Turkish opposition urges Trump to prod Erdogan on rights


Foreign allies may see things differently.

"We are not going to declare war on the United States, this is not the case".

Turkey views the militia as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a deadly insurgency in southeast Turkey for many years and is considered a terrorist group by the United States, Turkey and Europe.

It puts the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies on a collision course over one of the biggest foreign policy issues. Instead, the Turks are deeply disturbed by Washington's open support to the People's Protection Units (YPG) - the Syrian franchise of the designated terrorist group, PKK.

Turkey's pro-government Daily Sabah suggested that Obama administration holdovers had somehow snookered Trump officials, ramming through the decision on arming the Kurds before Erdogan arrives here.

The move comes after U.S. President Donald Trump gave his authorization to equip the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, the SDF's most powerful element, to help in the Raqqa assault.

During the Turkish delegation's trip to Washington, President Trump approved a plan to provide weapons to YPG militants in Northern Syria - which was not a popular decision in the Turkish capital. Besides, Turkey's wish for a role at the expense of the Kurds further complicates the problem.

The US change in policy has reignited a dispute with Ankara, with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling for an "immediate" reversal.

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"The question now is what the USA can do to limit the damage to its relations with Turkey and how far the Turks will go in demonstrating their displeasure", said Howard Eissenstat, an associate professor at S.t Lawrence University in NY.

Staffan de Mistura spoke to reporters a day before Tuesday's start to what's expected to be about four days of indirect talks between government and opposition envoys, marking the sixth round that he has mediated since early previous year. This presents a complication for the USA, but not necessarily a bad one. Note that Tillerson visited Turkey in late March and McMasters (and reportedly Trump) received Turkey's Chief of the General Staff, Intel Chief, and senior Presidential advisor/spokesperson last week - certainly the increased support for the YPG was previewed with them.

On the Gulen matter, Erdogan is expected to discuss some interim steps that his government has already asked for, such as Justice Department questioning of the cleric and restrictions on his USA movements while the extradition request is pending, or at least an effort to curtail the weekly video messages he sends to his followers in Turkey.

His prime minister, Binali Yildirim, told reporters that Washington's stance "will surely have consequences and will yield a negative result for the U.S.as well". "I want to consider all the information we have received so far (on USA arming Syrian Kurds) as hearsay..."

The campaign to recapture Raqqa, which has been in ISIL's control since 2013, appears to be accelerating following a decision by the Trump administration to arm the Kurdish-led forces with heavy weapons.

The Turkish Government considers the YPG to be an integral part of the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), which both the US and Turkey designate a terrorist organization. The YPG, like the PKK, receive their orders from PKK headquarters in Qandil, Iraq.

"Turkey's concerns are understood but on the ground this was a tactical alliance and they had no choice", he said of the USA policy to add the YPG to the assault against Daesh in Raqqah, Syria.

In this April 6, 2017 photo, President Donald Trump speaks at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., after the USA fired a barrage of cruise missiles into Syria. The U.S. considers the YPG to be a separate organization, and as an effective fighting force against ISIS, too valuable an operational ally to exclude from the fight against ISIS.