Turkey, US to form a three-way mechanism to tackle festering bilateral issues, help normalize ties
Hande Fırat - ANKARA
The mechanism that aims to tackle festering bilateral issues between Turkey and the U.S. will include three working groups: A group of defense ministers, a group of foreign ministers that includes the heads of intelligence organizations and a group of prime ministers, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said.
The retreat of Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants from Manbij town in Syria “is a step,” Yıldırım said. “In mid-to-long term, we cannot allow a terror threat against Turkey to reside in either Iraq or Syria,” he told a group of journalists on his way back from the Munich Conference.
Turkey does not differentiate between “east and west Euphrates” in its fight against terror, since the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) has developed the tactic of changing the name of its affiliated groups in order to achieve its goals in northern Syria, he said, stressing Turkey’s willingness to pursue any terror threat, whether west or east of the Euphrates. “As long as they persist, our soldiers will be on their necks,” he said.
“The name of the PKK is old and has been designated as a terrorist organization by many countries,” he said, warning against the group’s attempts to form a “terror state in northern Syria under a different name, as it had done in northern Iraq.”
Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch” and “Operation Euphrates Shield” aimed to prevent such eventualities, he noted.
In a key visit by State Secretary Rex Tillerson to Ankara on Feb. 15-16, Turkey and the U.S. agreed to form working groups to handle problematic areas between two NATO allies.
The “comprehensive” working groups will not only work on the issue of the YPG, but also other problematic areas that influence Turkey-U.S. relations, the prime minister stated.
“Even if we cooperate on Syria and they give up cooperating with the YPG, our ties with the U.S. will not normalize. We have other issues, such as the issue of the FETÖ [Fethullahist Terrorist Organization], and there is an ongoing court case. There are courts cases of their citizens here. We also have the Halkbank/Zarrab case. These should all be handled as a whole,” Yıldırım said, referring to the U.S. court’s “guilty” ruling of Turkish public lender Halkbank’s executive Hakan Atilla on Jan. 3 for breaking U.S. sanctions on Iran. The U.S. citizen Pastor Andrew Brunson has been detained in Turkey over charges of supporting the FETÖ. Two U.S. consulate staff members have also been detained in Turkey.
Referring to arrested journalists in Turkey, Yıldırım said: “We know the core issue is not journalism. People voice their views and criticisms. Does anything happen to them?”
The prime minister also said some journalists “mingle with terrorist organizations.” The arrested journalists engage in activities that provide “logistic support for a terror organization,” he said.
“This is not journalism,” he added.
Yıldırım said Turkey was different to Germany, which does not struggle against a terrorist group.