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US, Turkish nerves fray as Erdogan visit nears

The Turkish foreign minister shared a heated conversation with his American counterpart in the wake of the Turkish airstrikes in Syria, and despite US fury, Ankara's increasingly roguish behavior will likely remain unchanged.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu attend a news conference in Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Umit Bektas - RTX33DCF

Soon after Turkish air force jets carried out a wave of airstrikes against Kurdish targets in northeastern Syria and northwestern Iraq on April 25, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu spoke with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson over the phone. The reported tone of the conversation speaks volumes about the new low in Turkish-American relations ahead of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s planned May 16 meeting with President Donald Trump.

According to three separate sources familiar with the details of the exchange, it went horribly. Cavusoglu’s shrilly defensive explanation of why Turkey had ignored US calls to back off and bombed the headquarters of the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on Mount Karachok, killing 28 militants and endangering US special operations forces’ lives, didn’t cut any ice. One of the sources told Al-Monitor on condition of strict anonymity, “At one stage in the conversation Tillerson was kind of like saying 'OK, whatever, you go your way, we will go ours.'” Another said, “It wasn’t quite that dramatic,” but concurred that the phone call went badly.

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