Photo: AP
US Sect. of State Tillerson (L) and Turkish FM Cavusoglu
Photo: AP
US, Turkey return from brink, aim to 'normalize' ties
Secretary of State Tillerson visits Ankara in attempt to 'normalize' his country's relations with NATO ally Turkey; assistance provided to Kurdish rebels in Syria, American refusal to extradite cleric Gulen led to deep crisis in relations.

The United States and Turkey pulled back from the brink of crisis on Friday, agreeing to normalize badly strained relations over Syria and other issues that had threatened the NATO allies' longstanding ties.



However, details of the rapprochement were vague as the two sides agreed in principle only to form working groups that will begin meeting within the month to examine points of contention and try to resolve them.


US Sect. of State Tillerson speaking in Ankara


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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu announced the creation of new "mechanisms" to improve the relationship, starting with the question of American support for Kurdish rebels in northern Syria, after talks in Ankara.


US Sect. of State Tillerson (L) met with Turkish FM Cavusoglu to normalize the two countries' relations (Photo: Reuters)
US Sect. of State Tillerson (L) met with Turkish FM Cavusoglu to normalize the two countries' relations (Photo: Reuters)


Those talks followed a lengthy meeting among Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Cavusoglu and Tillerson late Thursday at which a broad range of disagreements were covered. In addition to Syria, those included Ankara's complaints against a US-based Turkish cleric whom Erdogan accuses of fomenting a failed 2016 coup, and US concerns about the state of Turkey's democracy.


"We brought forward proposals on how we can address all of the critical issues that are standing between our countries," Tillerson said during a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart. He said that joint working groups would take up specifics issues including troop deployments to address Turkish border security concerns.


Turkey is riled over Washington's support to the Kurdish YPG militia—the top US ally in the fight against the Islamic State group. Turkey considers it a "terrorist" group linked to Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey. Ties have also sunk to an all-time low over, what Turkey perceives to be Washington's reluctance to extradite a US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and the trial in the United States against a banker accused of helping Iran evade sanctions.


The US for its part is angered by the detention of US citizens and of Turkish employees of US consulates in Turkey on alleged terror charges.


 (Photo: AP)
(Photo: AP)


"We find ourselves at a bit of a crisis point in the relationship," Tillerson said, at a joint news conference with Cavusoglu, stressing the importance of ties between two countries that were once close.


"Ours is not an alliance of convenience. It is a time-tested alliance built on mutual respect, "Tillerson said. "We're going to work together moving forward."


Tillerson said the first committee would begin working in mid-March and deal with the issue of the town of Manbij, held by the US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia and where the United States has a military presence.


Turkey has long pressed the United States to ensure that the YPG leave Manbij and has threatened to extend an offensive to drive Syrian Kurds from a border enclave to that region.


"Our relations were at a critical turning point," Cavusoglu said. "We were either going to correct this or it was going to take a turn for the worse.


First published: 02.16.18, 14:30
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