Turkish and U.S. officials discussed bilateral relations and developments in Syria on Monday, as enduring rifts over U.S. support for Kurdish groups in the country continue to complicate relations.
The Turkish Presidency stated that the two countries must continue working together against terror after spokesman İbrahim Kalın’s phone call with U.S. National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, an implicit rebuke to U.S. moves to host a Kurdish leader Ankara views as a terrorist.
Also on Monday, the Turkish Presidency’s communications director Fahrettin Altun slammed U.S. senators for attempting to bring Mazloum Kobani, the leader of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, to the United States on an expedited visa.
“We reiterate that the recognition of a terrorist leader by our allies will be detrimental to our relations,” Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter.
Turkey sees the SDF as a terrorist organisation due to its links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a 35-war armed campaign for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey and is designated as a terrorist organisation by Turkey and the United States.
Kobani fought with the PKK in Turkey during a period of intense conflict in the 1990s. But the Kurdish commander led the SDF on the front lines of the U.S.-backed campaign against Islamic State (ISIS), and the Syrian Kurdish-led group played an important role in last weekend’s strike that killed ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Last week, bipartisan U.S. senators led by Lindsey Graham called for Kobani to be granted a quick visa and allowed to travel to Washington to brief the U.S. Congress on the situation in Syria, where the withdrawal of U.S. forces triggered a widely condemned Turkish operation against the SDF on Oct. 9.
U.S. President Donald Trump has also tweeted that he looked forward to meeting Kobani, raising the prospect of a meeting in Washington before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is due to visit on Nov. 13.
Turkey’s Justice Ministry issued a warrant for Kobani’s arrest, while top Turkish officials have demanded the Kurdish commander’s extradition if he sets foot in the United States.
Meanwhile, Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman reported for Al Monitor that the U.S. Embassy in Ankara was resisting Graham’s demand to grant Kobani a visa, “and the embassy may well prevail.”