U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is expected to arrive in Turkey today for meetings with top Turkish officials to discuss recently strained relations due to U.S. support for PKK-affiliated groups in northern Syria.
Tillerson's visit comes amid Turkey's Operation Olive Branch targeting the PKK's Syrian affiliate Democratic Union Party's (PYD) People's Protection Units (YPG) forces in northwestern Syria's Afrin region.
Tillerson said yesterday the U.S. needs to find a way to work "in the same direction" as its NATO ally Turkey
"Turkey is still an important NATO ally of the United States ... and we need to find a way to continue to work in the same direction," Tillerson said while in Amman, Jordan.
Despite Tillerson previously making similar statements, ambiguous and contradictory remarks from the White House, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and the State Department on Washington's position regarding the YPG, will probably raise questions for Turkish officials on Tillerson's credibility.
In November, U.S. President Donald Trump promised to halt weapons deliveries to the YPG in a phone call with President Erdoğan. However, a couple days after Trump's promise, the Pentagon sent more armored vehicles to YPG-controlled areas in northern Syria and continued its deliveries. U.S. Lt. Gen. Paul E. Funk, who paid a visit to U.S. forces in Manbij in early February went even further and said that the U.S. would retaliate against Turkey to protect their YPG allies, if Ankara expands Operation Olive Branch into Manbij and attacks.
Ahead of the visit, Foreign Minister Mevüt Çavuşoğlu said yesterday that those who want to cooperate with Turkey in Syria should have a clear stance and show sensitivity to a po
litical solution for the war-torn country. "More importantly, they should respect Syria's territorial integrity and cease support to terrorists groups that want to divide the country," Çavuşoğlu said at a meeting of the global coalition against Daesh in Kuwait.