Trump administration won’t change course on Gülen, YPG, Turkish lawmakers visiting Washington say

RAGIP SOYLU @ragipsoylu

A visit by the Turkish main opposition party delegation to Washington last week confirmed Turkey officials' assessment that the new U.S. administration would likely not change its policies that have troubled Ankara.

Öztürk Yılmaz, deputy chairman of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), and Oğuz Kaan Salıcı, an Istanbul deputy from the same party, said that President Donald Trump administration's position on the U.S. partnership with the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria against Daesh has yet to change. Two Turkish representatives also said that the administration, like its predecessor, perceive the extradition of the Pennsylvania-based controversial Imam, Fethullah Gülen, and alleged mastermind of the July 15 failed coup, as a legal process rather than a political one. Turkey has designated Gülen movement as a terror group.

"U.S. officials insisted that the Gülen issue wasn't a political matter. Based on these statements, we don't expect anything different [from this administration]," Yılmaz told Turkish media on Monday.

Turkish deputies met the National Security Council's Turkey Director Shannon Culbertson, and Deputy Assistant Secretary Mark Libby last Thursday.

Yılmaz said the delegation conveyed their criticism of the U.S.-YPG partnership to U.S. officials during their meetings but he believes Obama appointees still largely run American foreign policy, and they have a mission to promote the YPG's political wing the Democratic Union Party (PYD). "Some officials from the Trump administration indicated that Obama didn't understand Turkey's importance. Yet, they would like to move along with the PYD in the upcoming Raqqa operation. They also oppose the PYD's eviction from the Syrian town of Manbij," he added.

Turkish deputies also said U.S. officials were concerned about the eroding democratic norms in Turkey and had questions over the safety of voting in the country next month, during the upcoming referendum on an executive presidential system.

The delegation also met several congressmen, including Turkey Caucus Co-Chairs Gerry Connolly, Steve Cohen, Steve Chabot and Pete Sessions.

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