'Syrian people will choose Assad's fate,' says Tillerson in Turkey


Yildirim has previously said that the United States risks major damage to its relationship with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally Turkey if the US includes Kurdish forces in the fight to retake Raqqa, the Islamic State group's de facto capital.

A U.S. State Department official said Tillerson had emphasized Turkey's "important role" in regional security.

Erdogan also discussed with Tillerson the extradition of US -based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a failed coup last July, as well as efforts to prevent the activities of the cleric's network in the United States, the sources said. "There are hard choices that have to be made", Tillerson said, without elaborating.

Speaking to NTV television on the eve of Tillerson's visit, Yildirim said the United States had not yet informed Turkey if Ankara would take part in a planned Raqa campaign.

Turkey sent troops, tanks and warplanes to support Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels, push ISIS fighters away from its border and stop the advance of Kurdish militia fighters.

Tillerson also did not meet with any of Erdogan's political opponents, because there was no time in his schedule, US officials said.

Mr Tillerson went to the Turkish capital not only to talk about ISIL, but also to try to fix a relationship that has been severely damaged by United States support for the Kurdish YPG militia in Syria as well as Washington's refusal to arrest and extradite Fethullah Gulen, the exiled Turkish cleric who Ankara blames for a failed coup attempt last July.

Cavusoglu said Washington accepted there was no difference between the YPG militia and the PKK.

On Wednesday, Turkish news media reported that a telephone call had been made from the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul to one of the top suspects in last summer's failed military coup - an incendiary allegation ahead of Tillerson's visit.

"This issue will be told to the US Secretary of State without any buts and the United States will be asked to clarify its position".

With the second largest army in NATO, Turkey is seeking a role for its military in a planned offensive on Raqqa, ISIL's self-proclaimed capital in Syria, but the U.S. is veering towards enlisting the YPG as its main partner in the fight.

Ankara has also been at loggerheads with the U.S. over its demands for the extradition of the US-based cleric Fathullah Gulen, accused of plotting a coup in Turkey.

The PKK has led a three-decade long insurgency in southeast Turkey and is considered a "terrorist group" by the US.

But Cavusoglu said Turkey had provided plenty of evidence and that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had committed to "evaluate the documents meticulously".

Gulen denies Ankara's accusations. He said at a minimum, Turkey wants the issue a temporary arrest warrant for Gulen while the extradition process plays out.

"Operation Euphrates Shield has been successful and is finished".