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(CNSNews.com) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads for Turkey later this week at a time of escalating tensions in the relationship, as the Turks’ military operation against U.S.-backed Kurds in northwestern Syria takes its toll and an American pastor remains in jail 16 months after being arrested on purported security charges.
At a pre-trip briefing, a senior State Department official acknowledged that there would be “difficult” conversations, given the “hot” Turkish rhetoric on U.S. policy in Syria.
Ankara - Targets - Afrin - People - Protection
Ankara accuses the targets of its offensive in Afrin, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), of links to anti-Turkey terrorists. But the YPG are also key U.S. allies in the fight against ISIS, and Washington has repeatedly urged restraint.
Weekend reports in Kurdish media citing Afrin health authorities say about 150 civilians and 98 Kurdish fighters have been killed since the Turkish assault began on Jan. 20.
Tillerson - Travels - Kuwait - Meetings - ISIS
As Tillerson’s regional travels took him to Kuwait for meetings on ISIS and Iraq, his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, suggested Monday that U.S.-Turkey ties were at a make-or-break point, citing the YPG issue.
“Our relations are at a very critical point,” the Hurriyet daily quoted him as saying in Istanbul. “They will either be fixed or these ties will be completely damaged.”
Cavusoglu - US - Trust - State - Affairs
Cavusoglu said it was up to the U.S. to restore “lost trust,” since it was responsible for the state of affairs.
“Our demands from the U.S. are clear and have already been conveyed,” he said. “We no longer want to hear about promises, we want to hear about concrete steps.”
Cavusoglu - Kuwait - City - Meetings - Tillerson
Cavusoglu has now arrived in Kuwait City to attend the same meetings as Tillerson.
A senior State Department official traveling with Tillerson in Kuwait declined to comment on “foreign government officials’ statements,” but said the fact Tillerson was heading to Turkey was “an indication that we believe discussions are worthwhile and we’ll continue...
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