President Obama will be meeting with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday in China. One of the top priorities on agenda for the two heads of state is the situation in Syria.
President Obama will also meet with Xi Jinping, the current Chinese head of state. They will discuss climate change issues, and cybersecurity. It’s also quite likely Obama will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. But they have not scheduled a formal meeting so far.
Ben Rhodes, deputy national security advisor has stated that, “They will be discussing the counter-ISIL campaign and the fact that we need to stay united.”
US-Turkish diplomatic relations are in a very precarious point right now. Earlier this week, Turkey launched an offensive in Syria. Their main target is the Islamic State, but they are also fighting against the Kurds. The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) is allied with the United States, in the fight against ISIS.
Naturally, fighting Islamic extremists is a top priority for each of the three groups. However, the US is faced with a major dilemma.
During the past few days, the conflict between Turkish and Kurdish forces has escalated. The Pentagon has called the Turkish attack against the Kurd army “unacceptable.”
Turkey has already managed to force the Kurdish forces to back up beyond the Euphrates river.
As the conflict in the Middle East escalates, Turkey is now a key member of NATO. Managing the US-Turkish diplomatic relationship is going to be a very difficult task.
President Obama Faced with a Daunting Task
This recent conflict adds a new issue to the already strained relation between Turkey and the US. After the failed coup attempt in Turkey, President Erdogan has been demanding that the US extradite Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen is the spiritual leader of a liber movement in Turkey. President Erdogan is convinced he had orchestrated the coup attempt.
So far, the United States have refused to send him to Turkey. US officials believe there is insufficient evidence. Earlier this month, Vice-President Joe Biden visited Ankara to discuss the accusations.
After the meeting, Turkish Prime-Minister Binali Yildirim stated that these kinds of incidents should not harm Turkish-US relations. But at the same time, their top priority is Gulen’s extradition. They hope the process will start as soon as possible.
Lawyers believe it could take years until authorities can reach a decision on this issue. And after legal matters are taken care of, even if a judge approves the extradition request, the US Secretary of State must look at it. They can take into consideration non-legal factors, such as humanitarian ones, when they make their final decision.
This will be the first time President Obama meets with his Turkish counterpart after the failed coup attempt. As the Islamic State slowly extends its reach to new Muslim communities, particularly in Indonesia, it is essential that the US maintain its good standing with Turkey. The fragile alliance between the two countries is one of the key elements in the fight against the jihadists.
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