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Turkey Issues Ultimatum to Washington Ahead of Tillerson Visit


FILE - Kurdish fighters from the People's Protection Units (YPG) chat with members of U.S. forces in the town of Darbasiya next to the Turkish border, Syria, April 29, 2017.

Turkey is calling on the Unites States to take concrete steps to address its concerns about American support for a Kurdish militia in Syria or face a breakdown in relations. The stepped up pressure comes ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Turkey next week.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusolgu issued the ultimatum as he spoke on the sidelines of a Turkish-African meeting Monday in Istanbul. He said Turkey's ties with the United States are at what he called a very critical point and the countries will either fix them or they will break completely.

He said Turkey does not want promises. It wants concrete steps in order for trust to be restored. He blamed the United States for that missing trust.

The two NATO allies have been at odds over Washington's support of the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, in its war against Islamic State militants. Ankara considers the YPG terrorists linked to a longtime Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.

Syria operation

Turkish artillery fires toward Syrian Kurdish positions in Afrin area, Syria, from Turkish side of the border in Hatay, Turkey, Feb. 9, 2018.
Turkish artillery fires toward Syrian Kurdish positions in Afrin area, Syria, from Turkish side of the border in Hatay, Turkey, Feb. 9, 2018.

Last month, Turkish forces entered the Kurdish militia-controlled Syrian Afrin enclave despite repeated calls by Washington for Ankara not to intervene. But Turkey has threatened to expand its operation to the Syrian town of Manbij where U.S. forces are deployed with the YPG.

Washington has criticized Ankara, claiming its ongoing Syrian operation is undermining the war against the Islamic State. But Cavusoglu also questioned the U.S commitment to fight the Islamic State, claiming it is not attacking Islamic State members in Syria as an excuse to continue working with the YPG terrorist group.

U.S. officials had no immediate response to the top Turkish diplomat's allegation.

Sunday, U.S. National Security Advisor M. H. McMaster met in Istanbul with Turkish presidential foreign affairs advisor Ibrahim Kalin. Following the meeting, a joint statement was issued in which both sides committed themselves to a long-term strategic relationship.

But analysts point out there was no mention of addressing ongoing differences between the countries.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to have a list of U.S. concerns for his Turkish counterpart when he visits Turkey later this week as part of a tour of the wider region.

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