Top US officials set to visit Turkey in Gülen extradition talks

MERVE AYDOĞAN @mgulaydogan
ANKARA
Published 11.08.2016 22:38

With Ankara continuing its efforts for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based fugitive and retired imam who stands accused of masterminding the thwarted July 15 coup attempt, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that Turkey is seeing signs of cooperation from the U.S. regarding extradition of the former preacher. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had previously questioned Ankara's alliance with the U.S. and criticized the U.S. administration for harboring the Fethullah Gülen Terror Group (FETÖ) leader. Çavuşoğlu said that the U.S. is finally showing signs of cooperation and that a U.S. Justice Department delegation will arrive in Ankara soon, where officials will renew the extradition request. In addition to Gülen's extradition, Çavuşoğlu touched on NATO's presence in Turkey and urged tangible support from NATO in the cases of threats against Turkey.

Commenting on Turkey's current political agenda on NTV, Çavuşoğlu reiterated that the Turkish public's trust for the EU and the West has taken a downward turn. He also asserted that Turkey can determine its own foreign policy, without Western intervention. Regarding Gülen, Çavuşoğlu said: "We have received a letter from the U.S. Justice Department. We see signs of cooperation [from the U.S.]. The extradition of the FETÖ leader [Gülen] is what we essentially expect from the U.S. A delegation from the U.S. will be arriving soon and will meet with their counterparts in Ankara." He said that the extradition and detention request for Gülen will once again be submitted by a delegation from Turkey that includes Çavuşoğlu and Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ that will visit the U.S. "At this point, we expect results to reflect cooperative understanding," Çavuşoğlu added.

The recent steps toward normalization between Russia and Turkey have raised speculation about Turkey's NATO membership which NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu dismissed on Tuesday, saying that Turkey's NATO membership is not in question and that the alliance's position is very clear. However, Çavuşoğlu still criticized NATO's lack of presence in Turkey during times of threats, saying: "During times when Turkey is under increased threat, some NATO-member countries have withdrawn their [missile] batteries. We have not seen concrete steps being taken in terms of air defense systems. NATO's mission is to strengthen or guarantee the defense of its allies. However, NATO's defense systems in Turkey do not cover Turkey entirely." Çavuşoğlu also urged NATO to provide solid support to Turkey during threats and added that Ankara still wants to establish and produce its own defense system while strengthening it.

Regarding Turkey's involvement in the U.S.-led coalition against DAESH, Çavuşoğlu said that Turkish aircraft are currently operating as part of intelligence. He affirmed that Turkey will be actively involved with aircraft used in anti-DAESH operations later in Syria. Concerning the Syrian civil war and the future of Syrian leader Bashar al Assad, Çavuşoğlu reiterated that Ankara's issue with Assad is not a matter that affects only Turkey and Russia. "Countries like Iran, Lebanon and Russia are saying that Assad must stay but there are more countries, including Turkey, urging Assad to leave. There are those combating Assad, including regional countries, and when those are taken into account, none of the actors in the region want to either unite around Assad or want Assad to rule Syria," Çavuşoğlu said. He stressed that a transitional government must not include the Syrian president, saying that a "transitional government must be inclusive, and this is impossible with Assad."

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