Turkey, U.S. making progress on problem areas - columnist

More than a month after Turkey and the United States put the Brunson affair behind them, the two sides have strengthened ties and begun to resolve their disagreements, Hürriyet Daily News columnist Serkan Demirtaş said on Monday. 

Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Donald Trump met during a dinner on Nov. 10 in Paris, and their two foreign ministers, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and Mike Pompeo, will meet in Washington on Tuesday. 

On Syria, Turkey sees the United States' continued support for Kurdish militias "poisoning bilateral ties," said the columnist. Washington has said its relations with the Kurdish-dominated People's Protection Units (YPG) are temporary and focused on the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

This disagreement "prevents the two allies from working together on a broader plan for the future of Syria, although the appointment of Ambassador James Jeffrey as the State Department’s Special Envoy for Syria has resulted in a better and closer dialogue between the two capitals," said Demirtaş. 

NBC News' recent report that the White House is considering the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the alleged mastermind of the July 2016 coup attempt, created excitement in Ankara. Çavuşoğlu plans to introduce new evidence on Gülen’s involvement in the coup attempt, and "any attempt by Washington to deport Gülen would mean a major strategic change in the U.S. relationship with Turkey," the columnist wrote. 

Washington continues to pressure Turkey to release U.S. citizen Serkan Gölge and three Turkish nationals who work at U.S. diplomatic missions. 

Meanwhile, the Turkish government is concerned the Trump Administration will levy a large fine against state-owned Halkbank over the bank’s alleged violation of Iran sanctions, which would be "interpreted as a strong message by the Trump Administration against other banks and financial institutions," said Demirtaş.

The Halkbank probe could also lead to a criminal case against one of Turkey's largest state banks. 

Washington and Ankara are also cooperating on stabilising Syria's Idlib province and the investigation into the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, while looking for a way for Turkey to continue to buy U.S.' F-35 military aircraft despite its purchase of Russian-made S-400 missile defense systems. 

The normalization process is making progress, although slow and sometimes painful, said Demirtaş.