Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, the head of Turkey's National Intelligence Organization (MİT), Hakan Fidan, and presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın traveled to the U.S. ahead of a meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on the sidelines of a NATO summit set to take place on May 16.
According to reports, Akar, Fidan and Kalın headed to the U.S. ahead of President Erdoğan to conduct preliminary meetings expected to focus on potential Raqqa operations and the types of forces to be used, as well as the extradition of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen and Turkey's ongoing counterterror operations in Iraq and Syria.
Ankara expects the two countries will turn a new page with the Trump administration.
Turkey's relations with the U.S. were strained under the Obama administration with Ankara frequently expressing its frustrations over the U.S.'s reluctance to extradite the leader of FETÖ, whom the Turkish government has accused of orchestrating the failed July 15 military coup, despite an ongoing extradition treaty between the two countries. Gülen has been residing in the U.S. since 1999.
Another major disagreement between Ankara and Washington relates to the U.S.'s support of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is predominantly led by the PKK terror organization's Syrian offshoot, the Democratic Union Party (PYD).
While the Obama administration argued that the SDF is the most effective "partner" in the U.S.-led anti-Daesh coalition, Turkey identifies the PYD as a terrorist organization because of the group's organic links to the PKK and has declared numerous times that one terror group cannot be used to eliminate another.
The PKK is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU. However, the latter two do not categorize the PYD and its armed wing, the People's Protection Units (YPG), as such. Turkey strongly opposes any PKK-affiliated group south of its border, both in Iraq and Syria, saying it constitutes a national security threat to its borders.
Ankara has voiced its willingness to start with a blank slate in the hope that the Trump administration will not repeat the mistakes made by the Obama administration in terms of U.S.-Turkey relations, emphasizing that Turkey expects Washington to extradite Gülen and halt its cooperation with the PYD/YPG.
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