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Turkish Foreign Minister Says Ankara at Critical Stage in Ties With Washington

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The Turkish foreign minister said that Erdogan and Tillerson held constructive talks in Ankara and agreed to normalize relations.

“We are agreed on normalising relations again,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after talks with US counterpart Rex Tillerson in Ankara, saying that ties were at a “critical phase” and vowing to create “mechanisms” to discuss the issues causing problems.

Ankara and Washington agreed on the establishment of a mechanism for the normalization of relations, Cavusoglu said at a joint news conference with Tillerson on Friday.

Syria’s Manbij

More than 100 Turkish citizens were were killed in attacks carried out by US-backed YPG, Cavusoglu said.

Ankara expects Washington’s guarantees of the withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the Syrian city of Manbij to the eastern bank of the Euphrates, Cavusoglu said.

“The problem around YPG is one of the most important for us. More than 100 our citizens were killed in attacks by YPG. Back in 2016, the US promised us the withdrawal of YPG from Manbij to the eastern bank of the Euphrates. [Former US President Barack] Obama said it, but he did not keep his promise. Now we must have guarantees … that they will relocate across the Euphrates… Let us start with Manbij. After YPG leaves it, this will be a guarantee for us, and then we will move forward,” Cavusoglu said.

According to US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Washington’s support to the Syrian Democratic Forces, which mostly consists of Kurdish forces, would be limited.

“We take it seriously when our NATO ally says it has security concerns, we have been always clear to Turkey that our support to SDF will be limited,” Tillerson said speaking at a press conference with his Turkish counterpart in Ankara.

The United States recognizes Ankara’s right to secure its borders, but calls on Turkey to show restraint in its operation in Syria’s Afrin and not to escalate tensions, Rex Tillerson said.

Tillerson is in Turkey with a two-day visit. The US top diplomat held talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday, whereas earlier in the day he met with Cavusoglu.

The statement come a day after Ankara urged the US to remove the Syrian Kurdish YPG from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which the US is backing in the fight against the Daesh terrorist group in Syria.

On January 20, the Turkish Armed Forces announced the beginning of Operation “Olive Branch” against the Kurdish forces in Syria’s Afrin district. The operation has been conducted together with Free Syrian Army opposition forces. Syrian government has condemned the operation as an assault on countries sovereignty.

Tensions between the US and Turkey has intensified amid the operation in Syria’s Afrin. Ankara and Washington define terrorists organisations in different ways, Washington does not consider the YPG as a terrorist group.

Turkey S-400 Purchase

Turkey is against the language of threats in relation to its purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense systems, Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

“We do not use and will not accept the language of threats. Yes, the US Congress adopted a law [on anti-Russia sanctions]. But we need to ensure our national security. We would like to purchase the means to ensure it from our allies … We spoke to not only Russia but with other countries too. We finished talks with Russia long before the Congress, only little details were left,” he told a press conference with Rex Tillerson.

Earlier, the US State Department threatened to apply “appropriate measures” against countries which want to buy Russian S-400 systems.

In December of last year, in Ankara, Russian and Turkish representatives signed an agreement for the supply of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems. According to a statement issued by the Turkish defense industry secretariat, Ankara is buying two SAM batteries, which will be serviced by Turkish personnel.


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