US VP Pence hails ‘new day’ in relations in call with Turkish PM

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Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım (L) and US Vice President Mike Pence

The office of the Turkish Prime Ministry said in a statement on Thursday that US Vice President Mike Pence told Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım in a phone conversation that it was a “new day” in bilateral relations.

Turkish media reported late on Thursday that Yıldırım spoke to Pence on the phone about further developing the cooperation between the two countries.

Although the White House issued no statement on the conversation, the Turkish side stated that Pence delivered a message of solidarity with Turkey in its fight against terrorism. Pence also extended his condolences for Turkish losses in northern Syria during Operation Euphrates Shield.

Yesterday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a phone call with US President Donald Trump.

The Washington Post reported that Erdoğan attempted to persuade Trump to abandon a proposal backed by the US military to arm Kurdish fighters for an assault on Raqqa, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Erdoğan reportedly said that such a move would damage Turkey’s military efforts as well as the strained relations between the two countries.

The Post said that according to Turkish and American officials, Trump was “noncommittal,” saying that “additional consultations [are] needed on the Kurdish question.”

“President Donald J. Trump today spoke by phone with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey about the close, long-standing relationship between the United States and Turkey and their shared commitment to combating terrorism in all its forms. President Trump reiterated U.S. support to Turkey as a strategic partner and NATO ally, and welcomed Turkey’s contributions to the counter-ISIS (or ISIL) campaign,” the White House readout said on Tuesday night.

While Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG) as extensions of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and designates them as terrorist groups, Washington backs the YPG militia in the fight against ISIL, which has drawn strong criticism from Ankara.

On various occasions last year, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Prime Minister Yıldırım and President Erdoğan all said the US had supported terrorists against Turkey by arming groups such as the YPG.

Washington rejected the Turkish allegations and said the US is supporting the Syrian Democratic Forces, mainly consisting of YPG militia, in its fight against ISIL.

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