirmed details of this roadmap have fallen short of an agreement the Turkish side announced had been made last week.

U.S. diplomats have been collaborating with their Turkish counterparts in working groups organised by Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, during a visit to Turkey in February to ease tensions around U.S. support for a Syrian-Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the northern Syrian area of Manbij.

Officials from the Turkish government, which classifies the YPG and its affiliates as terrorist organisations, said last week that the working groups had already agreed on a detailed plan to remove the Syrian-Kurdish forces from the Manbij area this summer.

The roadmap announced by Pompeo and Çavuşoğlu on Monday, however, was less clear, with the Turkish foreign minister stating that the “parameters” for the removal of YPG forces were still to be decided on during a press conference after the meeting at the State Department. Pompeo and Çavuşoğlu did not read any statement before or after their meeting at the Foggy Bottom, nor did they take any questions.

The U.S. State Department issued a joint statement after the meeting stating that the both sides endorsed a Road Map "to include taking steps to ensure the security and stability in Manbij." 

The maximum six-month period for the YPG’s exit quoted by Çavuşoğlu likewise far exceeds the swift withdrawal promised by Turkish officials just days before the meeting.

Nevertheless, the Turkish foreign minister was in enthusiastic form following the meeting, declaring that the “concrete steps” taken with Pompeo had removed “one of the factors ruining (Turkey’s) relations with the United States.”

Of these, several deemed in Washington as serious breaches of trust from a supposed ally remained unmentioned: the arrest of Andrew Brunson, a U.S. pastor held in Turkey on terrorism charges, and Ankara’s agreement to purchase S-400 missile defence systems from Russia just two of these.

The two diplomats did, however, discuss another subject considered crucial by the Turkish government: Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Islamist cleric who Turkey blames for orchestrating the failed July 2016 coup attempt, and for whom it has issued multiple extradition requests, according to the Turkish side.

“We hope that our ally will stand beside us on these issues,” said Çavuşoğlu, referring to the YPG and Gülen.

Although generally positive about the direction of U.S.-Turkish relations after the meeting with Pompeo, the Turkish foreign minister did take one opportunity to admonish Washington, saying that tensions had arisen between the two sides because the United States had “not kept its word.”

The statement likely referred to the continued U.S. support for the YPG and other closely linked groups, which have been vital to the U.S.-led international coalition against the extremist jihadist Islamic State.

With the United States tied to another promise – one CENTCOM made to YPG forces that they would not be deserted – and the joint plans to secure YPG withdrawal from the area not due to go into effect until after Turkey holds elections on Jun. 24, there might be still some room for Çavuşoğlu to be disappointed on the Manbij issue.

Çavuşoğlu also said Turkey will not accept threatening language of the U.S. Congress when it comes to new generation of fighter jets F-35s. Çavuşoğlu said the delivery of first F-35 will go ahead and conducted on June 21 as it was promised earlier.

According to Turkish government-controlled Anadolu Agency, Pompeo told Çavuşoğlu that there is serious investigation into the Gulen organization in the U.S.