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CIA chief to discuss future of US-Turkey relations

Mike Pompeo has been criticised for his incorrect statements about Muslim leaders [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 February, 2017

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Turkish officials announced that Mike Pompeo will make his first official trip abroad to Turkey in order to discuss the major sticking points between the two countries' foreign policies.
The new head of the CIA is expected to discuss resolutions to long-standing differences between Trukey and the United States in his first official trip overseas on Thursday, officials in President Erdogan's office said.

Mike Pompeo, a former member of the right-wing conservative Tea Party, will reportedly discuss the fate of the US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen - who Erdogan blames for orchestrating a coup attempt against his government last July.

Discussions will also include the US' backing of Kurdish militias in Syria, which Turkish forces are fighting along with Islamic State group fighters and increased intelligence sharing.

The officials, who spoke anonymously according to government protocol, announced Pompeo's visit following a 45-minute phone call between President Donald Trump and Erdogan on Tuesday evening.

Relations between the two countries have deteriorated since the attempted coup and the US' reluctance to extradite Gulen on terrorism charges.

Turkey sent a new 1,300-page extradition request to the US on 30 January, detailing "new evidence" against Gulen.

The UK's minister of state for Turkey told Parliament last week that there was no decisive evidence of Gulen's involvement in the coup.

"It's very clear that there were many Gulenists involved in the coup, but we don't have the information or evidence to decide [this issue] definitively," said Sir Alan Duncan.

Turkey's deputy prime minister said on 23 January that Gulen's extradition to Turkey was an essential issue in improving relations with the US.

According to the officials' briefing, Pompeo will also discuss the US' continued involvement with Syrian Kurdish fighters - another sticking point for Ankara due to their numerous links to the banned militant group, the Kurdistan Workers Party [PKK].

Washington is said to be providing military support to the People's Protection Units [YPG], a Syrian Kurdish group fighting IS in Syria, which Ankara accuses of being a wing of the banned PKK.

"The second fundamental issue is the end of the support to the PYD [the political arm of the YPG]," said Deputy Prime Minister Kurtulmus in the same speech on 23 January.

Pompeo has been criticised for his comments on Muslims in the past.

Following the 2013 Boston bombing, he criticised Muslim leaders for not condemning terrorist attacks more vocally, despite ample evidence to the contrary.

"When the most devastating terrorist attacks on America in the last 20 years come overwhelmingly from people of a single faith and are performed in the name of that faith, a special obligation falls on those that are the leaders of that faith," he said.

Heraa Hashmi, a 19-year old Colorado University student, compiled a spreadsheet of 5,720 cases of Muslim groups and leaders denouncing terrorism in all its forms in November last year.

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