“My wish is to meet Mr. Trump without much delay. On the top issues we’ll raise when we’ll meet will be making a fresh assessment of the Turkey-U.S. relationship within a strategic concept. Are our strategic ties running healthily now? No. We should make them healthy,” Erdoğan said while returning from Africa on Jan. 26.
One of the most important issues will be the Middle East as the Turkish-U.S. partnership in the region needs to be healthy, Erdoğan said. “We are two NATO countries but it can’t be said that our current level of solidarity befits NATO countries. Of course, in that regard, we will also have the chance to learn better what Mr. Trumps meant with his recent statements on NATO.”
Trump recently described NATO as obsolete and an old-fashioned institution.
On the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the U.S.-led international coalition is yet to deliver the required support to Turkey, Erdoğan said, recalling that a fresh and positive process had begun in Astana to find a solution to the Syrian problem.
“I plan to hold a meeting with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin. There could also be an opportunity to hold a phone conversation with Mr. Trump before a face-to-face meeting,” he said.
Another important issue between Turkey and the U.S. is the need to further improve the economic relationship, particularly in the field of the defense industry, Erdoğan said. “There were so many joint steps we have taken in the field of the defense industry until today. Will we continue through joint investments or through the logic of ‘You are the market, I am the trader?’ We prefer to continue with joint ventures,” the president said.
Al-Bab under siege
Erdoğan said Turkish troops and Free Syrian Army (FSA) forces had besieged al-Bab in a bid to defeat ISIL elements in the strategically important city, recalling how sensitive the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) were in not hurting civilians there.
“DEASH is seriously losing blood there. We are conducting our works with coalition forces. Russia is lending support from time to time. We are losing time because of our care for civilians,” the president said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
“We will evaluate all these with the prime minister and the TSK. If we have a chance to talk to Trump, as I have said, the Middle East will be among issues we’ll raise. We can’t lose time on it,” he added.
About possibility of encountering the regime in Al-Bab, Erdogan said:
“We are already facing with and against the regime. We encountered them in Cerablus, in El Rai, in Dabıq also. They used a tong. For example, PYD, YPG was activated in Afrin. Where did the weapons given by US go into? They went to PYD, YPG even ISIS sometimes. I hope that Geneva process, started in Astana with Russia and Iran, will attract the regime a positive point and El Bab will be solved “It is necessary to finish the job in El-Bab and not go deeper/further down. The work done is in this direction.”
Gülen will be on the agenda
Asked how the Turkish government would press on Washington for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled cleric accused of being the mastermind of the July 2016 coup attempt, Erdoğan said the issue would be part of his face-to-face meeting with Trump. “Our wish is an immediate accomplishment of this thing. We will ask about the fate of the 85 dossiers we provided them. And we will continue to send more dossiers under the investigation,” he said.
Why was the PYD not listed among terror groups in Astana?
Asked why a joint communiqué released in Astana did not list the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), among groups that need to be defeated in Syria, Erdoğan deferred to Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who has been accompanying him during the African tour.
“As you know, there was talk about the inclusion of the YPG at the Astana talks, but we did not allow this. That’s why it’s normal that the YPG made such a statement [that the Astana talks do not bind them]. There are different views on the YPG and the Hezbollah. Iran supports Hezbollah and other Shiite militias,” Çavuşoğlu said.
These groups are also supported by the Syrian government while Russia is not fully against them, Çavuşoğlu said. “Therefore providing a consensus on a joint fight against them is not possible. On the fight against the YPG, we known Iran and Russia are not as cool as the United States. We also know how Russia and particularly Iran are against the YPG.”
HDN & WHatti