Ankara, August 16, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has stated that he expects Kurdish forces to pull back from the east of the Euphrates River upon the completion of the Manbij operation against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
“The United States, and personally [U.S. President Barack] Obama, made a promise that the [Democratic Union Party] PYD members within the coalition would not move east of the Euphrates upon the completion of the Manbij operation. The U.S. needs to keep its promise. This is our expectation,” Çavuşoğlu said after a visit to main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Aug. 15.
Turkey views the PYD as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“Unfortunately, up until today, despite the U.N. Security Council resolution, it has not been possible to secure a cease-fire. At this moment there is a corridor but Aleppo is still under siege. The regime and Russia have unfortunately been continuing their attacks,” he said, commenting on the general situation in Syria.
“Of course, the most important issue is: How will the political transition be ensured? What will the transitional administration be? We have been underlining that it must be inclusive. Different countries have differing attitudes on the issue of [Syrian President Bashar] al-Assad’s departure, but from the very beginning, Turkey has been saying that he needs to go,” Çavuşoğlu said.
During the meet at the CHP headquarters in Ankara, Çavuşoğlu was accompanied by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Parliamentary Group Chair Mustafa Elitaş while Kılıçdaroğlu was accompanied by CHP Deputy Chair Öztürk Yılmaz, a veteran former diplomat.
A U.S.-led coalition is battling ISIL jihadists in Syria and Iraq, with air strikes and backing for the Syrian Democratic Forces, an Arab-Kurdish militia alliance, which on Aug. 12 took full control of the strategic city of Manbij after ISIL retreated.
ISIL emerged amid the chaos of Syria’s conflict, a complex and multi-front war that has killed more than 290,000 and displaced millions since beginning with anti-regime protests in March 2011.
Right from the very beginning, Turkey has argued that all ethnic and religious groups need to be included and that there should be a secular structure in the country, Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkey has constantly defended the territorial integrity of Syria, he said. As a matter of fact, Turkey and Russia agreed on this point before the downing of a Russian military aircraft by Turkish jets in November 2015, he also said.
Instead of Kerry, Biden will come
While speaking to reporters, Çavuşoğlu also issued statements concerning the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamic preacher it accuses of orchestrating a failed coup from the United States.
“Now, information, documents and evidence concerning the coup attempt that have been provided are being collected and we have been resuming our political negotiations in line with this process,” he said, noting that a delegation of U.S. officials from the Justice and State departments will visit the Turkish capital on Aug. 23-24 in order to assist Ankara in preparing its formal request for the extradition of Gülen, who is believed to have orchestrated the July 15 failed coup attempt.
Çavuşoğlu also touched on a White House announcement released over the weekend that said Vice President Joe Biden would visit Turkey on Aug. 24. Biden will be the highest-level American visitor to the country since the uprising failed in July.
“Previously, [U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry, too, said he wanted to come. Instead of Kerry, Biden will come. The Americans made such a decision,” he said, noting that later, along with Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ, they would travel to Washington after the related file on Gülen is completed.
“We will be both conveying this file, and we will also explain to our U.S. counterparts why Gülen should be extradited,” the minister added.
Normalization of relations with Israel
In response to a question from a reporter, Çavuşoğlu said the issue of normalization of relations between Turkey and Israel was added to the agenda during the meeting with Kılıçdaroğlu and that they answered the main opposition leader’s questions on the issue.
The Advisory Board of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey (TBMM) will decide on the timing of bringing the normalization deal onto the legislature’s agenda, he said.
“As the Foreign Ministry, we have sent the deal which we signed with Israel to the Prime Ministry. Just then, the coup attempt took place,” he said, adding that the deal had not yet been sent to the parliament.
“From now on, the parliament will make the decision. When this issue came on the agenda, as the Foreign Ministry, we will be going to the parliament and give information, but the decision belongs to the parliament,” he said.
Early in the summer, Turkey and Israel agreed to normalize diplomatic relations following a six-year hiatus.
Last week, during a joint press conference with visiting Palestinian Foreign Affairs Minister Riyad al-Maliki in Ankara, the Turkish minister said Ankara had always advocated a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue and was going to contribute to permanent peace in the region.
“Now we have started a normalization process with Israel. According to our latest agreement, the two countries will appoint ambassadors to each county. After this step, we will also support the Palestinian issue and the Middle East peace process,” he said.