UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS FROM CAVUSOGLU
By Handan Kazanci and Nilay Kar Onum
ISTANBUL (AA) - Strained by American support for a terrorist group in Syria, Turkish relations with the U.S. are close to breaking, warned Turkey’s foreign minister on Monday.
“Ties with the U.S. are at very critical point. We will either fix these relations or they will break completely,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Istanbul on the sidelines of a Turkish-African meeting in Istanbul.
He added that he would discuss the problems in ties with U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson during his “important” visit to Turkey this week as part of a regional tour.
Turkey’s expectations from U.S. are “loud and clear,” said Cavusoglu.
“We don’t want any more promises, we want concrete steps. In order to discuss certain subjects with the U.S. […] the missing trust needs to be restored,” he said.
“The reason for that missing trust is the U.S."
Mentioning the YPG/PKK terror group in Syria -- the armed wing of the terrorist PYD/PKK -- and the Fetullah Terrorist Group (FETO), the group behind a defeated 2016 coup in Turkey, he added:
“We’ve seen serious mistakes and wrongs from our ally the U.S. on FETO, the YPG, and other subjects. The U.S. didn’t keep the promises it gave. How trustworthy can a country which fails to keep its promises be?”
The U.S. has long supported the PYD/PKK as a “reliable ally” in its fight against Daesh, over the strong objections of Ankara, which has documented that it is the Syrian branch of the terrorist PKK.
The PKK is listed as a terrorist group by the U.S., EU, and Turkey.
Turkey has also criticized the U.S. failure to extradite Fetullah Gulen, the U.S.-based leader of FETO, whose defeated coup martyred 250 people and injured some 2,200.
Criticizing U.S. ties with the YPG/PKK terror group, Cavusoglu said: “The U.S. is not touching Daesh members in small groups, here [in Syria] as an excuse to continue cooperation with the YPG/PKK terrorist group.”
Asked about a recent photo of Gen. Paul E. Funk, the top U.S. general in the anti-Daesh coalition, taken with terrorists in Manbij, Syria -- one of several photos in recent years showing U.S. forces mixing with terrorists -- Cavusoglu said: “This is nothing new.”
-Operation Olive Branch
“It’s not important what they [U.S.] do, or who backs them. Our Afrin operation is continuing with confident steps both in the air and on the ground,” said Cavusoglu, referring to the Turkish-led counter-terrorist operation in northwestern Syria.
Predicting that Syria and the Syrian people would thank Turkey for the Afrin operation, he said, “We are clearing these terror organizations from Syrian soil as well, and not leaving those places to terror groups like the U.S. does.”
Hopefully the people who had to flee Syria -- including Turkmens, Kurds, Arabs, and Assyrians -- will return home, he added.
On Jan. 20, Turkey launched Operation Olive Branch to remove PYD/PKK and Daesh terrorists from Afrin.
According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as protect Syrians from terrorist oppression and cruelty.
The operation is being carried out under the framework of Turkey’s rights based on international law, UN Security Council resolutions, its self-defense rights under the UN charter, and respect for Syria's territorial integrity, it said.
The military also said the "utmost care" is being used to avoid harming civilians.
Afrin has been a major hideout for the PYD/PKK since July 2012, when the Assad regime in Syria left the city to the terror group without a fight.