Rex Tillerson visits Turkey

Discussion in 'U.S. Strategic Affairs' started by Falcon, Mar 30, 2017.

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  1. Falcon

    Falcon Lieutenant Colonel Staff Member Social Media Team

    Oct 10, 2015
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    Tillerson and Turks fail to agree on next moves in fight against Islamic State in Syria

    Umar Farooq and Tracy Wilkinson
    March 30th, 2017

    Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a day of longer-than-planned meetings with Turkish leaders in Ankara on Thursday, but the most senior Trump administration official to visit the crucial NATO ally seemed to make little headway in salvaging an increasingly troubled relationship.

    Washington and Ankara disagree sharply over how to wage war against Islamic State militants in Syria, with the U.S. backing Kurdish militias whom the Turks disdain as terrorists.

    Although Tillerson sought to put the best face possible after the day’s drawn-out talks, it was clear no agreement was reached. He acknowledged that “difficult choices have to be made.”

    “Let there be no mistake,” Tillerson told reporters after more than two hours behind closed doors with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, “There is no space between Turkey and the United States in our commitment to defeat [Islamic State]. …

    “There is more discussion yet to be had regarding the way forward,” Tillerson added. “They are difficult options, let me be very frank. These are not easy decisions.”

    In their meeting, Erdogan reportedly warned Tillerson that Washington must rely on “right and legitimate” actors in the fight in Syria, code for Turkish demands that Kurdish militias be sidelined. Turkey believes that the Kurdish-dominated People’s Protection Units and Syrian Democratic Forces, backed by the U.S. in northern Syria, are merely extensions of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, a separatist group considered by Turkey and its allies — including the U.S. — to be a terrorist organization.

    Turkey's role is especially crucial as a battle looms to recapture the Syrian city of Raqqah, occupied by Islamic State and the group’s self-declared capital.

    Turkey sent hundreds of troops and heavy armor into Syria last summer to back thousands of rebels with the Free Syrian Army, another militia that has carved out a swath of land along the Syrian border and is now poised to expand into two Kurdish enclaves. American troops aiding the Kurds are in those same enclaves, which sit between Turkish forces and Raqqah.

    Turkey has said it could provide boots on the ground in an offensive on Raqqah — if the Kurdish forces are kept away.
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