Four results of Turkey-US talks
It seems there are four key results from Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on June 4. In remarks made by Çavuşoğlu in his hometown Antalya on June 5, and confirmed by U.S. sources, the outcome of the meeting can be summarized as follows:
1- The roadmap outlined through technical talks between diplomats, military and intelligence officials from two sides on the security status of the Syrian town of Manbij was apparently approved by the two top diplomats. With some delay, the U.S. is keeping its promise to withdraw People’s Protection Units (YPG) militants from the town to the east of the river Euphrates. The YPG, which has been used by the U.S. Central Command as the ground force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), is the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Çavuşoğlu said the roadmap could start being implemented in 10 days and is expected to be completed by the end of the year under the monitoring of Turkish and American soldiers. By coincidence or not, the YPG announced yesterday that it has “decided” to withdraw its “military advisers” from Manbij. Çavuşoğlu said the Turkish and American sides will secure the formation of a new city council formed by the people of Manbij again and this model may be applicable to other towns in Syria retaken from ISIL but now controlled by the YPG. If implemented, the Manbij solution could bring a bit of relief to tense relations between the two NATO allies.
2- Çavuşoğlu said Pompeo had told him about an FBI investigation opened against Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding the June 15 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey through his illegal network in state institutions. This is the first high-level remark heralding an investigation against Gülen and his network in the U.S.
Çavuşoğlu also said the U.S. side asked questions about American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been under arrest in Turkey since 2016 accused of having links with the Gülen network, referred to as the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) in ongoing court cases. He added that another working group between the two countries will come together to focus on issues other than Syria, possibly in July in Turkey.
3- The Turkish foreign minister said that in order to fight against the PKK presence in Iraq - which has posed a threat to Turkey for over three decades - a “four-party cooperation” between Turkey, the U.S., Iraq and the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is underway. The PKK’s headquarters is in the Kandil Mountains of Iraq, bordering Turkey and Iran and falling within KRG territory. The Turkish military has been infiltrating into Iraqi territory for a number of weeks in order to cut logistical routes to Kandil. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said “temporary bases” have been set up during these incursions, which would not be possible without Baghdad’s consent. Ankara has been in close cooperation with Baghdad since the KRG’s failed referendum for independence last year; and the PKK is a hot potato for the KRG as well, as it poses a dangerous political rival.
4- Despite objections in the U.S. Congress, it seems there has been no change in the planned delivery schedule of F-35 fighter jets to Turkey. The first two planes are expected to be delivered to the Turkish Air forces on June 21 in Dallas, Texas, where Turkish pilots and technicians will start their training program. As a partner in the production of the F-35s, Turkey has turned down objections from the U.S. (over the continued arrest of Brunson and Ankara’s decision to buy Russian S-400 jets after the U.S. declined to sell Patriots), saying it has paid its dues as scheduled and the deal should be respected.