By Michael Hernandez and Hakan Copur
President Donald Trump's National Security Advisor has vowed to remain in lockstep with Turkey in the fight against terror groups -- just days after his comments sparked a row with Ankara.
"We recognize and support Turkey's efforts to bolster border security, halt foreign fighters, and fight Daesh, and we will continue to work together to ensure Daesh's enduring defeat," H.R. McMaster said in comments exclusively to Anadolu Agency.
"As noted, we will also increase efforts with Turkey and other partners to stop extremist actors that abuse financial infrastructure across the region. And the United States will continue to stand with Turkey, as we have for decades, against the terrorist threat from the PKK," the "Iconoclast General" added.
At an event earlier this week hosted by the British think tank Policy Exchange in Washington, McMaster said Turkey and Qatar are the main sponsors of radicalism and claimed Turkey's problems with the West were mainly due to the rise of its ruling party.
The National Security Council later said it was "committed to its strategic partnership with Turkey to bring stability to the region and defeat terrorism in all its forms".
"We appreciate Turkey’s efforts to increase its border security, stem the flow of foreign fighters through its territory and fight on the ground to clear ISIS [Daesh] from key towns in Syria," it said.
But McMaster’s comments drew a swift rebuke from Ankara.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said McMaster’s remarks were acknowledged with "sadness" and due to the position he holds, he "must know better” because the comments are “baseless claims are far beyond reality, astonishing and unacceptable," the ministry said.
Seeking to walk back his remarks, McMaster told Anadolu Agency he was seeking to highlight "the need to cut off funding in the region that benefits not only terrorist organizations but also those organizations that spread radical ideology.
"I was making the point that the United States and Turkey can do more together to cut off the finances of those who foment hatred and violence based on irreligious ideology," he said. "The United States has long supported and will continue to support Turkey."
"I, like President Trump, am a firm believer in a strong alliance between the United States and Turkey," he added.