‘New day’ starts with US, says Turkish PM

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said that a new page in U.S.-Turkey relations is being opened with the new administration at the White House. 

“We are opening a new page with the U.S. administration; they call it ‘new day,’” state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Yıldırım as saying on Feb. 19 in Munich, where he attended the Munich Security Conference.

Relations between the U.S. and Turkey mostly during the last year of former President Barack Obama’s tenure was tumultuous due to U.S. reluctance to hand back U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, which the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, and differences on the designation of Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD).

While Turkey regards the PYD and its military wing, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), as terrorist organizations due to their links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the U.S. sees them as a reliable partner in their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in northern Syria. The U.S. mainly supports the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is comprised mainly of YPG militia and some Arab forces, in the U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition.

Yıldırım said Turkey’s fighting style in a possible Raqqa operation to liberate it from ISIL militants would be the same as in the northern Syrian town of al-Bab.

“We already have military elements in the region that support the Free Syrian Army [FSA]. Most probably they [the Turkish military elements] will give support,” said Yıldırım.

Answering a question on what Turkey would do if the new U.S. administration insisted on conducting the Raqqa operation with YPG forces and if Turkey would act on its own, Yıldırım said that he did not receive a vibe like that.

“I did not get such an impression. They are in an evaluation process; we need to see the result,” said Yıldırım, talking one day after a tête-à-tête with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference.

Yıldırım said Feb. 18 that Turkey would be part of an operation to liberate Raqqa, though not directly and by giving tactical support, if a deal with U.S.-led coalition forces could be reached.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Feb. 19 that Turkey will clear ISIL from Raqqa if an agreement is reached with the U.S. and the U.S.-led coalition fighting the jihadist group.

Turkey proposed that the U.S. should send its own Special Forces to northern Syria to back moderate opposition forces fighting against Daesh, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Sunday.

Turkey proposed US Special Forces in northern Syria to support moderate opposition: FM

In his address to the Munich Security Conference, Cavusoglu called on the U.S. and other allies to end their support for the terrorist PKK’s Syrian offshoot, PYD, and instead support the moderate opposition forces in a stronger way.

“Two days ago [U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] Gen. [Joseph] Dunford was in Ankara to discuss all these technical issues. Yes, we proposed to the U.S. to put their Special Forces on the ground to support the local moderate forces,” he said.

Cavusoglu underlined that the right group to support in the fight against Daesh should be the Syrian moderate opposition forces instead of the PYD/YPG, which are affiliated with the terrorist group PKK seeking an independent state.

“Cooperating with a terrorist organization in our fight against another terrorist organization is very dangerous,” he said.

“That is the mistake the previous administration in the U.S. made. They gave weapons to YPG and PKK got some of the weapons. And PKK used those weapons in their terrorist attacks in Turkey,” he said.