Top US commander to visit Turkey amid strained relations

Top US commander to visit Turkey amid strained relations

ANKARA
Top US commander to visit Turkey amid strained relations

General Curtis Scaparrotti, head of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander, is set to pay a visit to Ankara on Aug. 1 amid heightened tension between Turkey and the U.S.

The general will discuss the situation in northern Syria, state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Turkish officials as saying. The meeting is expected to focus on developments regarding the presence of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the region and a roadmap on the Syrian city of Manbij.

The visit comes amid strained relations between Turkey and the U.S. over a host of issues. Relations plunged further after U.S. President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence threatened sanctions on Turkey if pastor Andrew Brunson, who was placed under house arrest on July 25 after nearly two years behind bars on terror charges, is not freed.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on July 28 the spat between Turkey and the United States over Brunson and the threat of sanctions coming from Washington amounts to “psychological warfare.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also responded, saying that Turkey was governed by the rule of law. “We will never tolerate threats from anybody,” Çavuşoğlu said on Twitter. He later held two phone calls with his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo.

Despite strongly-worded statements from both sides, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on July 27 that the two militaries remain “on good terms,” pointing to joint patrolling activities in the northern Syrian town of Manbij.

Scaparrotti to visit İncirlik and İzmir

Scaparrotti will also visit the İncirlik Air Base in the southern province of Adana. The commander will then visit the Aegean province of İzmir, where Brunson is under house arrest.

The U.S. Congress has been preparing a defense bill that would block the transfer of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey unless Ankara releases jailed U.S. citizens and employees and cancels the purchase of the S-400 air defense system from Russia.

A roadmap for the stabilization of Manbij was announced following a meeting between Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in June. The agreement envisages the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij and on stability in the region. As part of the mutual agreement, both U.S. and Turkish armies have been conducting patrols in the region since June 18. Some YPG members have retreated to checkpoints.

NATO, Scaparrotti, incirlik base, S-400, F-35