ISTANBUL (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Turkey on March 30, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday, in what will likely be the highest-level meeting with Ankara. since US President Donald Trump took office in January. .
Ties between the United States and Turkey, which has the second-largest army in the NATO alliance and is key to the US-led fight against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, deteriorated dramatically in the last year of the administration. of Barack Obama.
“Rex Tillerson has said that he would like to come to Turkey on March 30,” Cavusoglu said in an interview with broadcaster Haberturk. “I told him that we will be in Ankara and available and we would happily receive him,” Cavusoglu said.
Tillerson is also likely to meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, he said.
Erdogan and the Turkish government want the United States to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Islamic cleric whom Ankara blames for orchestrating last year’s failed coup. Gulen denies his involvement in the coup attempt.
Ankara has also been angered by US support for the Kurdish YPG militia fighting the Islamic State in Syria. It is categorical that Washington should shift support for the planned Raqqa offensive from the YPG militia to the Syrian rebels that Turkey has trained.
For the US administration, nervous about whether the Turkish-backed force is large enough and sufficiently trained, the decision establishes Trump’s desire for quick victories on the battlefield against the need to maintain his strategic alliance with Turkey.
Ankara views the YPG as the Syrian extension of the Kurdish militant group PKK, which has fought an insurgency in southeastern Turkey since 1984 and is considered a terrorist group by both the United States and the European Union.
Erdogan believes ties will improve with Trump. A phone call between the two early last month was positive, sources in Erdogan’s office said.
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