Obama, Erdoğan speak by phone, vow cooperation against terrorism
ANKARA/WASHINGTON – ReutersU.S. President Barack Obama and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Jan. 19 pledged continued cooperation in the fight against militants, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the White House and Turkish presidential sources said.
During his phone call to Erdoğan, Obama offered his condolences for last week’s bombing in Istanbul, when 10 German tourists were killed in a suicide attack blamed on ISIL, the White House and Turkish presidential sources said.
Obama also condemned a recent string of attacks by the PKK against Turkish security forces, and he stressed the need for de-escalation, the White House said in a statement.
The two leaders said the fight against terrorism would be among a number of topics on the agenda when U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visits Turkey on Jan. 23.
NATO member Turkey, a member of the U.S.-led coalition battling ISIL in Syria and Iraq, has increasingly become a target for the Sunni Muslim militants.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu blamed ISIL for the bombing on Jan. 12 in Istanbul’s historic Sultanahmet Square. The suicide bomber is thought to have crossed recently from Syria.
ISIL is also believed to be behind other attacks last year in Turkey, including one in the capital Ankara in which more than 100 people were killed.
Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast is currently engulfed in the worst violence since the 1990s after the collapse last July of a two-year-long ceasefire with PKK militants.
Last week the PKK, deemed a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union as well as by Turkey, attacked a police station in a Diyarbakir district with a truck bomb, killing six people including a baby and two toddlers.