Tillerson says US, Turkey will work together in Syria

Tillerson Mc Master expected to push Turkish leaders to cease Afrin strikes

The United States and Turkey have pulled back from the brink of crisis, agreeing to normalise badly strained relations over Syria and other issues that had threatened the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies' longstanding ties.

Tillerson met late Thursday with Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for more than three hours, after which both sides said the discussion was productive but inconclusive.

Turkey is riled over Washington's support to the Kurdish YPG - the top U.S. ally in the fight against the Islamic State group.

Turkey launched an air and ground assault on the northern Syrian region last month to drive the YPG away from Turkey's border with Syria. According to Turkey, YPG is an expansion of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) movement, which has engaged in decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

At a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Tillerson also said that the United States has serious concerns about local employees at its missions in Turkey and called on Ankara to release a US pastor and other Americans detained in Turkey.

Turkey has said previously the USA did not honor previous pledges to withdraw Kurdish fighters east across the Euphrates river.

The US has struggled to find a consistent narrative on its relationship with the YPG, at least one that will satisfy the Turks.

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

Turkey’s Afrin operation
Reuters

"We maintain an absolutely honest and open dialogue", Mattis said after meeting his Turkish counterpart Nurettin Canikli on the sidelines of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting a day earlier.

"We're going to act together from this point forward".

"We demanded this relationship be ended, I mean we want them to end all the support given to the Syrian arm of PKK, the YPG", Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli told reporters in a briefing in Brussels, a day after meeting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on the sidelines of a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation meeting. The city is controlled by Kurds and is used by the USA military to support Kurdish operations against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS).

The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey's rights based on worldwide law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.

The U.S. and Turkey will hold another meeting created to calm tensions in Syria in mid-March.

In Brussels, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States and Turkey are in open dialogue about their differences. However, despite previous pledges made by the United States and several warnings from the Turkish side, it is business as usual between the United States and the YPG/PYD. "We will coordinate to restore stability in Manbij and other cities".

"We have sufficient rigour in the political sharing, the political discussions, to keep the European Union effort, for example on military mobility", Mattis said.

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