US Defense Secretary to visit Turkey soon: Presidential spokesperson

US Defense Secretary to visit Turkey soon: Presidential spokesperson

US Defense Secretary to visit Turkey soon: Presidential spokesperson

AP photo

U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis will visit Turkey in the coming days, Turkish Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın stated on Aug. 17. 

During a press briefing in Ankara, Kalın commented on the current situation in Syria and the visit of Iranian Chief of General Staff Maj. Gen. Mohamed Baqeri, which was the first visit to Turkey by the head of Iran’s military since the 1979 revolution.

“Iran is an important border neighbor of our region. We see that we are on the same page in wanting to provide Iraq’s stability, Syria’s territorial integrity and the Astana process,” Kalın told journalists.

Turkey, Iran, and Russia agreed in May to set up “de-escalation zones” in Syria to try to stem the fighting in some parts of the country, including the northern province of Idlib, which borders Turkey and has since been overrun by jihadists linked to a former al-Qaeda affiliate. 

Kalın said it would “not be appropriate” for him to give details on an operational level. 

“Turkey will adopt necessary measures if there are threats against it from Idlib, Afrin or Syrian and Iraqi borders,” he said, citing operations in Iraqi airspace against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and operations against the Democratic Union Party (PYD) as an example of measures that could be taken. 

“Necessary steps can be taken on the issue. The U.S. secretary of defense will visit our country in the upcoming process. The Astana process has been ongoing. Our talks are continuing,” he added. 

Stating that there the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the PKK also operate in Iraq, Kalın said the steps that could be taken against them are also being discussed. 

“Our priority is to adopt measures in Iraq and Syria,” he added. 

A day earlier, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Russia “understands Turkey’s stance” on the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) better than the U.S. 

He also said Russian Chief of Armed Forces Staff Gen. Valery Gerasimov will visit Turkey to discuss the situation in Idlib.