Ankara and Washington have pledged a new era in the mutual ties following the meeting of Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence amid rising rifts between the two NATO allies.
“The leaders expressed hope that their meeting would help to usher in a new chapter in U.S.-Turkey relations and agreed on the need for constructive dialogue, as friends and Allies, on bilateral challenges,” the White House said in a statement following the Washington meeting on Nov. 9.
The meeting, which lasted nearly one and a half hour, longer than the schedule, was “very fruitful,” said the Turkish prime minister, adding that the two parties decided to maintain dialogue.
“We talked over our problems sincerely and honestly,” Yıldırım told journalists aboard via New York following the meeting.
“We have decided to maintain dialogue. We agreed on resolution of problems with instant touches via telephone,” he said.
“I had an observation that the vice president has a positive look on Turkey.”
Close watch on YPG guns
One of the key matters between the two allies is the U.S. support to the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers terrorist for its links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) but the U.S. backs in fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“We have talked bluntly on the YPG issue,” Yıldırım said, adding that the U.S. understands Turkey’s sensitivity on the matter.
Yıldırım said it was time for the U.S. to put an end to the support to the YPG since the ISIL forces have been defeated, reiterating Turkey’s concerns over the arms sent to the YPG, which end in the hands of the PKK, a fact that was displayed to the U.S. Defense Minister Jim Mattis by his Turkish counterpart Nurettin Canikli earlier in the day.
However, the U.S. vice president said cooperation would last in the short term, but Washington will closely track its guns, giving credit to Turkey’s concerns, according to Yıldırım.
“We will follow the guns more closely,” he quoted Pence as saying.
Ahead of Yıldırım’s visit to the U.S., the two countries mutually decided to ease a visa crisis that emerged after the arrest of two Turkish-citizen U.S employees at the mission in Istanbul.
Yıldırım downplayed the crisis, saying that the issue was returning to normal.
The suspension came after the arrest of U.S. staffer Metin Topuz, accused by police of having ties to the network of Fethullah Gülen, the top suspect in the cases into the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
Yıldırım said the ongoing case against Iranian-origin Turkish citizen Reza Zarrab and a Turkish public bank official, Hakan Attila, on charges of violating U.S. sanctions on Iran, and the arrest warrant against former Economy Minister Zafer Çağlayan were discussed during the meeting.
“We said that these cases are poisoning the Turkey-U.S. ties,” Yıldırım said, referring to the judicial processes in the two sovereign countries.
“But we have to see the whole picture,” he said.
Yıldırım said he told Pence that evidence in the case of Zarrab was unlawfully collected and several members of judicial cadre who collected the evidence in Turkey have been facing charges over links to Gülen in Turkey, asking for an understanding from the U.S.
“In addition, we said that this case should not be regarded as a violation of the U.S. sanctions on Iran,” the Turkish PM said.
“We want the U.S. to restrict their activities,” he said.
Yıldırım told journalists Pence raised the U.S. concerns over the trial.
“We noted that the principles of law of state rules in both the U.S. and Turkey,” Yıldırım said.
US ‘should back Baghdad’
Pence praised Turkey for its strong will in the problems that emerged after the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) independence referendum in late September, a bid that the autonomous administration has already withdrew from following international reaction an a strong Baghdad response.
The allies had both declared their opposition to the KRG leader Massoud Barzani’s failed bid.
In response to Pence, Yıldırım said Ankara demanded further support to the central Iraqi government under Haidar al-Abadi.
Yıldırım and Pence “highlighted the United States’ and Turkey’s mutual interest in stability and security in the Middle East and agreed to further intergovernmental consultations toward that end,” read the White House statement.
Pence thanked Yıldırım for Turkey’s contributions to global security and the fight to defeat ISIL, and he underscored the U.S. commitment to stand with Turkey against the PKK and other terrorist threats.
“The Vice President expressed deep concern over the arrests of American citizens, Mission Turkey local staff, journalists, and members of civil society under the state of emergency and urged transparency and due process in the resolution of their cases,” the statement said