CIA chief in Turkey for key talks
AA photoThe new director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mike Pompeo, arrived in Ankara on Feb. 9, following a phone call between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump as part of a bid to launch a fresh beginning in bilateral ties.
Pompeo, who was paying his very first visit abroad in his new position to Turkey, began his Middle East tour from Ankara, during which he is expected to speak on an operation on the Syrian city of Raqqa, which is held by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and broader Syria strategy.
“Within the next six months, I think we’ll see both [the Mosul and Raqqa campaigns] conclude,” U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said Feb. 8 in Iraq, adding that a push on western Mosul would soon begin.
Pompeo’s visit comes a little more than one day after Trump and Erdoğan’s telephone conversation, a first since Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Trump reiterated support for Turkey “as a strategic partner and NATO ally” during the phone call with Erdoğan, the offices of both leaders said.
Trump also spoke about the two countries’ “shared commitment to combating terrorism in all its forms” and welcomed Turkey’s contributions to the fight against ISIL, the White House said.
Pompeo was greeted by Turkish officials and U.S. Embassy personnel at Ankara’s Esenboğa Airport.
Although not officially announced, Pompeo was expected to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan, before being received by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
According to the presidential program, Erdoğan was scheduled to receive Fidan later on Feb. 9.
One of the top issues that the Turkish side will raise during talks with Pompeo will be Ankara’s extradition request for Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who has been accused by Turkey of masterminding a July 15, 2016, coup attempt.
The other issue on Turkey’s agenda will be finding a path forward for cooperation on Syria, as Turkey has demanded that the U.S. cease its cooperation with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which it sees as an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Meanwhile, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence was also set to speak to Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım over the phone late on Feb. 9.