Turkish officials hold high-level talks in Washington before Erdoğan-Trump meeting

Turkish officials hold high-level talks in Washington before Erdoğan-Trump meeting

Cansu Çamlıbel - WASHINGTON
Turkish officials hold high-level talks in Washington before Erdoğan-Trump meeting A Turkish preparatory delegation is holding high-level talks with U.S. officials in Washington ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit in the U.S. capital on May 16-17, when he will meet U.S. President Donald Trump.

Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar met his U.S. counterpart, Joseph Dunford, on May 6, while Turkish Intelligence Agency (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan held talks with CIA Director Mike Pompeo.

The visits by Akar and Fidan were planned ahead of time, as both Dunford and Pompeo visited Turkey in February. However, the third official in the delegation, presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın, was specifically in Washington to lay the groundwork for Erdoğan’s trip to the White House to meet its new incumbent in the middle of next week.

All three officials once again noted Turkey’s appeals and warnings on the U.S. cooperation with the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria, which Ankara considers as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and thus a terrorist group.

The delegation’s most important meeting was with H.R. McMaster, Trump’s national security adviser. Akar, Fidan and Kalın were to attend the meeting together late on May 8 to give McMaster a strong message that the YPG is a threat to Turkey’s national security just like the PKK and that the country reserves the right to take action against the group when it deems it necessary.

The Turkish delegation presented documents to U.S. officials regarding the YPG’s alleged links to the PKK, reiterating the demand that the YPG be sidelined from U.S. plans to wrest control of Raqqa from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Ankara is frustrated as the U.S. forces have become heavily dependent on the YPG in their fight against ISIL, with Washington planning to launch a massive military campaign in Raqqa with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by Kurdish fighters.

Ankara wants to convince its NATO ally to not continue the Raqqa offensive without Turkey, which has proposed that Washington attack with Syrian Arab fighters instead of the YPG.

The delegation’s meetings come at a time in which there are strong signals that Trump will authorize the Pentagon to send heavy weaponry to the YPG. Ankara hopes to convey its concerns and warnings directly to Trump via McMaster, as Turkish officials believe that earlier messages sent on the YPG have been “filtered” by some generals at the Pentagon. 

They also believe that Turkish-U.S. relations have not accelerated as intended because many officials in various institutions, who were appointed during the Barack Obama era, are still working on some cases regarding Turkey.