Turkey to press Trump to keep promises on YPG withdrawal
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Nov. 12 that the YPG group was yet left areas along the Turkish border despite agreements to that end with Russia and the United States. He said he will raise the issue with his U.S. counterpart, Donald Trump.
“Neither Russia nor the United States has been able to clean (northern Syria) of terrorist organizations within the time they promised,” he told reporters before departing for Washington where we will meet the U.S. president.
The Turkish president said he would raise the issue with Trump, and after his return, with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone.
The core of the talks in Washington will be the issue of Syria, he stated.
Despite the ups and downs in bilateral ties between Ankara and Washington, Erdoğan stated that his dialogue with the U.S. president aims to strengthen these ties.
“Despite the fog in our relations, we are in agreement... with Mr. Trump to improve our relations,” he said, noting that Turkey wants to start a new period with the United States regarding security issues.
Ankara sees the YPG as the Syrian offshoot of the illegal PKK.
Turkey struck a deal with the U.S. on Oct. 17 to suspend its military offensive in northern Syria, in return for Washington ensuring a pullout of the YPG from a proposed “safe zone.”
Ankara concluded a separate deal with Russia on Oct. 22 under which Moscow agreed to ensure the withdrawal of the YPG from adjacent areas.
Turkey launched the operation last month to push the YPG back from its border and create room to repatriate Syrian refugees.
Erdoğan said he would also prove with documents that a possible meeting of YPG leader Ferhat Abdi Şahin, codenamed Mazloum Kobani, with U.S. officials would be wrong because he has been involved in terrorist attacks.
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen previously had asked the U.S. State Department to issue Kobani a visa so he could visit Washington. Trump also had said that he anticipated a meeting with the YPG leader.
Erdoğan said he will also raise Turkey’s long-standing extradition request for U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara blames for orchestrating the 2016 failed coup, and the U.S. charges against Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank for Iran sanctions-busting are also contentious.
Washington and Ankara hit several disagreements, with the last one in October over Syria, after Turkey began a cross-border incursion against the YPG. Months earlier, the U.S. was livid over Turkey’s purchase of Russian made S-400 missile defense systems.
Turkey shrugged off threats of U.S. sanctions and began receiving its first S-400 deliveries in July. In response, Washington removed
Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, in which Ankara was a manufacturer and buyer.
But so far, it has not imposed any sanctions.
The move infuriated the U.S. Congress, whose anger toward Turkey deepened following Ankara’s offensive into Syria.
The U.S. House of Representatives last month passed a sanctions package to punish Turkey over its Syria operation while key members of the Senate, including Trump ally Lindsey Graham, have vowed to advance it if Ankara endangers Syrian Kurds.
The House has also voted in favor of a non-binding resolution recognizing as genocide the deaths of Armenians in 1915 incidents during World War I, for the first time, angering Ankara.
'More ISIL members will be deported if EU sanctions Turkey'
Erdoğan also warned Europe that Turkey could release ISIL prisoners and send them back to Europe in the event of EU sanctions over Cyprus.
“You may take this lightly, but these doors [to Europe] will open and these Daesh [ISIL] members will be sent to you,” Erdoğan said.
The president said that he would not give in to EU demands to stop oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean around Cyprus.
“Do not dare give an ultimatum to Turkey about the developments on Cyprus,” he said.
Turkey would continue repatriating foreign ISIL militants to their home countries, even if those countries decline to take them back, he said.
“Hey EU, know this: Turkey is not one of those countries you have come to know until now. We are a country that sits at the negotiating table with you...” he said and added, “These negotiations may suddenly end.”
“You should revise your stance toward Turkey,” he said, recalling that Turkey holds so many ISIL members in prison and controls them in Syria.
On Nov. 11 Turkey said it had begun deporting ISIL prisoners it has captured, starting a program to repatriate the detainees that have further strained ties with its European NATO allies. Erdoğan also said he would raise this issue at the upcoming NATO summit.
Asked about a U.S. citizen deported by Turkey on Nov. 11 on the ground of being an ISIL member, Erdoğan said it was not a matter of Turkey.
“Him being stuck between the borders is not a problem of Turkey. We continue to send them back. If they [the original countries] are accepting or not, is not our problem. The ISIL suspect was marooned in the no-man’s land between the Turkish and Greek borders after the Greek authorities refused him entry. Turkey, Greece and the U.S. were in talks for his extradition as the suspect entered Turkey through Greece and was captured in Syria during the Turkish military offensive.
On Nov. 11, the Council of the European Union announced it had adopted a framework for sanctions on Turkish officials and companies over what it says is “unauthorized” drilling activity in Cypriot waters in the eastern Mediterranean.