ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Turkish officials on Thursday discussed ways to coordinate the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria, a day after Turkey said it has ended a military operation in northern Syria.
In a statement, the office of Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim did not refer to differences between Turkey and the United States over the role of Kurdish forces in the campaign against IS, saying only that the two NATO allies agreed to strengthen cooperation on regional matters.
Tillerson, who met President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after Yildirim, emphasized that Turkey is important to American security and economic ties in the region.
Yildirim said late Wednesday that Operation Euphrates Shield had ended after its troops and allied rebels secured territory along the border between Turkey and Syria.
“Syrians from Turkey have returned. Life is back to normal. Everything is under control,” Yildirim said on Turkey’s NTV news channel. “Euphrates Shield has ended. If there is a need, a new operation will have a new name.”
Yildirim has previously said that the United States risks major damage to its relationship with NATO ally Turkey if the US includes Kurdish forces in the fight to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State group’s de facto capital. Raqqa is southeast of the Syrian area that Turkish troops have occupied.
Turkey has pressed the United States to mount a joint fight to retake Raqqa and wants US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters to be excluded from the operations.
Turkish authorities consider the Syrian Kurdish force known as the YPG to be a terrorist group that threatens Turkey’s security.
Other issues being discussed include Turkish requests for the extradition of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of staging a failed coup attempt last year. Gulen has denied involvement.
Tillerson was also scheduled to meet Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday. Cavusoglu said Turkey would also take up the issue of the arrest in New York of a senior executive of Turkish state-owned bank Halkbank. The executive is accused of helping Iran violate US sanctions against the country.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.