(Corrects to U.S. support in fourth paragraph)
By Tulay Karadeniz
ANKARA President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday he believes Turkey’s dialogue with the United States will gain pace after President-elect Donald Trump takes office and that they will reach a consensus on regional issues.
Relations between Washington and Turkey – a NATO ally key to the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq – have deteriorated sharply since a failed military coup in July.
Erdogan and the government blame the abortive putsch on Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and want him extradited. Gulen denies involvement in the coup.
They have also been angered by U.S. support for a Kurdish militia group battling Islamic State in Syria. Turkey sees the group as an extension of the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey and has been behind a spate of recent bombings.
“I believe we will accelerate dialogue when Mr Trump takes office. I believe we will reach a consensus with Mr Trump, particularly on regional issues,” Erdogan told Turkish ambassadors gathered in Ankara for an annual conference.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier told the envoys that he believed Trump would not make the same mistakes as the outgoing U.S. administration in relations with Turkey.
He said Turkey expects Washington to extradite Gulen and to end its cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.
But any honeymoon with the Trump administration is likely to be short-lived. U.S. officials have made clear that the issue of Gulen’s extradition is a matter for the courts, not a question of political will, and that any process could take years. [nL8N1DG6MA]
Trump’s policy on the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, viewed by the U.S. military as a reliable ally in the fight against Islamic State, is meanwhile unclear.
He has indicated, though, that his priority in the multi-sided Syrian conflict will be fighting Islamic State – not forcing President Bashar al-Assad to leave power as Turkey has long desired.
(Additional reporting by Orhan Coskun; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall)