US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met Thursday with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to convey President Donald Trump’s commitment to strengthening the relationship between the two countries.
Thursday’s conversations built on three mutual long-term goals: working together to defeat the Islamic State (Daesh); building stability in the region; and bolstering economic ties between the two nations, Tillerson said during a press conference following those meetings.
“Turkey’s been a NATO ally since 1952, and we continue to exercise military cooperation in that alliance and in the global coalition to defeat Daesh,” Tillerson said. “Our discussions today reaffirmed that we will prevent the resurgence of Daesh in previously held territory, and aggressively stop the emergence of new terrorist threats on the ground as well as the recruitment of terrorists online.”
Tillerson noted that in the past 18 months the US Military’s ability to operate from Turkish bases has enabled an increase in operations against the Islamic State by 25 percent without the utilization of any additional aircraft required. Additionally, Tillerson said that the Turkish Government has stopped the influx of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria.
“Turkish troops have permanently pushed ISIS off the Turkish-Syria border,” Tillerson said.
Tillerson also had positive words for Turkey with respect to alleviating the ongoing refugee crisis stemming from the conflict in Syria. In four years, Turkey has received more than 3 million refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
While extending condolences for PKK attacks in Turkey last year, Tillerson stressed that the US and Turkey share many broad goals for the region: reducing Iran’s ability to disrupt the region; finding a settlement in Syria that allows Syrians to return home; and supporting Iraqis to build a strong, independent, and inclusive government in Baghdad.
In response to a question regarding the future Syria’s President Assad, Tillerson commented, “I think the status and the longer-term status of President Assad will be decided by the Syrian people.”