On his recent visit to Turkey, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson reaffirmed that the U.S.-Turkish alliance is not an “alliance of convenience or of temporary interest. It is a time-tested alliance built on common interest and mutual respect.”
With regard to the future of Syria, the U.S. and Turkey share the same objectives: the defeat of ISIS; secure and stable zones; an independent and unified Syria; and a new democratic future for Syria under the UN Security Council Resolution 2254. “A democratic future for Syria,” stressed Mr. Tillerson, “is essential for preventing ISIS from re-emerging and from stopping the suffering that the Assad regime has inflicted on the Syrian people.”
“We recognize the legitimate right of Turkey to secure its borders,” said Secretary Tillerson. With regard to Turkish military action against the Kurdish People's Protection Units in the Syrian province of Afrin, the U.S. calls on Turkey to show restraint in its operation to minimize the casualties to civilians and avoid actions that would escalate tensions in that area.
The U.S. continues to support Turkish democracy. “Respect for the rule of law, judicial independence, and an open press are a source of strength and stability,” said Secretary Tillerson.The U.S. supports the government of Turkey’s right to bring the perpetrators of the 2016 coup to justice. But Secretary Tillerson stressed, “it is important to handle these cases in a transparent and fair manner that respects human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
The U.S. continues to have serious concerns about the detention of local employees of the American mission in Turkey and about cases against U.S. citizens who have been arrested under the state of emergency. Secretary Tillerson, in particular, called for the “release of Pastor Andrew Brunson and other U.S. citizens whom we believe are being unjustly detained. With regard to Serkan Golge,” he said, “we believe his release through the appeals process would be both just and appropriate.” A senior NASA researcher and dual US-Turkish citizen, Mr. Golge was falsely convicted on February 9 of being part of the failed 2016 coup.
The United States will continue to raise these and other important issues with Turkey in the days ahead.