LONDON (Reuters) - Next week’s meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will be an opportunity to “correct the mistake” of the U.S. decision to arm Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said.
Washington is backing the Syrian YPG militia to drive out Islamic State in northern Syria, but Ankara fears the advance of the militia would fuel the Kurdish insurgency at home.
Turkey considers both the YPG and its political arm, the PYD, as extensions of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The United States, Europe and Turkey consider the PKK a terrorist organisation.
“We have suggested other solutions,” Yildirim said, speaking to reporters at an event in London. “I hope that during the meeting of our president next week with President Donald Trump this issue will be changed to a positive trajectory.”
He added that if it is not, people in the region would suffer, comparing the situations to the mistakes made in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“This mistake will be seen sooner or later and it will be corrected,” he said.
Yildirim acknowledged that the plan had been developed under the previous U.S. administration, and said he hoped Turkey would have a better relationship with Trump’s administration.
In Thursday’s talks with Trump’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Yildirim said he had been assured the U.S. Treasury would start tracking the financial flows of the PKK.
“With the new U.S. administration, we believe they are sincere in mending the relationship with Turkey, but only time will show,” he said, speaking through a translator.
Yildirim also said that he was seeking to raise Turkey’s “solidarity” with Britain, in the light of its decision to leave the European Union following a referendum.
“After Brexit we will have a free trade agreement prepared and signed as soon as possible between the UK and Turkey,” he said.
He also criticised the European Union, saying it had turned into a bureaucratic state and needed to “rethink its position”. “The EU needs to decide on its vision for the future - a vision that will include Turkey or not. But it has to discuss this with Turkey in an open manner.”
Germany and other European countries have grown increasingly concerned about mass arrests and dismissals in the army, judiciary and civil service after a failed attempt to topple the president in July.
Relations between Turkey and the EU deteriorated further during the run-up to Turkey’s referendum on constitutional reform after several European countries prevented Turkish politicians from holding rallies.
Turkey has also repeatedly threatened to cancel a migrant readmission agreement with the European Union and a $6 billion refugee deal with the bloc, slamming Brussels for not keeping to its side of the bargain and providing visa-free travel for Turkish citizens.
Reporting by Claire Milhench; Editing by David Dolan