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Turkish Foreign Minister Expects US to Back Ankara in Syria, 'Not Terrorists'

© REUTERS / Khalil AshawiTurkish forces are seen near Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria January 22,2018
Turkish forces are seen near Mount Barsaya, northeast of Afrin, Syria January 22,2018 - Sputnik International
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu believes that the future of relations between Ankara and Washington depends on the further steps the US takes, and who supports who in Syria.

The Turkish foreign minister told Haberturk newspaper that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has expressed doubts that the Syrian Kurds from People's Protection Units (YPG) had shelled Turkish territory.

"We do not know where they get the data, but we take into account what we experienced and saw. I told him to check his sources of information, and not to talk to us about their position," Cavusoglu said.

"The future of relations with the US depends on the next steps of the United States. As for me, I am taking the steps that I should, otherwise my country will be in danger. We will not be afraid of anyone: if we have to die, we will die, but we will not live in fear," Cavusoglu stressed.

READ MORE: Ankara Pursuing Offensive Against Kurds in Afrin Despite Damascus' Disapproval

He added that he expects "from such allies as the US that they will be on the side of Turkey, and not on the side of terrorists."

The minister added that before starting the operation, Turkey fully informed all interested parties about its military plans.

"Our task is not to confront Russia, Syria or the US, but to fight terrorism. At the same time, it does not matter, if it is Afrin, Manbij, the east of the Euphrates or even Northern Iraq. If there are terrorists there, this is a threat to us," the minister noted.

Earlier, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Turkey has a "legal right" to protect itself against terrorists and to have a security zone on the border with Syria, adding that Washington is "engaged" with Ankara on the situation.

READ MORE: Turkey's Presence in Afrin Shows Complex Syrian Conflict 'Nowhere Near Ending'

"No, I absolutely do not think that you will see the two NATO allies opposing each other," Tillerson said.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said earlier that the key condition for the continuation of cooperation between Ankara and Washington is the cessation of US weapons deliveries to Syrian Kurds and the return of previously supplied weapons.

High-ranking US officials have arrived in Turkey to discuss bilateral issues and the country's military operation against US-backed Kurdish militia in the Syrian district of Afrin, media reported on Tuesday, citing diplomatic sources.

According to the Anadolu news agency, the delegation arrived on Monday, a day before meetings were scheduled to begin, including one at the Turkish General Staff's headquarters. The US delegation is reportedly led by Deputy Assistant Secretary Jonathan Cohen, while the Turkish side will be headed by Deputy Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ahmet Muhtar Gun.

EU's High representative for foreign affairs and security policy Federica Mogherini arrives for an European Union leaders summit on October 20, 2016 at the European Council, in Brussels. - Sputnik International
EU's Mogherini 'Extremely Worried' About Turkish Op in Syria's Afrin
On January 20, the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces announced the launch of an operation, dubbed the "Olive Branch" against the Kurdish forces in Syria's Afrin district. According to the latest information, during the operation, Turkish Air Force planes have hit over 170 targets.

The same day, Pentagon representative Adrian Rankine-Galloway told Sputnik that the US recognizes Turkey's concerns regarding the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) amid the new Turkish military operation in northern Syria, but calls on all sides to avoid escalation and focus on countering terrorism.

Since last week, Ankara has been threatening to launch the invasion in Afrin, following the US announcement of its decision to start training a border protection force which would include the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). This group is affiliated with the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey considers to be a terrorist group.

The decision has been taken just a month after the US announced its decision to halt arms supplies to the Kurdish People's Protection Units, as was earlier promised to the Turkish leadership.

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