Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday his visit to the United States next week could mark a “new beginning” in relations between the two countries although he repeated Ankara’s criticism of the Trump Administration’s decision to arm Kurdish fighters in Syria.
“The United States is still going through a transition period. And we have to be more careful and sensitive,” he told a news conference at the Ankara airport before departing for China and the United States, where he will meet President Donald Trump for the first time since the president’s January inauguration.
“Right now there are certain moves in the United States coming from the past, such as the weapons assistance to the People’s Protection Units (YPG),” Erdogan said. “These are developments that are in contradiction to our strategic relations with the United States and of course we don’t want this to happen.”
Turkey considers the YPG an extension of the outlawed PKK, which has fought an insurgency in its southeast region for three decades and is designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and United States.
Erdogan said he did not want to see “a terrorist organization alongside the United States”, and that Turkey would continue military operations against Kurdish militia targets in Iraq and Syria.
Erdogan said his meeting with Trump would be decisive. “I actually see this US visit as a new beginning in our ties,” he said, alluding to Turkey’s fraught relations with former President Barack Obama.
The tone of Erdogan’s comments, contrasted with angry rebukes from Ankara earlier this week, when the foreign minister said every weapon sent to the YPG was a threat to Turkey and the defense minister described the move as a crisis.
Turkish sources also told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yildirim made sure on Thursday to send a clear message to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis that providing arms to the Kurds in Syria would have negative repercussions on the two country’s ties.
The two officials met in London on the sidelines of a conference on Somalia.