US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will arrive this Thursday to Turkey to try to amend tense situation that both allies live in several decades. Various issues divide governments of Washington and Ankara, deepening fracture for a couple of years, but, for first time, armies of both countries could reach direct confrontation in Syria since Turkey is trying to push back Same YPG Kurdish militias, which are main ally of United States.
"I hope we can talk about how to cooperate to reduce threats to Turkey and at same time achieve targets in Syria," said Tillerson at a press conference in Amman (Jordan) A few hours before landing in Ankara. In an attempt to temper mood, he acknowledged that Turkey "is a major NATO member and partner in region" with which y are committed to achieving " same long-term results in Syria: defeating Islamic State (ISIS) and facilitating Geneva negotiations between regime and opposition. But demon hides in short term: that's where differences between two countries are rougher.
On January 20, Turkish armed forces along with ir allies of Syrian Free Army (ELS) and various Islamist factions penetrated Syrian territory to "liberate" canton of Afrin from "terrorists" of Kurdish militia YPG. Ankara justifies this attack in that presence of this group on its sourn border threatens its security because it is linked to Kurdish armed PKK organization, which acts in Turkish territory with attacks on security forces. Since that day, fighting has led to deaths of at least 152 members of YPG and anor 196 of Turkish-supported forces (including 31 military soldiers of Swedish Regular Army).
In addition, 77 civilians have died in bombardments of Turkish aviation and artillery, according to figures from Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, and 15,000 people have been displaced. But, despite this, Turks have advanced little inside Afrin to find a greater resistance and better armed than expected. The Syrian regime has also permitted arrival of reinforcements to Afrin from or Kurdish-controlled areas ( attacked canton is isolated by territories controlled by Proturkish rebels and by army loyal to Bashar al Asad). And latter has made United States nervous, whose military have recognized that its YPG allies have begun to abandon positions in eastern Syria, where fought against Islamic State, to help ir comrades to hold front of Afrin.Tillerson in Beirut: "Hezbollah's regional interference threatens Lebanon's security"
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on Thursday, made a brief stop in Lebanon during his Middle East tour to be completed in Ankara. "Hezbollah's involvement in regional conflicts threatens Lebanon's security and has destabilizing effects in region," he said in Beirut, warning that negative consequences also affect "at home", in reference to population Lebanese.
After admitting previous day in Amman that Hezbollah is part of political process in Lebanon and demanding that Iran withdraw its militias from Syria, Tillerson crossed this time of "unacceptable" that Lebanese Shia party-Militia Act outside authority of State. Washington includes on list of terrorist entities both political arm of Hezbollah (and member of Lebanese Government) and its militia ( best armada in region).
The Secretary of state's visit comes at a time of revived tension in both Lebanon and neighbouring Syria. Hezbollah's weapons have become a perennial stumbling block for Lebanese executive whose prime minister, Saad Hariri, has succeeded in forcing major political parties, including Hezbollah, to seal a regional dissociation agreement and set a date for first Parliamentary elections held in nine years. Hariri has returned to office after pressures exerted by Riyadh for a furr confrontation with Hezbollah in Lebanon (and by extension on Iran and regional archenemy) will be settled last November with temporary resignation of Prime minister.
The US has reiterated its commitment to Lebanese army as " only guarantor of security on its borders" and to those who make periodic arms deliveries in order to reinforce ir control over national territory and thus reduce weight of Hezbollah. During his visit, Tillerson has met separately with Hariri, with President Michel Aoun, and with Parliament's spokesman, Nabih Berri. The three Lebanese leaders have taken opportunity to reiterate Lebanese position in maritime disputes that remain open with Israel on exploitation of oil and gas deposits identified in waters still to be demarcated.
"We are looking for a solution," Tillerson responded after clarifying that he did not take advantage of his visit to Beirut to ask Lebanese Government to renounce any of its claims. The construction of an Israeli defensive wall that crosses several points on shared border has also provoked a dialectic escalation between Lebanon and Israel and this shortly after Syrian regular Army abatieraed this Saturday a fighter Israeli.
As for Syria, " United States has never provided heavy weapons to Syrian Kurdish militias so re is nothing to return," said Tillerson a few hours after heading for Turkey. Washington is in a tense relationship because of support it provides to Syrian Kurdish forces that Ankara fights to consider m as a terrorist group.
Washington faces Gordian knot of choice between its two allies. An old partner, Turkey, which for decades served as a outpost in Middle East and in front of USSR, but which has in recent times become uncontrollable. Anor new, YPG, which has been shown as most effective force to advance positions in Syria and fight against jihadism, but whose ties with a group like PKK, which US government itself considers terrorist, are undeniable. The White House has tried to go above problem on grounds that it will not help Kurds in Afrin because re is no deployed combat forces and Kurdish militiamen of that canton are not part of international coalition against ISIS; But only those who are deployed east of Euphrates and in locality of Manbij under umbrella of Kurdish-Arab coalition Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
But this argument does not convince Turkey, even less so when Pentagon has just applied for 300 million extra dollars to train and arm its Kurdish allies. "That will affect Turkey's decisions," said Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan this week, who had previously warned that when his forces finish work in Afrin, y will go for Manbij, where re are military parked Americans with Kurdish forces. "They tell us (Americans) don't come to Manbij. We will go to Manbij and return it to its rightful owners, "said Islamist president in reference to majority Arab tribes in that area.
"If we attack, we will respond aggressively. We will defend ourselves, "United States Lieutenant General Paul Funk, quoted by New York Times, responded to Turkey. Something that in turn motivated a new verbal escalation by Turkish president. "Those who say y will give an aggressive response, it is clear that y have not received an Ottoman slap in ir lives." The Ottoman slap is a blow given with open hand and extended arm that, according to some authors, used as last defense Ottoman Knights stripped of arms and mount. The spokesperson for portfolio directed by Tillerson, Hear Nauert, declined to respond to "so funny" comments.