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Turkish Media Strikes Hawkish Chord Ahead of Trump-Erdogan Meeting

Leyla Amur

Tensions are mounting between Turkey and the US over the latter’s support for Kurds in northern Syria, with the Turkish media taking an increasingly hawkish stance toward their NATO ally.

On Monday, Yeni Safak, a Turkish daily known for being close to the AKP government, released a poll that showed that 96% of Turkish citizens thought that the US poses a security threat to Turkey, with 94% of responders seeing NATO as a threat. Furthermore, roughly 96% of those surveyed said that the US should not be able to use its Incirlik Air Base located in Adana.

The poll was conducted by surveying 38,000 people on the newspaper’s website, with the results reflecting the views of its readership. The results of the survey seem to gel with views held by the paper’s writers.

Furthermore, well-known Yeni Safak columnist Ibrahim Karagul penned a piece last week entitled “Early warning: NATO is wearing out our southern border.” He argued that the US and NATO are in a coalition with Kurdish factions, including the PKK, to “take care of the Syrian side” before moving onto the “Turkish front” and trying to “take Turkey’s south hostage.” He further goes on to claim that NATO has never had taken Turkey’s security interests into account.

President Erdogan, however, struck a more conciliatory note while addressing the White House during his visit to Beijing on Sunday by pointing to President Trump’s predecessors.

“There are Obama’s men in lower positions [in the current administration]. He [Trump] is looking at the situation in Iraq and Syria through the information fed by them. And I say there is no need for the YPG [Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units] or PYD [Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party]. These are terrorist organizations. Considering cooperation with the YPG as a condition to fight Daesh is, in fact, destroying the reputation of the US and the [US-led anti-ISIL] coalition,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan’s watered-down rhetoric comes ahead of a scheduled White House meeting with President Trump on Tuesday to discuss strategy on how to confront terrorism in Syria.

Recent developments soured already strained relations when US President Donald Trump authorized the Department of State to supply arms and heavy weapons to Kurdish factions in Syria fighting ISIS last week. Trump’s decision comes despite fierce opposition over arming groups such as the Kurdish Protection Units, also known as the YPG, which Turkey considers to be affiliated with the PKK.

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