Turkish-American approach is accelerating; Key issues unresolved

The Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet his American colleague Donald Trump in the margins of the commemorations of the First World War in France. The meeting comes because the two NATO allies try to restore the relationship after sustained tensions.

A large number of policy differences have dipped bilateral relations to a low point, but the publication by a Turkish court last month of an American preacher, Andrew Brunson, and his return home, seems to have been a turning point.

Washington granted Ankara a six-month waiver of Iran's sanctions, giving a new impetus. And Trump also said that the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the consulate of Riyadh in Istanbul results in close cooperation with Ankara.

"We work with Congress, work with Turkey and work with Saudi Arabia," he said.

Apart from that, it is expected that the neighbor of Turkey, Syria, will win the talks between the two leaders. US military support to the Syrian Kurdish militia, the YPG, remains an open wound in bilateral ties in its war against the Islamic State.

Turkey regards the YPG and its political wing, the PYD, as branches of the forbidden PKK that has been in revolt for decades.

Turkey, the European Union and the United States have all designated the PKK as a terrorist organization.

Despite Ankara's intense lobby for Washington to change its position towards the YPG and give it the same denomination as the PKK, the US seems unmoved.

"We did not designate the YPG as a terrorist organization as we have the PKK, and we have never done that," said Ambassador James Jeffrey, the US Special Representative for Syria's involvement.

"We understand Turkey's concerns about its security," he said in a telephone briefing with reporters. "We understand Turkey's concerns about the links between the PYD and the PKK, so we are very, very careful in different areas."

In a move that was widely seen as a gesture to Turkey in the run-up to the meeting, the US State Department announced a bounty of millions of dollars to PKK leaders. The step was answered with a cool reaction from Ankara and an open spot between pro-government media.

"They supposedly & # 39; bounty & # 39; donate to terrorist" leaders ", who are already in their hands, who are their" personnel ", and what is more, who they use if they want, and actually mock us, "wrote Tamer Korkmaz of the pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak.

"Very, very late," said Turkish defense minister Hulusi Akar in response when he called upon Washington to adopt a similar policy towards the YPG.

Turkey was also less than enthusiastic about a new campaign in the US to increase confidence.

Last week, the American and Turkish armies conducted a joint patrol around the Syrian city of Manbij. The patrol is part of a roadmap agreed in June between the two countries that will eventually see YPG troops withdrawing from the city that helped liberate the Islamic State. Erdogan, however, has repeatedly accused Washington of slowness in the execution of the deal.

Erdogan is expected to strive for an accelerated roadmap and a quick withdrawal of all YPG troops from Manbij during talks with Trump.

Experts suggest that the Turkish president has the chance to reach a critical goal: the removal of the YPG militias along the border east of the Euphrates River.

"Now in Syria, the strategic priorities for the US shift from countering IS to containing Iran," said former Turkish top diplomat Aydin Selcen, who served in the region. "So Turkey gets the green light to intervene in the eastern Euphrates, perhaps they have already received it, or at least a wink."

In the last few weeks, the Turkish army has been pounding YPG bases along the border to the east of the Euphrates. Washington has expressed "deep concern" about the strikes and deployed US troops to patrol the YPG to deter such attacks.

"This is not an acceptable thing," Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday. "This can cause serious negative developments at the border, I believe Mr. Trump will stop this."

Analysts say that Trump will set his own requirements.

"Trump asks Turkey to be in line with Iran and to keep the ground," Selcen said. "This will force Turkey to completely distance itself from Russia and Iran."

But Erdogan also criticizes Washington for restoring sanctions against Iran.

"American sanctions against Iran are wrong," he said Tuesday. "For us it is steps that aim to bring the world out of balance, we do not want to live in an imperialist world."

The relationship between Turkey and Iran has deepened cooperation to end the civil war in Syria. Van Trump is expected to tighten relations with Iran during his conversations with Erdogan. .