On side­lines of Ar­mistice Day, Er­do­gan, Trump to lay re­main­ing di­vi­sions on ta­ble

Pres­i­dent Er­doğan’s visit to Paris for Ar­mistice Day com­mem­o­ra­tions is ex­pected to see a meet­ing with his U.S. coun­ter­part Don­ald Trump, dur­ing which key is­sues, par­tic­u­larly FETÖ and the YPG, will be dis­cussed

Daily Sabah (Turkey) - - Front Page - ÖZGENUR SEVİNÇ - ANKARA

Pres­i­dent Er­doğan will be among the many world lead­ers who will at­tend the Ar­mistice Day com­mem­o­ra­tions on the cen­te­nary of the end of WWI in Paris, where he is ex­pected to meet with U.S. Pres­i­dent Trump and dis­cuss ways to over­come re­main­ing prob­lems, es­pe­cially FETÖ and the YPG

PRES­I­DENT Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan will be at­tend­ing the Ar­mistice Day com­mem­o­ra­tions this week­end in France where he will also hold a sig­nif­i­cant bi­lat­eral meet­ing with United States Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in an at­tempt to ad­dress var­i­ous is­sues. As the cur­rent poli­cies of the U.S. in Syria raise eye­brows in Ankara, the res­o­lu­tion of dif­fer­ences re­mains a far prospect if the U.S. in­sists on de­fend­ing its mis­steps, par­tic­u­larly over Washington’s sup­port for the PKK’s Syria branch and also the Gülenist Ter­ror Group (FETÖ). The re­cent mur­der of Saudi Jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi is also ex­pected to be one of the key top­ics in the Er­doğan-Trump meet­ing on the side­lines in Paris. Er­doğan and Trump are ex­pected to dis­cuss a wide range of is­sues that have amassed since their last com­pre­hen­sive meet­ing in New York on Sept. 21, 2017. “In his meet­ing with Trump, Er­doğan may first welcome the re­cent step of the U.S. to put boun­ties on se­nior PKK lead­ers. Yet, he will also clearly un­der­line that Turkey will op­pose any at­tempt by the U.S. to dif­fer­en­ti­ate the PKK from its Syr­ian af­fil­i­ate the Peo­ple’s Pro­tec­tion Units [YPG],” Murat Yeşil­taş, an aca­demic at Ankara So­cial Sci­ence Univer­sity and di­rec­tor of Se­cu­rity Stud­ies at the Foun­da­tion for Po­lit­i­cal, Eco­nomic and So­cial Re­search (SETA) said.

un­der­scored that Er­doğan will high­light Turkey’s red line in Syria and its ex­pec­ta­tions from the U.S.

Ac­cord­ing to the press re­lease from the pres­i­dency, Er­doğan is ex­pected to hold bi­lat­eral talks with some lead­ers in France. It was high­lighted that nearly 100 high-level gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and lead­ers will at­tend the cer­e­monies which are to be hosted by French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron in the cap­i­tal Paris. The Ar­mistice Day of Nov. 11 marks the end of World War I be­tween the Al­lies and their op­po­nent, Ger­many, on land, sea and air in 1918.

Dif­fer­ing per­spec­tives on Syria is one of the ur­gent is­sues that the two coun­tries need to re­solve. The re­cent moves by the U.S. in Syria in­di­cates that it be­lieves it can han­dle its re­la­tions with both Turkey and the YPG. Yet, Ankara re­mains in a clear po­si­tion when it comes to the YPG and its links with the PKK ter­ror­ist group that it has been fight­ing for nearly four decades.

Turkey has long said it will not al­low the YPG to re­main present in the re­gion, as it is con­sid­ered or­gan­i­cally linked with the PKK. Yet, con­tin­u­ous U.S. sup­port for the YPG has al­lowed the group to es­tab­lish it­self mil­i­tar­ily in the re­gion.

The YPG’s ul­ti­mate aim is to es­tab­lish an au­ton­o­mous re­gion in north­ern Syria by con­nect­ing the north­west­ern Afrin can­ton to the Kobani and Jazeera can­tons in the north­east, which would pro­vide the group ac­cess to the Mediter­ranean Sea. On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Oper­a­tion Olive Branch to push YPG and Daesh ter­ror­ists from north­west­ern Syria’s Afrin re­gion. On March 18, Turkish troops and af­fil­i­ated Free Syr­ian Army (FSA) forces lib­er­ated Afrin dis­trict cen­ter, a move that has put a large dent in the group’s plans in the re­gion.

TURKEY TAKES U.S. STEPS WITH PINCH OF SALT

On Tues­day, the U.S. an­nounced a com­bined $12 mil­lion re­ward for se­nior PKK lead­ers while back­ing its Syr­ian off­shoot the YPG by pro­vid­ing train­ing, arms and mil­i­tary equip­ment. The U.S. Depart­ment of State’s Re­wards for Jus­tice pro­gram au­tho­rized up to $5 mil­lion for in­for­ma­tion on PKK’s act­ing leader Murat Karayılan, $4 mil­lion for Cemil Bayık and $3 mil­lion for Du­ran Kalkan.

Turkey re­acted to the move cau­tiously, high­light­ing that it was a be­lated de­ci­sion and it was un­ac­cept­able that while re­wards are be­ing put on PKK lead­ers, truck­loads and planeloads of weapons and mil­i­tary equip­ment are be­ing de­liv­ered to the YPG.

De­fense Min­is­ter Hu­lusi Akar com­mented on the pres­ence of ter­ror groups in Syria yes­ter­day say­ing, “We will not al­low any ter­ror cor­ri­dor in north­ern Syria and Iraq. We are con­tin­u­ing our ef­forts east of the Euphrates river.”

“The U.S. is one of the key ac­tors in Syria and its aim is to act as hege­monic leader in the re­gion by es­tab­lish­ing per­ma­nent in­flu­ence. By arm­ing and sup­port­ing the YPG in Syria, the U.S keeps its stake in the con­flict and the re­gion as a whole,” Va­le­ria Gion­natta, an aca­demic from the Univer­sity of the Turkish Aero­nau­ti­cal As­so­ci­a­tion, said.

While Ankara has been strongly re­ject­ing the U.S.’ ef­forts to jus­tify its part­ner­ship with the YPG, the U.S. has been call­ing the ter­ror group their part­ners and stress­ing that the YPG “is ef­fec­tively fight­ing against Daesh.”

U.S. Spe­cial Rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Syria James Jef­frey said Wed­nes­day that while the U.S. “un­der­stood” Turkey’s se­cu­rity con­cerns re­gard­ing the ties be­tween the PKK and YPG, it does not con­sider the YPG a ter­ror­ist group.

“Our po­si­tion on the PKK is clear, but we do not clas­sify the YPG as a ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tion. We never did,” Jef­frey said. “We un­der­stand Turkey’s se­cu­rity con­cerns. We un­der­stand the con­cern over ties be­tween PKK and YPG. That’s why we are act­ing very, very care­fully. We in­form Turkey about what we do and why we do it.”

The state­ments coming from the U.S. have been fail­ing to al­lay Turkey’s con­cerns. Turkish and U.S. troops be­gan joints pa­trols on Nov. 1 as part of the Man­bij road map which fo­cuses on the with­drawal of the YPG from the north­ern Syr­ian city. The sec­ond round of joint pa­trols were con­ducted on Thurs­day.

How­ever, while Ankara has been seek­ing to in­crease its co­op­er­a­tion with the U.S. and ac­cel­er­ate the slug­gish process of the Man­bij road map, the U.S. con­tin­ues to take con­tro­ver­sial steps. It launched joint pa­trols with the YPG east of the Euphrates river near the Turkish bor­der, just a day af­ter the first joint pa­trols with Turkey, rais­ing crit­i­cism from Turkey.

“Both the U.S. and Turkey have al­ready tested the lim­its of their re­cip­ro­cal re­la­tions and even though some di­vi­sive is­sues re­main, some con­tin­gen­cies are push­ing for mov­ing to­ward a pos­i­tive di­a­logue,” Gion­natta said com­ment­ing on the fu­ture of ties and stress­ing the im­por­tance of con­tin­u­ing di­a­logue.

Aside from the de­vel­op­ments in Syria and U.S. sup­port of the YPG, there are many other is­sues that are ex­pected to be dis­cussed by the two lead­ers.

KHASHOGGI, FETÖ TO BE DIS­CUSSED

“The sec­ond most im­por­tant is­sue that will be dis­cussed by the lead­ers may be the killing of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi. Er­doğan might share fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about the mur­der of the jour­nal­ist as Turkey ex­pects more steps from the U.S. to mount pres­sure on Saudis,” Yeşil­taş added.

Is­tan­bul’s Chief Pub­lic Pros­e­cu­tor İr­fan Fi­dan, who is lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, an­nounced last week that Khashoggi, who lived in self-im­posed ex­ile in the United States, was stran­gled im­me­di­ately af­ter he en­tered the Saudi Con­sulate in Is­tan­bul on Oct. 2, as part of a pre­med­i­tated killing and that his body was dis­mem­bered be­fore be­ing re­moved. The case has brought near un­prece­dented in­ter­na­tional scru­tiny on Saudi Ara­bia and its pow­er­ful Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, also known as MBS, whom Khashoggi had crit­i­cized.

The ex­tra­di­tion of the Gülenist Ter­ror Group (FETÖ) leader who or­ches­trated the July 15 coup at­tempt in 2016, where 251 peo­ple died and nearly 2,200 were in­jured, is also ex­pected to be dis­cussed in the meet­ings be­tween the two lead­ers. Er­doğan will draw at­ten­tion to the is­sue, which has slipped from the agenda re­cently, and re­it­er­ate Turkey’s de­mands for ex­tra­di­tion.

Ankara also ac­cuses FETÖ of be­ing be­hind a long-run­ning cam­paign to over­throw the state through the in­fil­tra­tion of Turkish in­sti­tu­tions, par­tic­u­larly the mil­i­tary, po­lice and ju­di­ciary.

Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan (R) and U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump (L) fol­low other lead­ers for a photo shoot dur­ing the NATO sum­mit in Brus­sels, July 11.

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