Tillerson sees tough talks with Turkey on northern Syria

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US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will press Turkey to rein in its military operation in northern Syria during a visit to the NATO ally next week, a senior US official said on Friday.

Briefing reporters on Tillerson’s February 11-16 trip to Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt and Kuwait, US officials said there would be tough conversations at each stop, notably in Jordan, upset by the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and by the US limiting aid for the Palestinians.

The United States and Turkey, allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, are also deeply divided over a Turkish military air and ground operation into the Afrin region in northwest Syria targeting the Kurdish YPG militia.

US support for the Kurdish-led forces has infuriated Turkey, which views growing Kurdish power as a security threat along its frontier. Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that has waged a three-decade-long insurgency in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast.

“We are urging them to show restraint in their operations in Afrin and to show restraint further along the line across the (border) in northern Syria,” a US official told reporters in a conference call. “That’s going to be a difficult conversation.”

Speaking of US-Turkish relations, he added: “Look it’s difficult. The rhetoric is hot. The Turks are angry, and this is a difficult time to do business but it’s our belief that there are still some very fundamental underlying shared interests.”

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