Turkey optimistic for ties with US during Trump era
Serkan Demirtaş - ANKARATurkey is optimistic about improved ties with the United States under incoming President Donald Trump, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş told the Hürriyet Daily News on Jan. 4, saying he hoped the new administration will extradite Fethullah Gülen and will stop allying with Syrian Kurdish groups.
“We have a strained relationship with the United States at the moment but I don’t think it will last long. I think this tension will soon be eased,” Kurtulmuş said.
“The first is about FETÖ,” deputy prime minister said, in reference to the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) and its leader Gülen who has been residing in the United States since 1999.
“One cause for optimism is Gülen, who is still trying to lead his organization through open and secret messages. This is a concern for our national security,” Kurtulmuş said, noting that Turkey’s extradition demand has not yet been responded to.
“Even though he has not been immediately extradited, I hope that he would be arrested in line with our judicial cooperation agreement,” he said.
Islamic preacher Gülen has been living in U.S. since 1999, and was previously a close ally of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) before they fell out. Turkey now believes followers of Gülen were behind the failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
Kurtulmuş also referred to Washington’s ongoing support for the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Ties between Ankara and Washington have been severely affected because of disagreement over the role that the YPG should play in the anti-ISIL fight, as Turkey considers the group an affiliate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and therefore a terrorist organization.
“Will the U.S. show its existence in the Middle East through cooperation with terror organizations or through its long-standing ally? I believe the U.S. will undergo a clear change in its position and will cooperate with a state like Turkey [under Trump],” Kurtulmuş said.
“Russian has gained enormous power in Syria by siding with the regime. It has increased its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean and it now has new bases in Syria. Russian has returned to the Middle East and the U.S. has left the initiative to the Russians because it did not know what to do,” he added, also referring to Iran’s expanded presence through the Syrian war.
“[The U.S.] believed that [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad must go, but it had no idea about how to make that happen,” he said.
“That’s why we also believe the U.S. will also have to accompany us if the Turkish-Russian partnership reaches a point [in a Syrian peace deal],” Kurtulmuş added.
‘Syrians will decide on al-Assad’s future’
“I am one of those who believe our policy on Syria made big mistakes. I have already spoken bluntly about this,” he said, adding that Turkey will never side with al-Assad or his aides but should still “correct its mistakes.”
“We of course believe that keeping such a murderer or officials of this regime in their job would not be humane. But this decision will be given by those who sit around the table for peace talks. Turkey will be a guarantor of any decision taken in this regard, but it would not be right for us to impose any decision,” Kurtulmuş said.