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Ankara Hopes for Reset of US-Turkey Relations Following Trump's Election Win

Turkey’s rush to congratulate Donald Trump on his victory in the US presidential election was an attempt to prepare ground for the reset of relations that have seen many bottlenecks under Obama administration, Turkey's former foreign minister Yasar Yakis told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım were the first to congratulate GOP candidate on his victory on Tuesday night, along with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi.

"There were problems in the Turkish-US relations under the Obama administration. Therefore they [Cavusogly and Yildrim] may have wished to prepare the ground for better relations under Trump administration," Yakis, who used to be the foreign minister, as well as an ambassador to the United Nations, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, said.

Main sticking points in the bilateral relations that emerged under outgoing US President Barack Obama’s rule include alleged US involvement in the attempted coup in Turkey and US cooperation with Kurdish forces in Syria.

"There is a widespread impression in the Turkish public opinion that the US was involved, one way or another, in the recent military coup attempt carried out in Turkey on 15 July this year," Yakis said.

Even though the Turkish government officially announced that Washington was not behind the coup, "many in Turkey still believe that various departments in the US administration may have played some sort of role in the coup," he added.

US based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania - Sputnik International
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On July 15, a military coup attempt took place in Turkey. It was suppressed the following day. Over 240 people were killed during the coup attempt and an estimated 2,000 were wounded. Ankara has accused Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been living in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999, and his followers of playing a key role in the coup. Gulen has condemned the coup and denied the allegations.

"Turkey asked the extradition of Mr. Fetullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric living in the US… The US did not respond positively even to Turkey’s request for the precautionary arrest of Gulen for fear of his escape to a country with which Turkey has no extradition agreement," Yakis said.

In their congratulation, Cavusoglu said he wished for a stronger strategic partnership with the United States based on mutual trust, and Yıldırım said the new president faced an opportunity to open a new page in the bilateral relations, should the United States extradite Gulen.

Next day, Taha Ozhan, who heads the Turkish parliament’s foreign affairs commission, said Turkey would again ask the United States to extradite the Muslim cleric.

A Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighter rests with his weapon on a vehicle camouflaged with mud, north of Raqqa city, Syria November 7, 2016 - Sputnik International
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Also, "to the great disappointment of Turkey, the US administration cooperates in Syria with the Democratic Union Party (PYD), the biggest Kurdish party in Syria, and its military branch People’s Protection Units (YPG)," Yakis said.

Trump called himself "a fan of the Kurds" in a July interview with The New York Times, meaning the Turkish Kurds. Commenting on the foiled July 15 Turkish coup, he expressed hope that the government of Turkey would find a way to work with the Kurds minority.

The Kurds’ fight against IS in Syria is complicated by their relationship with the Turkish government. Ankara rejects the involvement in the military operations against Islamic State of PYD and its armed wing, YPG, both of which Turkey considers extensions of the nationalist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). PKK is designated as a terrorist group in Turkey and the United States. Therefore, the US support to the Kurds puts the United States at odds with Turkey.

This conflict of interest is also manifest in the US-led operation to liberate Raqqa.

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan attends a Republic Day ceremony at Anitkabir, the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Ataturk, to mark the republic's anniversary as he is flanked by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim (R) in Ankara, Turkey, October 29, 2016. - Sputnik International
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"Turkey volunteered to cooperate with the US to re-take Raqqa from the Islamic State, but the US said that it will carry out this mission in cooperation with the Syrian Democratic Forces where the main fighters come from the YPG," Yakis said.

The former foreign minister notes it is still unclear which foreign policy pledges Trump is going to stick to, as usually US presidents fulfil around 70 percent of their campaign promises, according to statistical analyses. Moreover, Tump did not make did not make any specific statement on the future relations with Turkey, which makes it open for speculation.

However, Trump promised to make NATO allies pay more for their membership and increase their defense budget.

"If he persuades the NATO countries to increase their share in the NATO budget Turkey will be negatively affected of such a decision," Yakis said.

"Trump will see for himself which ones of his promises go beyond the capacity and national interests of the US," he added.

Trump won the presidential race on Tuesday with 290 electoral votes against his rival Hillary Clinton's 232. The inauguration will be held on January 20, 2017.

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