Trump is now competent on FETÖ case, Turkey says

Trump is now competent on FETÖ case, Turkey says

As this column suggested last week, there are positive signs in the normalization of the relationship between Turkey and the United States, particularly after the latter’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, which is set to resolve one of the top disagreements — the YPG’s role in the fight against ISIL — with Turkey. 

This sudden move by U.S. President Donald Trump will surely affect the developments in the field of Syria but also the course of bilateral ties with Turkey. At a long press conference with the Ankara bureau chiefs of media outlets, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had a chance to assess all these developments in detail.

“We have a positive atmosphere in our ties compared to three months ago. But if you ask me whether the U.S. is fulfilling all of its responsibilities stemming from its alliance with Turkey, I would say it’s still too early to say so. We should see more concrete steps to this end,” Çavuşoğlu said when asked whether the spirit of the alliance with the U.S. was restored.

Turkey has well-known expectations from the U.S. and the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the leader of FETÖ believed to be the mastermind of the July 2016 coup attempt, and his aides, is one of them. A colleague asked in a direct way: Would Trump make another surprise move and extradite Gülen?

“I may say this: Mr. Trump is now more competent on this case. I have already said that he said they were working on his extradition during a meeting with our president in Argentina,” Çavuşoğlu said.

“Not only for Gülen, Turkey handed a list of 84 high-level FETÖ people, upon the request of Donald Trump,” the minister added, underlining once again that an ongoing probe by the FBI was a serious one.

“Some people are asking whether this is a ‘cosmetic’ probe. Of course, we have all the right to approach this skeptically. But I must tell you that we have begun to see some results. We are being kept informed by U.S. officials when there is a development,” he said.

An imam affiliated with FETÖ has been detained by U.S. law enforcement in southern New Jersey, Çavuşoğlu informed, saying the FBI has also begun seeing the “dark face of this group.”

Progress on Halkbank demanded

The minister was also asked a question on an important issue: Whether Turkey would see a positive reflection of improved ties on the Halkbank case.

The foreign minister repeated Turkey’s expectation for the return of Hakan Atilla, former deputy general manager of Halkbank who was found guilty of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, to serve the rest of his imprisonment in Turkey. “This process is working,” Çavuşoğlu said, also expressing his hope that no fines would be levied against Halkbank.

“We have studied the U.S. laws and the kind of verdicts that were issued in similar cases. We have introduced this as a note to Mr. Trump as well. This also includes the steps the U.S. may take and Mr. Trump immediately gave the necessary instructions to his aides,” he said.

“We are very closely following this case. We simply don’t want the unjust suffering of Halkbank.”

The fact that Turkey and the U.S. will convene three working groups in early January in Washington D.C. indicates the readiness of both sides to tackle all these problems. In addition to these, coordination for a smooth withdrawal of U.S. troops is also quite important for the future of ties.

Trump’s decision has obviously opened a new page for both Syria and Turkish-American ties.