President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis discussed bilateral and regional issues here Wednesday, according to a presidential source.
During the more than one hour-long meeting at the presidential complex, Erdogan and Mattis reiterated their determination to fight against terror groups, including the PKK and Daesh, as well as to uphold the territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on talking to the media.
The president said the Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government’s move to carry out a referendum Sept. 25 on whether to declare formal independence from Iraq would be a wrong step.
Baghdad rejects the planned poll, saying it could adversely affect the ongoing fight against Daesh, which -- despite a string of recent defeats -- still maintains a significant presence in Iraq.
The U.S. has also voiced concern the referendum could serve as a “distraction” from other regional issues, especially the fight against terrorism and the political stabilization of post-Daesh Iraq.
Erdogan also expressed Turkey’s discomfort with the U.S.’s support for the PKK/PYD terror group -- the Syrian affiliate of the PKK.
National Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli, National Intelligence Organization (MIT) chief Hakan Fidan and presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin were also present at the meeting.
Mattis also separately met his Turkish counterpart Canikli at the National Defense Ministry.
During their first face to face, the defense chiefs "discussed the need for ongoing open and honest dialogue, the importance of territorial integrity of Syria and Iraq, and concern over Iran's malign influence in the region", the Pentagon said of the meeting.
"They further reaffirmed their shared resolve in the defeat of ISIS," spokeswoman Dana White said referring to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or Daesh.
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