Turkey to suggest joint Raqqa operation to US during secretary of state Tillerson’s visit
ANKARATurkey is expecting to hear a clearer position from the United States during a top diplomat’s visit to Ankara on the upcoming Raqqa operation on March 30 and is planning to suggest a joint action by excluding Syrian Kurdish groups.
“I believe the U.S.’s position on the Raqqa operation will become clearer during our meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson tomorrow,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told state-run TRT in an interview on March 29.
His statement came a day before Tillerson’s visit to the Turkish capital, where he is set to meet with senior Turkish officials. Tillerson will be the most senior U.S. official visiting Turkey since the new administration took office in January.
An overriding issue discussed in the meetings will be the upcoming Raqqa operation set to be carried out by the U.S.-led international coalition.
Recalling that Turkey conducted a successful strategy in clearing northern Syria of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) with the Euphrates Shield operation, Çavuşoğlu said the same strategy should be continued for Raqqa.
He stressed that conducting the operation with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is an associate of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), will be inconvenient as the group’s purpose is not to bring stability to Syria, but to dissolve it.
Saying that not only the U.S. but also Russia is lending support to the YPG, Çavuşoğlu described the situation as the reflection of the competition between these global powers in Syria. Criticizing all these actors including the Syrian regime for pursuing inconsistent and short-term policies, Çavuşoğlu said, “These are not long-term policies for Syria’s future and stability. How come both Russia and Syria can together support the YPG?”
“It’s not acceptable for these countries to engage with terror organizations for whatever reason. If they say that they want to continue to work with terror organizations, it’s up to them,” he said.
[HH] ‘FETÖ infiltrated US institutions’
Another key issue expected to be discussed at the talks will be Turkey’s persistent demand of the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), widely blamed for the July 2016 coup attempt.
In response to former CIA Director James Woolsey, who claimed that Turkey was planning to remove Gülen secretly from the U.S. with the help of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Çavuşoğlu said that “He is a former director but what he says is total nonsense. We are a state, not a terror organization.”
He said Turkey was working with U.S. Justice Department on the extradition of Gülen and was submitting new evidence on his leadership of the failed coup.
Çavuşoğlu said evidence was also given to Woolsey, accusing him of creating tension between the two countries. “Unfortunately, FETÖ did not only infiltrate institutions in Turkey but also many institutions in the U.S.,” he said.
He added that the coup attempt was organized by FETÖ with the support of some groups outside Turkey. “Those who try to protect FETÖ know perfectly that the coup was plotted by FETÖ,” he said.