US has to ‘re-engage’ with Turkey in Syria

US has to ‘re-engage’ with Turkey in Syria

US has to ‘re-engage’ with Turkey in Syria

AP photo

Former Exxon-Mobil CEO and U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, has urged the United States to re-engage with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to acquire a seat at the Syria and Middle East table.

“This is a long-standing NATO ally that in the absence of American leadership, got pretty nervous about [its] situation and turned to who was next available,” state-run Anadolu agency quoted Tillerson as telling the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. 

Tillerson was pointing to Ankara’s recent détente with Moscow, which helped facilitate a country-wide cease-fire in Syria following a six-year-old war and fierce clashes among opposing forces. 

“He turned to an ally in Russia that is not a sustainable ally,” he said. “Your sustainable alliance is with the United States of America.”

Turkey and the U.S. have recently been at odds especially over the designation of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG). 

Still, Tillerson urged recommitment “to the Syrian Kurds,” referring to the YPG, which has formed the backbone of Washington’s principal partner in Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). 

Turkey views the YPG and PYD as the Syrian-offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the U.S. and Turkey designate as a terror group. 

The U.S. has not labeled the YPG or the PYD as such.

While urging a recalibration of the U.S.’ Syria policy, the former ExxonMobil CEO, who has had close business ties with Russia, said Moscow is “a danger” to the U.S.

“But it is not unpredictable in advancing its own interests,” said Tillerson. “We need an open and frank dialogue with Russia regarding its ambitions so we know how to chart our own course,” he added.

“Cooperation with Russia based on common interest is possible,” he said, pointing to potential joint counterterrorism efforts.