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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson begins a pivotal visit to Turkey on Thursday evening intended to mend fences amid President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s repeated threats to attack U.S. soldiers in Syria.
Erdogan has insisted that his troops will enter Manbij, a region of northern Syria populated in part by U.S. troops. Turkey objects to Washington’s support of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), a militia that was instrumental in the defeat of the Islamic State in its “capital,” Raqqa.
Remarks - Tuesday - Erdogan - United - States
In remarks Tuesday, Erdogan threatened the United States with an “Ottoman slap,” a medieval martial arts technique. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert refused to get “riled up” about the comment during her regular press briefing that day.
Tillerson will meet Erdogan personally this week in Ankara and also hold talks with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, according to Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu. Tillerson is currently on a Middle East tour that also includes Jordan and Lebanon.
Lebanon - Thursday - Tillerson - Response - Reporters
In Lebanon Thursday, Tillerson affirmed in response to reporters’ questions during a press conference with Prime Minister Saad Hariri that “Turkey is an important NATO ally of ours, they’re still an important partner of ours in the fight to defeat ISIS.”
Tillerson praised Ankara as having “performed admirably” and “been supportive” of the United States.
Aspects - Turkey-US - Relationship - Areas - Share
“There are so many aspects of the Turkey-U.S. relationship which are very important and very positive, and we intend to build on the areas that we do share common interests, common concerns,” Tillerson continued. “I would tell you our endpoint objectives are completely aligned; there’s no gap between them.”
Tillerson also claimed that the United States has “never given arms to the YPG.”
May - President - Donald - Trump - Weapons
In May, President Donald Trump approved weapons shipments for the Syrian Defense Forces (SDF), an umbrella group primarily composed of members of the YPG. Prior to that announcement, an SDF spokesman said the United...
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