Ties with US at risk of breaking down: Turkey

Istanbul: Relations between Turkey and the US, strained by American support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, are close to breaking down, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Monday.

Declaring bilateral ties at a “critical point”, Cavusoglu said: “We will either fix the ties or they will break down completely.”

Speaking to the press in Istanbul following a meeting with African leaders, he said Washington had made several mistakes in handling its relationship with Ankara, including giving support to the Kurdish militia in Syria known as the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

“We want concrete steps (from the US). The missing trust needs to be restored. The reason for that missing trust is the US,” Cavusoglu was quoted as saying by the Hurriyet Daily News.

“The US is not touching ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) members in Syria as an excuse to continue working with the YPG/PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) terrorist groups,” he added.

Turkish troops launched an air and ground offensive against YPG-held Afrin in northwestern Syria on January 20. Ankara treats the Kurdish militants as terrorists associated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party.

Turkey has threatened to target Manbij, another Syrian town held by the YPG, in its next move, but the US has refused to withdraw its troops from the town as demanded by Ankara, heightening the risk of a direct confrontation between the NATO allies.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security and foreign policy adviser Ibrahim Kalin met US National Security Adviser Herbert Raymond McMaster in Istanbul over the weekend. Foreign and Defence Ministers of the two countries are set to meet respectively in Ankara and Brussels in the coming days.

Cavusoglu said all the sensitive issues will be discussed in detail during US State Secretary Rex Tillerson’s visit to Ankara.