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June 22, 2018

Turkish ambassador heads back to US after spat

Turkish ambassador heads back to US after spat
'Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Ankara's embassador to Washington will be back at work shortly after a spat with the US over the new American embassy in Jerusalem' - By: AFP/File Alexander NEMENOV

Turkey's ambassador to Washington was on Thursday heading back to the United States after a spat over the official inauguration of the new US embassy in Jerusalem.

State TRT television said Serdar Kilic had left Ankara to resume his post after an absence of over two weeks from Washington.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu meanwhile told the Hurriyet daily that Kilic would be back at work by the time he meets his US counterpart Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday.

Turkey recalled its ambassadors to Washington and Tel Aviv early this month for consultations after dozens of Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire along the Gaza border on the same day the US celebrated the opening of its embassy in Jerusalem.

In Washington, Pompeo and Cavusoglu are expected to try and agree terms for the withdrawal of US-backed Kurdish militia from the Syrian town of Manbij, a move long sought by Turkey.

Relations between the two NATO allies, Turkey and the United States, have become increasingly bitter in recent months over issues including US support for the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.

Ankara argues the YPG is a branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party which has been fighting against Turkey state since 1984 while Washington insists they are part of a legitimate opposition group called the Syrian Democratic Forces.

Manbij hosts a US military presence with American soldiers providing military support to the YPG in the fight against jihadists.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to expand an incursion inside Syria to Manbij after clearing the western enclave of Afrin of YPG militia in January.

Cavusoglu told Hurriyet that in Washington both foreign ministers would publicise a timetable on the Manbij roadmap.

"We will make a joint statement that day," he said. "The concrete step is that YPG will be withdrawn from there," he added.

Cavusoglu said Turkey and the United States would decide together who would replace the YPG in Manbij's administration and security forces.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said US officials were now willing to discuss the Manbij issue, in a speech in the Black Sea region of Girseun.

The Turkish premier implied that Ankara also wanted similar talks to deal with YPG-controlled areas east of the Euphrates like the former jihadist-held centres of Raqa and Kobane.

"The east of Euphrates is clear now, what will happen to its east? It will be the same. There is no other way out," he said, quoted by the official Anadolu news agency.

Pompeo is also expected to raise the case of US pastor Andrew Brunson who has been held in detention in western Turkey since October 2016 on terror and spying charges. Washington has repeatedly denounced his incarceration.

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