Turkey Ends 'Euphrates Shield' Syria Operation - in Name Only


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Thursday there was more discussion to be had on the way forward in Syria but that the status of President Bashar al-Assad would be decided by the Syrian people. The U.S. airlifted hundreds of so-called Syrian Democratic Forces behind enemy lines in Syria last week in what officials described as a key step toward Raqqa. "They are hard decisions that have to be made".

At a joint press conference on Thursday afternoon, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu appeared optimistic that the Trump administration would take "concrete steps" to improve relations with Turkey by backing off support for the YPG and handing over Mr Gulen. Their separatist aims are shared by a militant Kurdish group that has been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast for more than three decades. Cavusoglu said, in Turkish, that continuing support for the YPG had "negatively affected the Turkish people's sentiments toward the United States".

"It isn't right to cooperate with a terrorist organization while fighting against another one", he said.

Rex Tillerson is the most senior USA diplomat to visit Turkey since President Donald Trump took office in January.

Haldun Yalcinkaya, a former lieutenant colonel at the Turkish Military Academy and who now heads the worldwide relations department of Ankara's TOBB University of Economics and Technology, said that the current U.S. administration is just coordinating the last details with its partners for the coming Raqqa operation.

Erdogan has been incensed by Washington's readiness to work with the Kurdish YPG militia in the fight against Islamic State.

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Trump's decision, which was made Wednesday but not immediately announced, allows US special operations forces to accompany Somali National Army troops and other African allies as they move closer to the fight, enabling them to call in offensive airstrikes quicker.

Anadolu reports that Erdogan and Tillerson "addressed ongoing efforts to clear Daesh from Syria and Iraq as well as the extradition of Fetullah Gulen", an Islamic cleric based in Pennsylvania who Erdogan blames for a failed coup against him in July 2016.

But Cavusoglu said Ankara expected "better cooperation" with the Trump administration on the issue of Syrian Kurdish militia, adding that any USA support for YPG would mean a risk for Syria's future.

Tillerson did not meet members of the Turkish opposition during his visit, apparently avoiding domestic issues while trying to keep the focus on the fight against Islamic State.

Washington hasn't announced which fighters will lead the Raqqa operation, though signs point to a prominent role for the Kurdish-led group, which also includes Arab fighters.

"Life is back to normal".

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Turkey has suggested it wants to join any operation to capture the IS bastion of Raqqa but without involvement of Kurdish militia.

Cavusoglu said Turkey provided ample evidence to the United States and said that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had pledged to "evaluate the documents meticulously".

On both issues - Gulen and the YPG - Turkey had initially hoped the new administration would come around to see things its way.

"If a politician has a citizen in another country, he or she should be allowed to campaign in that country", he said.

The relationship between Turkey and the United States is fraught with tension.

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