Turkish PM, US vice president discuss improving ties: sources

Ankara has also been angered by US support for a Kurdish militia group fighting Islamic State in Syria


Reuters February 20, 2017
US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim pose for a picture before their meeting at the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 18, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

ANKARA: US Vice President Mike Pence told Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that Washington was keen for a new start in relations between the two countries, sources in Yildirim's office said, after ties soured during the Obama administration.

Pence and Yildirim met on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, Germany, and discussed improving ties, boosting cooperation in the fight against militants and the need to work together to find a permanent solution in Syria.

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Yildirim told Pence that moves by the United States to meet Turkey's demands over Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric blamed by Ankara for masterminding and orchestrating a failed coup last July, would pave the way for a fresh start in relations.

Ties between the United States and Turkey - which has the second largest army in the NATO alliance and is key to the US-led fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq - have deteriorated sharply since the failed military coup.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the government want Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, extradited. Gulen denies involvement in the coup attempt.

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Ankara has also been angered by US support for a Kurdish militia group fighting Islamic State in Syria. Turkey sees the group as an extension of the outlawed PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey and has been behind a spate of recent bombings.

Erdogan believes ties will improve under US President Donald Trump. A phone call between the two earlier this month was very positive, sources in Erdogan's office have said.

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