ANKARA (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim that Washington was keen for a new start in relations between the two countries, sources in Yildirim’s office said, after ties soured during the Obama administration.
Pence and Yildirim met on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich, Germany, and discussed improving ties, boosting cooperation in the fight against terrorism and the need to work together to find a permanent solution in Syria.
Yildirim told Pence that moves by the United States to meet Turkey’s demands over Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric blamed by Ankara for masterminding and orchestrating a failed coup last July, would pave the way for a fresh start in relations.
Ties between the United States and Turkey – which has the second largest army in the NATO alliance and is key to the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq – have deteriorated sharply since the failed military coup.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and the government want Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, extradited. Gulen denies involvement in the coup attempt.
Ankara has also been angered by U.S. support for a Kurdish militia group fighting Islamic State in Syria. Turkey sees the group as an extension of the outlawed PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency for Kurdish autonomy in southeastern Turkey and has been behind a spate of recent bombings.
Erdogan believes ties will improve under U.S. President Donald Trump. A phone call between the two earlier this month was very positive, sources in Erdogan’s office have said.
(Reporting by Ercan Gurses; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Mark Potter)