Turkish gov’t holds initial consultations with Trump cadre
Sevil Erkuş - ANKARAThe first meetings since Donald Trump entered office as president are being held this week between the Turkish government and the new U.S. administration.
Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın arrived in Washington on Feb. 13 as part of initial political discussions with the new Trump cadre.
The struggle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), establishing a safe zone in Syria, the U.S.’s cooperation with Syrian Kurdish fighters, Turkey’s proposal for a possible offensive into Raqqa, and planning for the first meeting between Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are among the topics in Yalçın’s dossier.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Fikri Işık will travel to Brussels on Feb. 15 for the NATO defense ministers’ meeting, where he will meet his new U.S. counterpart James Mattis on the sidelines. Işık will also hold separate meetings with his Spanish, Italian, British, French and Georgian counterparts.
Ankara sees Trump’s presidency as an opportunity to reset relations with Washington, which became frayed in the final years of the Obama administration. Ankara grew frustrated over its failure to secure a rapid extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher who the Turkish government accuses of masterminding the failed July 15 coup attempt.
Ankara also hopes the U.S. will change its policy of collaboration with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (YPG), which Ankara sees as offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey has proposed launching a joint offensive into Raqqa, the capital of ISIL in Syria, with coalition forces and Syrian Arab fighters offering military support on the ground.
Turkish PM: Al-Bab ‘largely’ under control
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım claimed on Feb. 14 that the former Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) bastion of Al-Bab in northern Syria was now “largely” under the control of Ankara-backed Syrian rebels after months of clashes with jihadists.
“Al-Bab has largely been taken under control … Our efforts from the start have not been for nothing, we have reached our aim. Our aim is to prevent terrorist organizations from establishing corridors to Turkey” Yıldırım told his party lawmakers.