Obama, Erdoğan talk upgrading ISIL fight
WASHINGTON/ANKARA – Reuters
AA PhotoDuring the much anticipated meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama, the leaders’ main focus was on upgrading the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in the aftermath of deadly attacks in Turkey and Belgium.
“The leaders also discussed how to advance our shared effort to degrade and destroy ISIL,” the White House said in a statement on March 31.
Obama and Erdoğan met at the White House on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit in the U.S. capital.
In a statement on April 1, Turkey’s presidential office said the two NATO leaders discussed cooperation on resolving the refugee crisis and how partners in the fight against ISIL can ramp up their efforts.
Obama reaffirmed U.S. commitment to Turkey’s security during the meeting.
“The president extended condolences to President Erdoğan on behalf of the American people for those killed and injured in today’s terrorist attack in Diyarbakır, and reaffirmed the support of the United States for Turkey’s security and our mutual struggle against terrorism,” the White House said.
On March 31, seven police officers were killed and 27 people injured, including 13 police officers, in a car bomb attack targeting a police shuttle in the Bağlar district of Turkey’s southeastern province of Diyarbakır.
Hours before the meeting with Obama, Erdoğan met with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Speaking after the meeting, Turkish presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said that the U.S. had pledged to increase cooperation with Turkey in Ankara’s efforts to fight the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Erdoğan and Biden explored opportunities for greater intelligence sharing regarding the PKK and ways to prevent funding to the group, Kalın was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu Agency.
Biden, who expressed American support for Turkey’s effort in fighting the terrorist group, also said the U.S. would work to develop a plan that would focus on U.S. and Turkish goals and Ankara’s “sensitive” approach to the region - specifically operations conducted around the Manbij pocket in Syria, Kalın said.
The Manbij pocket is a “red line” of demarcation for Turkey that has pledged to prevent a breach of the western front by the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing the People’s Protection Unit (YPG).
Turkey considers both of the groups as terrorist organizations as it regards them as the offshoots of the PKK.
But the U.S. only designates the PKK as a terrorist group, and marks the PYD and YPG as reliable partners in the fight against ISIL.