Turkey warns U.S. relations could break down altogether
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu warned relations with the United States could be broken altogether if Washington does not remove Kurdish forces from the area around the Syrian town of Manbij.
Çavuşoğlu’s comments came a day after U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster visited Turkey for a series of high-level meetings and ahead of a trip to Ankara this week by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. The warning is an indication that the meetings with McMaster likely made little progress.
Turkey and the United States are at odds over Syria and U.S. backing for Syrian Kurdish forces in battles against the Islamic State. Turkey regards the Syrian Kurdish group as terrorists and an extension of Kurdish militants fighting inside Turkey.
“Turkey's expectation from the U.S. is open and clear: We do not want to hear promises anymore, we want to see concrete steps. Our relations are at a very critical point. Either we will repair our relations or the relations will be broken altogether. If the U.S. will not do what is necessary for Manbij, then we will," the Turkish pro-government news channel NTV quoted Çavuşoğlu as saying.
Tillerson is on a week-long trip to the Middle East and is expected in Ankara in the coming days. U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also is expected to meet his Turkish counterpart in Brussels.
Turkish troops began an air and ground offensive against the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin on Jan. 20 and has threatened to move against Manbij, where U.S. troops are stationed to aid and train Syrian Kurdish forces. There are no U.S. troops in Afrin.