The foreign minister pointed out two main issues for Turkey in its relationship with the U.S, including “its request for U.S. extradition of Fetullah Gulen, the Pennsylvania-based Turkish cleric charged with orchestrating last summer’s coup attempt, and U.S. dependence on and support for Syrian Kurdish fighters that Turkey considers terrorists.”
He expressed confidence in Trump’s leadership to remove Turkey’s concerns.
“I am confident that there is definitely a better understanding of both concerns by Trump,” said Çavuşoğluwho came to the U.S. for the inauguration of Trump and met this week with Michael T. Flynn, the president-elect’s designated national security adviser.
“We need to rebuild mutual trust,” Çavuşoğlu said, adding that “anti-Americanism is on the rise in Turkey.
“Turkey is confident that its relations with the United States will improve significantly under President-elect Donald Trump.”
About the upcoming intra-Syrian talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana, Çavuşoğlu said: “The conference hopes to solidify the cease-fire, which both Assad and Iranian allies have violated, and to initiate direct talks between the sides on the ground prior to United Nations-sponsored peace negotiations in early February.”
He criticized the U.S. for not cooperating with Turkey in its fight against Daesh terrorist organization in Syria, saying: “They are using my airbase, and they are not giving air cover.”
Cooperation with Russia
About reports that Turkey was “tilting” away from NATO towards Russia, Çavuşoğlu replied: “I’m not cooperating with Russia against NATO allies or anybody else, but against terrorists.
“Do we have to agree to whatever the U.S. asks or says since we are allies?” he said. “No. I don’t have to . . . or vice versa.”
Çavuşoğlu said it was a “typical” question to ask if there was a shift or not whenever Turkey had good relations with other countries. “Countries follow their own interests,” he said.
He pointed out that other countries had extensive economic and other interests with Russia despite sanctions imposed following Russian incursions in Ukraine.
“Do I ask those countries whether they have ‘shifted’?…. How can I say no to any country when it comes to fighting against terrorist organizations?” he said.
Drawing attention to the fact that the perpetrators of recent terrorist attacks in Turkey, including in Istanbul and Ankara came from YPG camps in Syria, Çavuşoğlu said: “One terrorist organization is forcing the policy of a big country like the United States…Is it acceptable? No.”
About the offensive to hit Daesh’s stronghold in Syria’s Raqqa, he said: “Once they take al-Bab [in Syria], Turkish forces will turn eastward toward the de facto Islamic State [Daesh] capital of Raqqa, where the United States, the YPG and allied Syrian Arab forces are organizing an offensive for later this year.”
Çavuşoğlu said if Turkey encountered the PYD, it will fight the group.
Turkey, the U.S., and the EU have designated the PKK as a terror organization. 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.