U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (L) shakes hands with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu during a press conference in Ankara, Turkey, on March 30, 2017. (Xinhua/Qin Yanyang)
ANKARA, March 30 (Xinhua) -- Turkey and the United States have pledged to enhance bilateral relations as the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on his first visit to Turkey. Yet gap still exists relating Kurdish role in the battle to retake jihadists' Syrian stronghold.
Ankara expected Tillerson's visit to reinvigorate U.S.-Turkish relations which have strained during Obama administration over U.S. cooperation with the Syrian Kurdish militia in Syria, which Ankara deems an offshoot of outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The secretary, who paid the highest political visit to Turkey from the new U.S. administration, acknowledged that Washington faced "difficult choices" in the anti-IS campaign.
"It's vital for us to give a new energy to the Turkey-U.S. relationship. Turkey and the U.S. have an important role to play regarding the challenges they face," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a joint press conference with his U.S. counterpart.
Recalling Obama administration's cooperation with the People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters in Syria, Cavusoglu stressed that Turkey expects better cooperation with the U.S. stopping alliance with the Kurdish militia.
"Cooperating with one terror organization in fighting another terror group is wrong and unrealistic, and will impose more risks for the future of Syria," the Turkish minister said, hinting that Turkey wants to get involved in upcoming Raqqa operation but not along with the YPG.
In his visit to Ankara, the Secretary of State was seeking to shore up support from its NATO for efforts against the IS. Tillerson said three main goals in talks with Turkish leadership were defeating the IS, bringing stability to the region and boosting bilateral economic ties.
Asked about how Turkey will be persuaded about cooperation with YPG, Tillerson said negotiation would be needed.
Abstained to clarify the YPG role in upcoming Raqqa offensive of the anti-IS coalition, Tillerson acknowledged that the U.S. faces "difficult choices."
The U.S.-led coalition fighting the IS is backing Kurdish forces as the Syrian Democratic Forces, which comprises of mostly YPG Kurds along with Arabs and Assyrians, have already got on with siege of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the IS.
The United States earlier stated that they do not see the YPG as a terrorist organization.
Moreover, Cavusoglu reiterated the extradition demand for Fethullah Gulen, a U.S. based Islamic preacher who is accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating a coup attempt in July, 2016.
Located in a strategic geographic position between Europe and Asia, Turkey is viewed as a critical member of the NATO, providing use of Incirlik Air Base near Syrian border for the coalition forces in the fight against IS.