Some tips to save Ankara-Washington ties

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U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gesture as they talk at the start of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 11.
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gesture as they talk at the start of the NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 11.

The future of the YPG is the top priority for Ankara since the beginning; therefore, unless the U.S. stops challenging Turkey on this matter, their bilateral relations can never get back on track

For the first time since the 2008 global crisis, the G20 summit is being held at the world leader level in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The purpose of the meeting is to reduce the effects of the crisis and to pioneer reforms that can prevent new crises. Such summits have always been active in terms of political issues and useful to provide an environment for bilateral talks between world leaders. Unfortunately, the G20 gatherings, for a while, have failed in the terms of generating economic reforms. This time, the economic agenda of the summit will surely be on protectionist policies, the trade war between Washington and Beijing and the Iranian sanctions.

However, the G20 organization doesn't only have economic problems at the table now. The unbalanced conflicts between the United States and China, European countries not finding solutions to structural problems and Western states not respecting the priorities of regional powers are just a few issues that come to mind. If the Argentina summit cannot help fix all of these problems, the G20 this time again is unlikely to be effective.

The bilateral meetings between Turkish, U.S., Russian and Chinese leaders are of utmost importance for the world agenda. Particularly, the expected U.S.-China talks will most probably shape the future of ongoing trade conflicts. For some, U.S. President Donald Trump is supposed to partially soften the tension with China.

Other than this, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, is also participating in the summit in an attempt to smooth his international image, which was largely damaged following the Jamal Khashoggi murder.

Another headline of the summit is the Russian-Ukrainian confrontation in the Black Sea region. With the Russian attack on Ukrainian artillery last week, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called for NATO to send warships to the Sea of Azov, where the crisis between Russia and Ukraine recently re-peaked. The Kremlin is meanwhile deploying S-400s missiles to the Crimea, escalating the crisis. Even if both Moscow and Kiev calm down, the Russian expansionist move also rings an alarm bell for the EU and NATO.

One of the possible meetings in the summit was predicted to be held between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and President Trump, but the U.S. president later cancelled all of his officially planned meetings. As I was penning this article, there was yet no clue if bilateral talks will be held, although that doesn't mean the two parties are far from not having a hot agenda to discuss – with the Khashoggi case, the Iranian sanctions, the Manbij issue, the east of the Euphrates River and the People's Protection Units (YPG) still remaining open for discussion.

When Ankara and Washington fixed the Brunson crisis, it was hoped that the two would enter into a normalization process, but the point they have arrived at today is even worse. The two are stuck in the Manbij equation and Ankara is highly disturbed by the U.S. administration's recent plan to establish observation points to be controlled by YPG members east of the Euphrates.

The U.S. putting a $12 million bounty on the heads of three PKK leaders last month fell short to please Ankara, as the YPG is a huge threat to Turkish sovereignty. Washington's claim that the observation points will help protect Turkey from Daesh is quite funny, as President Erdoğan clearly reaffirmed this week:

"There is no Daesh in Syria but some small guerrilla groups that are kept in reserve, trained, equipped and allowed to maintain their presence in the guise of Daesh to stir up trouble in this country and the whole region." Erdoğan revealed and continued, "If the terrorist organizations that invade the regions in the pretext of the fight against Daesh in aim to benefit from the regional oil and their backer powers leave the region, the problem will be directly solved."

The future of the YPG is the top priority for Ankara since the beginning; therefore, unless the U.S. stops challenging Turkey on this matter, their bilateral relations can never get back on track.

The recent statement released by the National Security Council (MGK) meeting Tuesday was a message to Washington. "Ankara will not remain unresponsive in the face of the U.S.' ongoing support for the PKK's Syrian affiliates and its attempts to protect the terrorist groups. No fait accompli will be allowed in Syria and that the right to self-defense will be exercised in the face of threats posed by the YPG" the Ankara administration highlighted in the statement.

Nevertheless, the official institutions in Washington, D.C. neither keep their promises nor take consistent steps in that matter. As such, while the officials of the U.S. State Department are in efforts to look for "creative solutions" to end the discrepancy between Turkey and the U.S. on the YPG matter, the Secretary of Defense announced the controversial decision on the observation points.

Simply put, the observation points are an attempt by the U.S. to protect the YPG, the Turkish side has said insistently. Hence, Washington needs to share its true intent in its regional policy, particularly on the YPG, with Ankara as soon as possible. In order to establish mutual trust again, Washington should stop taking actions that are deemed incoherent. Tactical moves like the reward put on PKK members, even if they are based on constructive purposes, can't lead to refreshing the relationship between the two parties.

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