The U.S. said Wednesday it is “committed to its strategic partnership with Turkey to bring stability to the region and defeat terrorism in all its forms” amid a row sparked by comments from a senior Trump administration official.
“We appreciate Turkey’s efforts to increase its border security, stem the flow of foreign fighters through its territory and fight on the ground to clear ISIS from key towns in Syria,” a National Security Council spokesman told Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, referring to the Daesh terrorist group.
“There is more work for everyone in the region to do to address the financing of terrorism and the ideologies that support violent extremism, and the United States will look for opportunities to deepen our cooperation on the issue with Turkey,” he added.
Speaking Dec. 12 at an event hosted by the British think tank Policy Exchange in Washington, National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster said Turkey and Qatar are the “main supporters” of “radicalism” and claimed Turkey’s problems with the West were mainly due to the rise of the ruling party in Ankara. The remarks drew a swift rebuke from Ankara.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said McMaster’s remarks were acknowledged with “sadness”. It added McMaster, due to the position he holds, “must know better”.
“National Security Adviser McMaster’s baseless claims are far beyond reality, astonishing and unacceptable,” said the statement.
The Foreign Ministry urged the U.S. to stop supporting terrorist groups such as the PKK/PYD.
The PKK/PYD, also known as the YPG, is the Syrian wing of the PKK and has received U.S. support in the form of Special Forces back-up, air power and military supplies.
The U.S.’s use of the PKK/PYD in Syria has been a longstanding complaint for Turkey, which has been subjected to a decades-long terror campaign by the PKK, which is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the U.S.
“We expect the U.S. to provide more concrete and effective support to our country in its determined fight against terrorism and radicalism in accordance with our traditional alliance relations and international legitimacy,” the statement added.
The statement came amid strained relations between the two countries, notably the fact that the leader of Gülenist terror group (FETÖ) still roams freely in Pennsylvania, a highly politicized trial against an ex-executive of Turkish state-owned Halkbank and the FBI’s financial support of 50,000 dollars to a fugitive Gülenist named Hüseyin Korkmaz.
Korkmaz who had first denied his involvement in December 17-25 judicial coup attempt while he was under arrest in Turkey, later confessed his role in the bid. He is currently testifying in Manhattan federal court for U.S. prosecutors in the trial of Mehmet Hakan Atilla, an executive at the majority state-owned Halkbank, who is accused of taking part in a scheme with gold trader Reza Zarrab to help Iran evade U.S. sanctions. His contradicting statements have been met with caution.
Direct links between the judge overseeing the case, Richard Berman and FETÖ have also cast doubt on the trial. Turkish officials have underlined that the case is politically motivated against Turkey.
Zarrab, a Turkish and Iranian national, has pleaded guilty and testified against Atilla, saying he used fraudulent food and gold transactions to launder money for Iran with the help of Atilla and others. Atilla has pleaded not guilty.
U.S. prosecutors have charged a total of nine people in the case. Only Zarrab, 34, and Atilla, 47, have been arrested by U.S. authorities.