The U.S. is sending US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due in Ankara later this week to help defuse tensions with the Turkish government of President Erdogan. Relations with the Turks, a long-time ally have never been worse and now Turkey is claiming that the U.S. is intentionally stalling the fight against the Islamic State to justify their forces remaining with Kurdish fighters and thus giving them a level of protection against Turkish attacks.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday warned that Turkey-US ties were at a “critical point” and Washington needed to take “concrete steps” to regain Ankara’s trust.
“Our relations are at a very critical stage,” Cavusoglu said in televised comments in Istanbul. “Either we will improve ties or these ties will totally break down.”
Tensions between the two NATO allies escalated after Ankara last month launched a military offensive against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in the western enclave of Afrin in northern Syria.
While Turkey views the YPG as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents fighting in Turkey, the US has been backing the Kurdish militia in the fight against the “Islamic State.”
Cavusoglu claimed that US forces are leaving “pockets” with IS militants intact to justify continued cooperation with the Kurdish militia.
Turkey has also warned the US to remove its troops from the YPG-held town of Manbij as it threatens to expand its offensive towards the town east of Afrin.
The two sides will soon meet in Ankara to “repair broken trust” as the Turks have billed it, but to defuse tensions from the American perspective. The former protest against Assad has turned Syria into a regional hotspot with several nations now involved and could be a powder keg more potent than the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan.
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