By Hurriyet Daily News
Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has stressed that the normalization of ties between Ankara and Washington depends on the U.S. keeping its promises, adding that Turkey had “given another chance to bilateral relations.”
“You can say we have given another chance to bilateral relations,” he said on Feb. 18, speaking to journalists during the Munich Security Conference.
Çavuşoğlu said the sides had agreed to establish two mechanisms during U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Ankara last week, with the goal of addressing festering bilateral issues between the two NATO allies.
One part of the mechanism would particularly focus on Ankara’s expectations from Washington regarding the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ) and its U.S.-based leader, widely believed to have orchestrated a coup attempt in 2016, he said.
Another part focuses on U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. “[We need to work out] how the YPG is going to leave Manbij, and how we can coordinate this together, and how those [Syrian] towns and cities are going to be governed, by whom, and who is going to ensure the security of these cities and towns,” he said.
The U.S. and Turkey will either normalize relations or bilateral ties will grow even worse, he also said, stating that Turkey had lost confidence in the U.S. due to Washington’s support for the YPG in Syria.
Ankara sees the YPG as a terror organization for its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting the Turkish state for decades.
“Our relations with the U.S. have been going through a critical period. Either we normalize relations, put relations back on track, or they will get even worse,” he stressed.
“From our side we didn’t do anything wrong. They can’t claim that Turkey actually undermined bilateral relations. They can’t say that Turkey acted hostilely towards the U.S.,” he added.
Senior Turkish and American officials are set to hold their first working group meeting in the first half of March under the new mechanism, he said.
“Let’s see how well they deliver,” he said, warning that if they do not deliver, “then we will have to deal with that.”
The YPG used U.S. arms in terror attacks
One of Ankara’s key demands is that Washington takes back weapons the U.S. supplied to the YPG, Çavuşoğlu said.
Çavuşoğlu said the issue was a serious concern for Ankara, not least because the YPG had tried to smuggle some of these weapons into Turkey.
“And we also caught some of them in the hands of PKK terrorists in Turkey. They were using them to attack our security personnel and civilians,” he said.
Now that the ISIL [Islamic State in Iraq and the Levent] has lost control of most of the region, there is no justification for any additional arms supplies, he noted.
“And the weapons delivered to them should be taken back,” he stressed.
Çavuşoğlu also insisted that the YPG should leave Manbij, a predominantly Arab town with a strategic position west of the Euphrates River.
“The YPG cannot control predominantly Arab cities. They have to leave,” he said.
He said the U.S. side had long promised Turkey that the YPG would leave Manbij, but so far the promise had not been kept.