By Ayhan Simsek
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu voiced optimism on Thursday for closer cooperation with the U.S., following his first face-to-face meeting with new U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.
“The new [U.S] administration is aware of the mistakes of the previous administration. We will continue to work together to find ways to correct those mistakes and to develop more powerful strategies,” Cavusoglu told reporters after his meeting with Tillerson in Bonn, Germany.
The two men held a bilateral meeting on the margins of a G20 foreign ministers’ meeting, which brought together top diplomats from world’s 20 largest economies.
Cavusoglu said he had a frank discussion with Tillerson on the mistakes of the Obama administration, such as its support for the terrorist PKK/PYD group in northern Syria plus Washington’s reluctance to extradite the leader of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization, the group responsible for last July’s defeated coup in Turkey.
“These have had a deep impact on our relations, and negatively influenced the feeling of Turkish people towards the United States. This has increased anti-Americanism. We have to address these problems,” Cavusoglu added.
The Turkish diplomat also said regional issues were discussed with Tillerson, including efforts for a political solution in Syria, the fight against the Daesh terror group and developments in Iraq.
“We have had a very fruitful meeting, in a constructive atmosphere. This has been a good start,” he stressed.
Cavusoglu underlined that high-level meetings between Donald Trump’s administration and the Turkish government would continue this weekend, with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s planned meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on the margins of the Munich Security Conference.
Recalling that Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently held a telephone conversation, Cavusoglu said talks are currently underway to organize a meeting of the two leaders in the near future.
Cyprus talks stall
When asked by a reporter to comment on the recent stalemate in Cyprus peace talks after an apparent walkout by Greek Cypriot leader Nikos Anastasiades in Lefkosa on Thursday, Cavusoglu said it was not the first time Anastasiades angrily left the negotiating table.
“If they want to negotiate, then they should return to the table again. If they will not, then it will be their choice. There won’t be a new negotiation process like this one, and we will do what is necessary,” he said.
Cavusoglu also sharply criticized the Greek Cypriot administration for controversial steps which undermined current efforts to reach a settlement and reunite the island.
The Greek Cypriot parliament recently voted to introduce a yearly public school commemoration of a 1950 referendum, in which Greek Cypriots voted overwhelmingly for the island to be annexed to Athens, a long-time goal referred to as “Enosis”.
“On the one hand they [Greek Cypriots] are demanding Enosis, and on the other hand they are calling for an end to Turkey's role as a guarantor power.
“Their real intentions have become clear. By their actions they have revealed that the Turkish Cypriot side and Turkey are absolutely right in their position,” Cavusoglu said.
After a military coup in the eastern Mediterranean island in 1974 which aimed to unite it with Greece, Turkey intervened as a guarantor power.
This led to emergence of an independent Turkish Cypriot state in the north and a Greek Cypriot administration in the south.
Cypriot issues remain unsolved despite a series of discussions which resumed in May 2015.
The main goal is to find a political solution as the sides seek to reunify the island under a federal system after more than 40 years of division.
Cyprus’ three guarantors -- Turkey, Greece and the United Kingdom -- were assigned when it gained independence from Britain in 1960.