Erdogan dismissed the statement as ridiculous and criticized the United States’ continued support for Kurdish fighters in Syria who are affiliated with the Iraq-based PKK. You are behind them, he said.
An immediate escalation appears to have been averted later on Monday, when Secretary of State Antony Blinken made what US officials said was a pre-programmed appeal to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. Based on what officials described as newly received information, Blinken expressed his condolences for the deaths of Turkish hostages and said PKK terrorists bear responsibility, according to a State Department reading. call.
But Biden, who during his campaign called Erdogan an autocrat, has yet to have a first call with the Turkish leader. Overall, he took on a different tone from that of his predecessor, whose warm personal relations with the Turkish leader often concealed long-standing disagreements over Syrian policy and Ankaras’ purchase of a defense system. Russian anti-missile.
During his confirmation hearing, Blinken said Turkey was not acting as an ally and suggested there may be additional sanctions for the purchase of Russian weapons. Turkey was not allowed to participate in the U.S. program to produce and purchase F-35 advanced combat aircraft, and the U.S. has banned most new arms sales to the U.S. ally ‘NATO.
Asked last week whether the administration would consider a proposal from the Turkish defense minister to only partially deploy Russia’s S-400 missile defense system, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that our policy on the S-400 had not changed. We have been very clear on this.
This month, the Biden administration has twice publicly criticized Turkey on human rights issues. On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of 50 senators wrote to Biden urging him to stress to President Erdogan the importance of reversing his authoritarian trajectory.
At the Pentagon, spokesman John F. Kirby said about 900 US troops in Syria would continue to work with the Syrian Kurds, whom he described as partner forces, to defeat the remnants of the Islamic State.
A senior Biden administration official played down the fact that Biden has yet to speak with Erdogan, noting that he had not been in office for a month and focused primarily on national issues.
We know President Erdogan was frustrated that he didn’t receive a call, the official said, but frankly there are a lot of NATO allies … and other foreign leaders … that the president hasn’t called yet either.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity under rules set by the administration, also noted Blinkens’ call on Sunday and an earlier call between National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Turkish counterpart, Ibrahim Kalin.
The message sent in those calls, the official said, is multifaceted. There are a number of areas where we want to cooperate with Turkey. It is a NATO ally, a strategic partner, and it has a vital role to play in crisis areas like Syria and Libya. We appreciate what Turkey is doing as a NATO ally.
At the same time, it is also true that we have challenges with Turkey, the official said, citing the purchase of the S-400 and the Kurds.
But Asli Aydintasbas, a member of the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the administration may be forced to take into account the complexities of the relationship with Turkey sooner than it expected. The plan, she said, was to put everything on hold for about six months and not engage in a big negotiation or reset with Turkey.
The dispute over the S-400, the commitment of administrations to criticize human rights violations and the situation in Syria may, however, lead to new and unexpected skirmishes.
Turkey, where millions of Kurds live in the southeastern part of the country bordering Iraq and Syria, has been engaged in a decades-long low-level war against PKK insurgents.
In recent years, he has launched military operations against PKK enclaves in northern Iraq and against Syrian Kurdish fighters allied with the United States who he says are also affiliated with the PKK.
Since their alliance with the Syrian Kurds who form the majority of the United States-backed Syrian Democratic Forces organized under the Obama administration, the United States has sought to separate its affiliation with them from its relations with Turkey.
The United States has designated the PKK as a terrorist organization and has long argued with Turkey over whether it has organic affiliation with the Syrian Kurds.
But Turkey, which calls itself one and the same, continued its incursions against US partners in Syria, as well as attacks against PKK forces in northern Iraq. The latest operation in Iraq began on February 10 and focused on an area north of the Iraqi city of Dahuk. Turkey said on Sunday that 13 Turkish hostages, including soldiers and police, many or all of whom had been held for years by the PKK, were found executed in a cave.
The PKK admitted it was holding prisoners but denied that they were executed, claiming that they were killed in clashes with the Turkish army.
The deaths sparked revulsion in Turkey, but also raised questions as to whether they had occurred during a failed rescue attempt. On Monday, Turkish authorities announced that they had arrested more than 700 people in Turkey for alleged links to the PKK, raising concerns that the government would use the tragedy to further crack down on pro-Kurdish figures.
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