A security adviser to former US president Barack Obama says that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was likely to get a positive response to Turkish concerns over YPG military action in Syria.
General James Jones, who was Obama’s national security adviser in 2009 and 2010, said, “We heard from President Erdogan very clearly and other members of the Turkish government what their real concerns are and I think that will resonate very clearly in Washington with the new administration.”
Jones, who spoke to TRT World at the Atlantic Council’s Istanbul Summit on Friday, said that there was no way that US President Donald Trump could ignore Turkey’s concerns over the US’ cooperation with YPG elements in Syria.
“We heard from the president (Erdogan) this is one of the big issues for them. Their (the Turkish) view of the community of terrorists is unequivocal. We’ll have to wait and see how this administration feels. But not to talk about and not to make it one of the top issues of the dialogue is inconceivable at this point.”
Earlier on Friday, Erdogan told the summit that he would try to persuade the US to drop its support for the YPG in the fight against Daesh when he meets President Donald Trump during a state visit to the US on May 16.
The YPG are the militant wing of the Syria's leftist Democratic Union Party, but Ankara regards it simply as a branch of the PKK, which the US, the EU and Turkey have designated as a terrorist organisation.
Turkey’s relations with the US have been strained over the latter’s support for the YPG. Erdogan told the conference that US support for the YPG was damaging relations between the two countries.
He said he hoped that the relationship between the two countries would improve under President Donald Trump.
Jones, who was also Supreme Allied Commander of Europe from 2003 to 2006, appeared to take aim at Obama, and give Trump the thumbs up for striking at Syria following a chemical weapons attack at the beginning of April.
“My feeling is that the military strike and in addition to the military results had the positive effect of saying this is the end of a US policy that is so hard to understand and so imprecise. And if that is a true statement, then what happens next should be quite good."
Jones said that he doubted that Turkey’s recent attack on YPG forces in the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar would damage relations between the two countries. He was, however, certain that the air strikes carried out earlier this week would be discussed when Erdogan and Trump met in Washington.
“I think the Turkish General Staff should be very careful about their targeting and to make sure they understand what they’re hitting.”
There had been some criticism about the strike with the US claiming that insufficient warning tim had been given. This was however rejected by Turkey's foreign minister Mevlet Cavusoglu, who told reporters on a trip to Uzbekistan that: "Two hours before this operation, we shared information with the US and Russia that we would undertake an operation in the region, and warned the US to withdraw its soldiers in the region 20 to 30 kilometres away."
Jones warned that there were Americans and workers from other nationalities working in the oil fields in the Sinjar region, but at the same time said it was clear that the oil fields could be used as a shield.
“I think we have to understand that the Turkish terrorist groups are not stupid and the closer they can get to oil fields with international populations probably makes them a little bit more secure. It’s a difficult problem.”
Jones said that the US needed to be involved in the region and as a superpower could not simply withdraw no matter how much it wanted to.
“The United States has to understand that we don’t have any choice in the matter. You cannot withdraw from the world. You cannot give mixed signals. You cannot say things that you are not prepared to do because when you do that and you are a superpower, you create vacuums and vacuums lead to very uncertain things and sometimes very dangerous things,” he warned.