US and Turkey must mend ties, says Ankara official

US and Turkey must mend ties, says Ankara official
Relations between the NATO allies have been strained, mostly over US support for a Kurdish militia on Syria's border with Turkey.
3 min read
07 February, 2018
Cavusoglu plans to share these thoughts with Tillerson in an expected visit soon [Getty]

The US and Turkey must repair damaged relations, the Turkish foreign minister said Tuesday, following a number of disagreements between the two NATO allies, particularly over Syria.

Relations between Washington and Ankara have been strained, in part due to US support for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria.

Turkey sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is designated as a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and EU.

"Our trust is damaged. We have to mend our trust. The contacts between us are important," Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister said in an interview with TGRT Haber.

"When (US Secretary of State Rex) Tillerson comes we will share these ideas with him sincerely, we will share our expectations," he said.

Turkish media had earlier reported that Tillerson and US National Security Advisor HR McMaster would both visit Turkey soon, although Cavusoglu did not specify when.

Two weeks ago, Ankara launched Operation Olive Branch in the northern Syrian region of Afrin, fighting the YPG militia, which Turkey considers a terror group.

The YPG also controls the key strategic town of Manbij to the east and then a long strip of territory east of the Euphrates up to the Iraqi border.

With the YPG a key ally of Washington in the battle against the Islamic State group, the Turkish campaign has seen the two NATO partners on opposite ends of the spectrum.

"The United States should understand and meet our concerns," Cavusoglu said. "You are cooperating with this terror organisation, knowingly. And this poses a threat to us."

On Sunday, Turkey threatened to expand its military operation against Kurdish militia in the Syrian town of Manbij, warning that US troops risked being targeted if they wore enemy uniform.

Washington's priority is to prevent IS from resurging and to keep Damascus' ally - Iran out of the region - and Afrin is not central to these goals, with officials saying it will distract from the war on IS.

That is likely to change if Ankara sees through with its threat to expand the fight to Manbij, a Syrian town to the east where US soldiers are deployed alongside Kurdish forces that took the town from IS in 2016. 

Last week, US President Donald Trump his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to "de-escalate" his forces assault on Afrin as he expressed concern about "the destructive and false" anti-US rhetoric emanating from Turkey.

The UN has estimated that 15,000 have already been displaced in the offensive, and there are fears that a sustained military campaign could spark a "humanitarian tragedy" for civilians living on the Syrian-Turkish border.