Turkey-led forces scoop up 2 more towns in Syria's Afrin

17 February, 2018, 01:02 | Author: Genevieve Gibbs
  • Turkey won't let a state be founded along its border

Tillerson arrived in Turkey on Thursday for two days of what officials have said would likely be uncomfortable discussions between the allies, whose relations have frayed over a number of issues, particularly USA support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, seen as terrorists by Turkey.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu (C-R) meets with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (C-L) at Ankara Palas in Ankara, Turkey on February 16, 2018.

The talks with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were to focus on Washington's plan to continue providing the Kurdish militants assistance and Turkey's military operations in Kurdish areas of northern Syria.

"We are not going to act alone any longer, not USA doing one thing, Turkey doing another", Tillerson said in Ankara after talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

Litany of problems The squabble over Syria is, however, just one of a litany of issues burdening Turkey-US relations.

Turkey's operation against the YPG, which Ankara blacklists as a terror group, has seen Turkish troops fighting a militia which is closely allied with the U.S. in the battle against Islamic State (IS) group jihadists.

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Pro-Turkish forces are battling the militia in nearby Afrin, across Turkey's southern border with Syria.

"We have never given heavy arms to the YPG so there is none to take back", Tillerson said.

"As I said before, our relations are at a critical turning point", Tillerson said.

"They have been there consistently for two or three years - nearly for the whole period that the Washington-led coalition has worked in Syria and all this time the U.S. special forces and other units are in Syria on the ground, illegally, without any invitation from Damascus, or without any mandate of the UN Security Council", he said.

Tillerson is now on a Middle East tour and was visiting Ankara, Turkey where he tried to ease the tensions between his counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

The U.S. had warned Turkey against such move which it said could lead to confrontation between Turkish and U.S. troops.

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The priority, Tillerson said, will be Manbij, a Syrian town that the Kurdish YPG, with the support of U.S. troops, has seized from ISIS.

Cavusoglu repeated that promises made by the previous U.S administration about the YPG moving to the east of the river Euphrates were broken.

Analysts said the level of tension was similar to 2003 when Turkey refused to let United States troops operate from its territory for the Iraq war, or even the aftermath of Ankara's invasion of Cyprus in 1974.

Turkey's military campaign against Kurds in northern Syria has alarmed US leaders who have watched as the fighting has sapped energy from the fight against remaining Islamic State strongholds. He said USA and Turkish experts would meet to discuss what the ramifications of the purchase would be.

Tillerson said Manbij will be a "topic of discussion" with Turkey to ensure the city remains in control of allied forces of the United States.

While recognizing Turkey's right to secure its borders, Tillerson urged Ankara to show restraint in its military operation in Syria.

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