When President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan received soon-to-be outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Ankara for over three hours on Feb. 15, he delivered very clear and crucial messages to the United States on the future of Turkish-U.S. relations, believing that these would be delivered to President Donald Trump at the White House.
That is why Erdoğan, who usually meets with foreign dignitaries, scrapped all the protocol and met with Tillerson in the presence of Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, and no one else – not even a U.S. State Department translator – was allowed into the meeting. He clearly went to pains to explain Turkey's frustration over the negative developments in Turkish-U.S. relations in a strong attempt to salvage them.
It seems much to the disappointment of everyone that the messages never reached Trump. On the contrary, the U.S. president fired Tillerson with a tweet just to further prove the two are not even on talking terms.
After Tillerson's visit to Ankara, Turkish and U.S. officials met to discuss an array of problems between the two countries, and on top of the list was the plight of Manbij, the northern Syrian city occupied by People's Protection Units (YPG). The two sides apparently managed to bridge some deep differences over the future of the city whose YPG presence is protected by U.S. soldiers. But they have not reached any agreement. The issue was to be taken up between Çavuşoğlu and Tillerson in meetings in Washington on March 18-19. But with Tillerson's departure that did not happen.The U.S. promised in the past that once the YPG rid the city of Daesh terrorists, the YPG would move out of the city and withdraw to east of the Euphrates. The U.S. did not keep this promise. On the contrary, the YPG strengthened its hold on the city and stared administering it. Ankara wants the YPG and other terrorists elements out of the city and the administration returned to its rightful owners, Syrians.
With the meeting between Tillerson and Çavuşoğlu off, there was talk that high-level Turkish and U.S. officials would meet to discuss this explosive issue and keep the dialogue process going until a new U.S. secretary of state takes office. That did not materialize either.
To the relief of all parties, Erdoğan and Trump decided to discuss the issue over the phone. So they have contacted each other and Erdoğan has spoken his mind in earnest to Trump.
With the military success in Afrin now behind us, the U.S. has received the message loud and clear. Turkey is a strong player in Syria and is determined to wipe out the YPG from its borders. Turkey is also extremely angry and frustrated that the U.S. has supported the PKK-affiliated YPG in Syria.
Ankara does not want to pick a fight with Washington and wants to restore the alliance that brought Turkey and the U.S. together at very critical stages in history.
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