President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said that anti-American sentiments is growing because of the U.S.’ support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria. He added that when he showed to Tillerson all this on a screen, he complained that ‘anti-Americanism is on the rise in Turkey because Turkey broadcast this sort of information on TVs every day. Erdoğan’s statements came as a joint Turkish-American committee continued talks in Washington D.C. in a bid to resolve outstanding problems between the two allies. The U.S. State Department spokesperson on March 8 said talks between Turkish and American officials had begun in the U.S. capital and many issues would be discussed. Heather Nauert told reporters that the meeting is an introductory one where the two nations can work out some of these issues. When asked if Washington was willing to pressure Ankara to stop the Afrin offensive, Nauert said it would not come as a surprise if this issue appeared in the talks. On the Turkish side, Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Sedat Önal has been presiding over the committee on Syria, Deputy Undersecretary Cihad Erginay on the FETÖ and Fazlı Corman, the director general for South Asia at the Foreign Ministry, on Iraq. According to Turkish officials, the primary agenda of the Syrian committee is Turkey’s demand to remove the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from Manbij, which lies to the west of the Euphrates River in northern Syria. The meeting will be also about FETÖ, Turkey’s procurement of the S-400 missile system from Russia, migration and visa issues.
U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis will meet Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli next week in Brussels and discuss the situation in Afrin and Manbij. Mattis said the situation in the Syrian town has not changed despite the Turkish pressure. Mattis described Ankara’s rhetoric on Manbij as something very concerning for the U.S. and he added that operation in Manbij is a distraction from the fight against Daesh. The Obama administration previously had promised Ankara that once Manbij was cleared of Daesh, the YPG would leave the town, but YPG-affiliated commanders are still in the town, according to Turkey government.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has said the U.S. has chosen the “wrong partner” in the fight against Daesh terror group in Syria as he referred to the YPG/PKK terror group. To the New York Times, Cavusoglu said: “American reliance on the People’s Protection Units (YPG) is a self-inflicted error when the United States already has a capable partner in Turkey. “We have no doubt that the United States will see the damage this policy is inflicting on the credibility of the NATO alliance and correct its policy by putting its allies and long-term interests first again”. He said Turkey, however, could not afford to wait for “eventual and inevitable course corrections”. Cavusoglu said: “The victory against the group could not have been possible without Turkey’s active contributions”. In the article, Cavusoglu talked about how an impasse between U.S. and Turkey. He said the YPG/PKK terrorists across the borders in Iraq and Syria were using weapons and training provided by the United States. About the Operation Olive Branch, he said that Turkey will continue the operation until terrorist are wiped out. Furthermore, according to Cavusoglu, Turkey will not consent to the creation of separatist enclave or terrorist safe heavens.
On Saturday Turkey started its second campaign in northern Syria. In their offensive against the Kurdish militia YPG also german Leopard 2 tanks are in use. An armament expert from the German Armed Forces confirmed that the tanks Leopard 2 A4 showed in the pictures are from German production. The federal government did not want to confirm the reports. “Apart from the images from the media that you all know, we have no own insights into the use of Leopard tanks”, said Defense Department spokesman Holger Neumann. From 2006 to 2011, Turkey received 354 Leopard 2 tanks and has more battle tanks than the German Army. The restraint of the Federal Government in view of the continuing Turkish offensive is increasingly met with criticism. “The federal government should unmistakably condemn the violent war of aggression of Turkey”, demanded the left-wing faction leader in the Bundestag, Sahra Wagenknecht.
The U.S. is willing to work with Turkey to adress its “legitimate” security concerns in northern Syria, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has said. He was speaking after Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria to fight the Kurdish YPG militia at the weekend. Turkey sees the group as terrorists, but they have been crucial in a US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group. Ankara said the US had to stop backing the YPG if they wanted cooperation.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said last week that after Afrin has been cleared of terrorists, Turkey will expand its operations to other critical areas. “Turkey’s measures against the YPG/PKK cannot be limited to Afrin alone. There is also Manbij and east of the Euphrates River”, Cavusoglu told reporters. According to the Turkish General Staff, the operation aims to establish security and stability along Turkey’s borders and the region as well as to protect the Syrian people from the oppression. Also Turkey reiterated that the terror group PYD/PKK should not attend the Jan. 30 Syria National Dialogue Congress in the Russian Black Sea resort.
The predominately Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have pushed back ISIL from 65 percent of Raqqa city’s neighborhoods, Jeihan Sheikh Ahmad, the official spokesman for the Euphrates Rage Operation Room said on Monday. Ahmad said that the Kurdish forces have seized control over the neighborhoods of old Raqqa and al-Dar’eiyeh that were the most important strongholds of ISIL in the city.In the meantime, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) released a full statement covering the battle for Raqqa where heavy clashes continue day and night. According to the YPG (main military branch of the SDF) press statement, some 65 percent of Raqqa’s provincial capital has been ‘liberated’ while 2,000 hostages were freed from ISIL captivity over the past month. Effectively, Kurdish forces are now in control of 14 of out the city’s 23 neighborhoods, the YPG statement added.