Tillerson exit may delay Turkey-US talks: Ankara
Turkey has voiced its hope to “work with the same understanding” with incoming U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, with Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu saying his planned meeting with Rex Tillerson may be delayed because of his departure from office.
“The meeting that we will hold on March 19 could be delayed until after Tillerson’s departure,” Çavuşoğlu said in Moscow during a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on March 14. “Our friends in Washington are following the process on whether the meeting will take place or not. We are waiting for a response from them.”
“We worked with Tillerson at a point in which our ties came to a critical stage. We continued our communication even in most difficult times. This is, of course, the decision of the U.S., and we want to work with the incoming foreign minister based on the understanding of mutual respect,” Çavuşoğlu added.
The change in the State Department came as ties between Turkey and the United States are going through turbulence amid disagreements over various issues. Tillerson paid a key visit to Ankara in February aiming to mend ties, agreeing to form joint mechanisms to resolve differences on Syria and bilateral matters.
The first meeting at the technical level took place last week in Washington, where the two sides discussed a model to be implemented in Syria’s Manbij province. Turkey has long been pressing the U.S. to push the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to withdraw from Manbij to the eastern Euphrates.
Çavuşoğlu and Tillerson were scheduled to meet on March 19 to further evaluate the situation in Syria, and Tillerson’s departure has created concerns over the fate of the ongoing rapprochement process between Ankara and Washington.
Speaking to reporters before leaving for an official trip to Azerbaijan on March 14, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım sought to emphasize that ties between the United States and Turkey “do not depend on individuals.”
“Whoever comes in, Turkey’s stance is clear. It is not very important to us what the new secretary thinks about Turkey,” Yıldırım said, while adding that Tillerson’s departure from the State Department will improve relations between the U.S. and Turkey.
“I hope healthier relations [with the U.S.] will be able to be developed,” he said.
Trump on March 13 announced CIA Director Mike Pompeo as his pick to be the country’s new secretary of state, ousting Tillerson.
The White House and the State Department have had a number of high-profile clashes after Tillerson took the post as America’s top diplomat, including a glaring split during a dispute between Qatar and its Arab Gulf neighbors.
Trump and Tillerson have also been at odds over a number of key foreign policy issues, including climate change.
“We disagreed on things,” Trump told reporters before heading to California. “When you look at the Iran deal, I think it’s terrible, I guess he thought it was OK. I wanted to either break it or do something and he felt a little bit differently.”