Turkey has two main expectations of the U.S., focused on two terrorist groups, namely FETO and the Syrian YPG, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Monday.
Addressing a gathering of Turkish ambassadors 11 days before the inauguration of a new U.S. president, Cavusoglu said, “We believe the U.S. will not continue making the same mistakes of the recent past.”
“We have two primary expectations,” he continued. “The first is the extradition of FETO leader [Fetullah Gulen] and other [FETO] officials as soon as possible. The second is ending cooperation with the PKK-affiliated YPG.”
He said these expectations carry “vital” importance for bilateral relations.
Led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) is accused of orchestrating the July 2016 coup plot in Turkey as well as being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
The July 15 defeated coup left at least 248 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
The Turkish government has repeatedly requested Gulen’s extradition, while the outgoing Obama administration has said extradition is a lengthy, demanding legal procedure.
Turkish officials have expressed hope that the incoming Trump administration will be quicker to extradite Gulen.
The YPG is the armed branch of the PYD – the Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., and the EU.
According to Turkey, the YPG and PYD are terrorist organizations, too, as they are affiliates of the PKK.
However, the U.S. considers YPG/PYD a “reliable partner” on the ground in Syria and continues to support them in the field.
“Turkey and the U.S. are two strategic partners that have power and opportunities to create positive effects across a vast region. We believe this cooperation should be preserved carefully,” said Cavusoglu.
He added that Turkey’s “most important and primary” foreign policy aim is to fight FETO.
“We are closely following the extradition of the organization leader [Gulen]. We place great importance [on this]. We will also closely follow this process during the new period in the U.S.,” he added, referring to the incoming U.S. administration.
Cavusoglu warned those who seek to block Turkey’s global aims and progress, saying: “Whether you want it or not, Turkey will continue to go its way.”
Cavusoglu also said Turkey expects the EU to adopt a “sincere and determined” manner against FETO and other terrorist groups.
He also said visa-free travel for Turkish nationals within the Schengen area should be ensured “as soon as possible,” as envisioned in the agreement with the EU on refugees reached last March. He added Turkey expects the opening of more chapters with the EU.
Turkey applied for membership in the EU in 1987, while accession talks began in 2005.
Negotiations, however, hit a stalemate in 2007. The German and French governments have also opposed the country’s full EU membership.
To gain membership, Turkey has to successfully conclude negotiations with the EU in 35 policy chapters that involve reforms and the adoption of European standards.
“We will play an important role in the future of Europe,” said Cavusoglu.
He added that Turkey’s foreign policy is so “varied and successful” that it cannot be caught between Schengen and Shanghai.
Last fall Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled that Ankara was considering joining trade blocs besides the EU, especially the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).
Cavusoglu said the terrorist YPG is not truly working to fight Daesh, adding: “On the contrary, [its aim is] to divide Syria.”
“We will continue to support Syria’s territorial integrity and political unity. We are determined to put out this fire next door,” he added.
Cavusoglu said Turkey is continuing its Operation Euphrates Shield, which supports both Turkey’s border security and Syria’s territorial integrity.
“Thank God Daesh was cleared from our borders,” he added.
The Turkish-led Operation Euphrates Shield began last August to improve security, support coalition forces, and eliminate the terror threat along Turkey’s border using Free Syrian Army fighters backed by Turkish artillery and jets.
Cavusoglu decried the international community’s silence over Syria while Turkey hosts over 2.8 million Syrian refugees.
Syria has been locked in a devastating civil war since early 2011, when the Bashar al-Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protests – which erupted as part of the Arab Spring uprisings – with unexpected ferocity.
Since then, more than a quarter of a million people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced across the war-torn country, according to the UN.