Erdoğan, Trump discuss clearing Manbij of YPG
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and United States President Donald Trump have discussed an ongoing bilateral agreement that stipulates clearing the Manbij province of Syria of the YPG militants along with other troubled aspects of the ties in a face-to-face meeting on the margins of the G20 summit in Argentina.
“Our relations with the U.S. are based on strategic partnership. As two strategic partners, we had opportunity to elaborate the developments in the northern Syria, east of Euphrates, Manbij. We also had the chance to talk on Idlib but our main agenda is Manbij. We have discussed how we can clear Manbij of these organization while we reiterated our view on the PYD/YPG,” Erdoğan told a press conference late Dec 1 in Buenos Aires.
Erdoğan held a 50-minute long in-person meeting Trump on the margins of the G20 Summit amid bilateral efforts to put things back on track after the release of a U.S. Pastor whose two-year detention had caused severe impacts on Ankara-Washington bonds.
Turkey and the U.S. agreed on a road map in early June for the withdrawal of the YPG militants from Manbij to the east of Euphrates River but its implementation has been delayed. Turkey has long been criticizing the U.S. cooperation with the YPG in the pretext of continued fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Turkey considers the PYD/YPG as the Syrian branch of the PKK and therefore as terrorist.
Erdoğan reiterated Turkey’s frustration over the choice of the U.S. in partnering with a terror organization to eliminate another terrorist group, saying “As Turkey, we witness this double standard on the terrorist actions both in our country and our neighbor Syria.”
"Terrorists, who act within Turkey, kill civilians and mess with terrorism, roam freely in Western countries under the name of political refugees and can even collect tribute," the president said, referring to the supporters of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ).
“The supporters of FETÖ, who initiated the coup attempt and killed 251 of our people, are being protected by certain countries, notwithstanding of all the mounting evidence we have presented," he said, expressing his hope that the U.S. will change its attitude and extradite Fethullah Gülen, the mastermind of the July 2016 failed coup attempt.
No terror corridor in northern Syria
President Erdoğan continued his criticisms on the U.S. position in Syria, stressing “Every day, we are witnessing our allies’ support of guns and ammunition to terrorists of PKK under the pretext of fighting against DAESH [ISIL]. It is clear that such an ambivalent attitude would encourage terror organizations instead of destroying them. The bitter experiences of the past show us that a terror organization cannot be demolished with the help of another one.”
Turkey’s military operation into northern Syria dealt a great blow on the ISIL as more than 3,000 jihadist terrorists were neutralized with the Operation Olive Branch and it deported 7,000 people associated with terrorist organizations in Syria, Erdoğan said.
“At the cost of martyrs, we stroke a great blow towards DAESH in Syria. We will continue this struggle in the forthcoming processes. We will not allow any presence in Northern Syria that will pose a threat to our country’s and region’s security. We will save Euphrates’ east, as well as we did in its west, from the occupation and cruelty of the separatist terrorist organization. We expect sincerity, not double standard, from our allies on these matters.”
Halkbank officials in US
Another important issue Erdoğan raised in talks with Trump was Turkey’s expectation that no fines to be levied against the Halkbank on its alleged violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran between the years 2012 and 2015.
Former deputy manager of Halkbank, Hakan Atilla had been convicted of violating the sanctions as part of a court case opened against Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian businessman who orchestrated the gold-for-oil trade but later decided to cooperate with the U.S. court and became witness.
Office of Foreign Assets Control, (OFAC), of the U.S. Treasury Department is still probing the case on whether the Halkbank violated the sanctions while a New York court is also continuing own investigation.
“We have introduced all the information and evidence we have. And now, the officials of our bank are there and following the process,” Erdoğan said.