Gülenist donations to Clintons shocking, says Trump adviser

RAGIP SOYLU @ragipsoylu

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump's adviser on foreign policy Walid Phares described donations from members of a group seen as terrorists by NATO ally Turkey to the Clinton Foundation as shocking.

Phares, speaking at the American-Turkish Council's annual meetings, said Trump desired closer ties with Turkey. He said the Republican candidate did not have detailed knowledge on the July 15 coup by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) but knew about the Turkish people's stance against the coup attempt and their support for the democratically-elected government. Once he is elected, he would be briefed on the matter by the time he takes office early next year, said Phares, who used to work at Istanbul Bahçeşehir University's Washington office before joining the Republican's campaign.

Phares said he did not think any progress will be made in Turkey's extradition request on FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen before the new president takes office no matter who is elected. When asked about the donations made by well-known FETÖ members to the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative, he said everyone knew about the serious concerns voiced by the Trump campaign over the issue. It will be one of the first issues the Trump administration will investigate, the adviser said. Conflict of interest issues have been raised over Hillary Clinton, the Democrat candidate for president, and the donations received by the Clinton family's foundation in U.S. media.

When asked about the PKK terrorist organization and its links to the Democratic Union Party (PYD), he said the issue will be focused on no matter who becomes president. "As a representative of the Trump campaign, I can say this: For the U.S., the PKK is a terrorist group. Any group that has operational links with the PKK will be assessed. As you know, the PKK had ties to the Assad regime in the past." The Obama administration has been refusing to acknowledge that the PKK and the YPG [he PYD's armed wing, People's Protection Units] are one and the same, justifying its military aid to the PYD terrorist group by arguing that they are two distinctly separate groups. Ankara has been critical of the Obama policy of using the PYD as foot soldiers in its campaign to fight Daesh in Syria.

Phares also said that Trump will closely collaborate with Turkey on declaring a no-fly zone and safe-zone in the north of Syria, a proposal Turkey has repeatedly raised but was ignored by the Obama administration.

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