US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Monday that the Trump administration was starting to repair ties with NATO ally Turkey that were recently strained due to the US arming of Kurdish militia in Syria.
According to a report by Reuters, Tillerson, who is in İstanbul for an international petroleum conference, told US Consulate staff that “I think we’re beginning to rebuild some of that trust that we lost in one another. They lost our trust to a certain extent, we lost theirs.”
Tillerson’s comments came a day after he met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan for talks on regional security issues, including US backing for Kurdish Syrian People’s Protection Units (YPG) forces fighting to drive the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) from their Raqqa stronghold.
Underlining that he has met with Erdoğan three times since becoming secretary of state, Tillerson said: “and I think each meeting things are getting a little better in terms of the tone between us.”
Ankara was angered by arms deliveries to YPG militia in Syria last month, claiming the YPG is a terrorist group due to its links with outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and that the weapons might be used against Turkey.
The US says YPG militia, under the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), are the most effective local force in trying to oust ISIL militants from their stronghold of Raqqa.
On Jun 27 US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the US military would continue to provide weapons to the YPG even after ridding Raqqa of ISIL.
In May, the Trump administration authorized the arming of the YPG in Syria ahead of a planned assault to retake the city of Raqqa from ISIL, causing anger in Ankara.
A decision by US prosecutors last month to charge a dozen Turkish security and police officers after an attack on protesters during Erdoğan’s visit to Washington in May and rejecting Turkey’s demand that it extradite Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish Islamic scholar who lives in Pennsylvania and is accused by Erdoğan of masterminding a failed military coup in July 2016, also strained ties Washington’s ties with Ankara.