Erdoğan says anti-Americanism on rise in Turkey amid bilateral talks to mend ties
Anti-American sentiments in the Turkish public have recently hit the roof because of the U.S.’ support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, the Turkish president has said, amid the two countries’s ongoing talks that aim to ease the severely strained bilateral ties.
“Who will pay the YPG a salary? The United States. When I talk [to the U.S.] about this, they become disturbed. Why are you disturbed? They have been listed in your budget. You have provided them with armored vehicles and weapons,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a speech at the Academy of Politics on March 9.
“What kind of allies are we?” asked Erdoğan as he shared his recent conversation with U.S. State Secretary Rex Tillerson in a February meeting in Ankara.
“When I showed him all this on a screen, he complained that ‘anti-Americanism is on the rise in Turkey because you broadcast this sort of information on TVs every day.’ As a matter of fact, anti-Americanism is climbing sharply, though I have nothing to do with it,” Erdoğan said.
Erdoğan’s statements came as a joint Turkish-American committee continued talks in Washington D.C. in a bid to resolve outstanding problems between the two allies. During Tillerson’s visit to Turkey on Feb. 15-16, three mechanisms were established between Ankara and Washington with a view to contributing to normalizing bilateral relations and fixing issues related to Syria, the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and Iraq.
The U.S. State Department spokesperson on March 8 said talks between Turkish and American officials had begun in the U.S. capital and many issues would be discussed, including Syria and Turkey’s ongoing Afrin operation.
“Today is the first day that the U.S. government and Turkish officials are meeting to discuss what was agreed to when Secretary [Rex] Tillerson met with his counterpart in Istanbul a couple weeks ago,” Heather Nauert told reporters at a daily press briefing, referring to the first of three technical committees formed to solve issues between the two countries.
“This is an introductory meeting where we can start to hopefully work out some of these issues. As you all know, we have got a lot of issues to discuss. So hopefully, we can make some headway at that level today,” Nauert added.
When asked if Washington was willing to pressure Ankara to stop the Afrin offensive, Nauert said it would not come as a surprise if this issue appeared in the talks.
She also noted that nearly 20 U.S. officials, led by Acting Assistant Secretary Wes Mitchell, attended the meeting and the department plans to release a readout of the meeting’s work tomorrow.
On the Turkish side, Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Sedat Önal has been presiding over the committee on Syria, Deputy Undersecretary Cihad Erginay on the FETÖ and Fazlı Corman, the director general for South Asia at the Foreign Ministry, on Iraq.
According to Turkish officials, the primary agenda of the Syrian committee is Turkey’s demand to remove the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij, which lies to the west of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.
The committee on the FETÖ will discuss issues related to the group and also focus on Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 missile system from Russia, migration and visa issues.