Turkish diplomat defends 'Ottoman slap' threat to US amid signs of deal

Washington Examiner | 2/16/2018 | Joel Gehrke
ziggy1023 (Posted by) Level 3
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s recent outburst of anti-American rhetoric was simply a product of public opinion in his country, according to the NATO member’s top diplomat.

“Our declarations [were] not declarations of enmity,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters during a joint press conference with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “We should be voicing the opinion of the Turkish public, because we are representing them. And the declarations that we made were just ramifications of the popular thought in Turkey.”

Erdogan - US - Forces - Syria - Ottoman

Erdogan threatened U.S. forces in Syria with an “Ottoman slap” if they persisted in partnering with Syrian Kurds. The YPG, as the Kurds are known, have proven crucial to the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against the Islamic State, but Erdogan fears they could join with a group of Turkish Kurds that have long been designated as a terrorist group for waging a separatist war against the Turkish central government. Turkey has launched a military campaign in northern Syria against the Kurds, raising the risk of potential clashes between the United States and a NATO ally.

Tillerson defended the U.S. entrenchment by saying it was necessary to prevent the resurgence from ISIS. But though he didn’t promise an immediate withdrawal, he emphasized that a U.S.-Turkish working group would develop a security plan.

T - US - Troop - Presence - Manbij

“[T]he U.S. has left a troop presence in Manbij to ensure that that city remains under control of our allied forces and does not fall into the hands of others,” he said. “So that will be a topic for discussion in terms of how we go forward to ensure Manbij remains within our control because of its strategic importance.”

Cavusoglu hinted at the possibility of a joint Turkish-American effort to hold northern Syria.

Manbij - Percent - Arab - Town - Sense

“If Manbij is 95 percent Arab town, it actually does not make any sense that YPG is going to provide security...
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