March 14, 2018 / 11:51 AM / 6 months ago

New U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo must respect Turkey, Ankara says

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Turkey hopes to build good relations with new U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo but he must respect the country, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday, amid deep tensions over Syria policy and other issues.

FILE PHOTO: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director Mike Pompeo testifies before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, U.S., February 13, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

Turkish media has seized on a tweet purportedly made by Pompeo after a failed coup in July 2016 - and before he became CIA director - which referred to Turkey as a “totalitarian Islamist dictatorship”. The tweet was later removed.

Relations between the NATO allies had started to improve recently after a visit to Turkey by Rex Tillerson, whom U.S. President Donald Trump sacked on Tuesday as secretary of state.

Pompeo, seen as a Trump loyalist, had previously headed the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks during a press conference with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Moscow, Russia, March 14, 2018. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

“We would like to work with the new secretary of state with the same understanding, with bilateral respect and understanding,” Cavusoglu told a news conference in Moscow, where he was on an official visit.

“This is the choice of the United States (on who serves as secretary of state). We do not want to comment on it but whoever it will be, they need to first learn how to behave, approach and respect us.”

Cavusoglu said talks planned between the United States and Turkey for March 19 could be delayed owing to Tillerson’s departure.

In a column on Wednesday, Murat Yetkin of the Hurriyet Daily News wrote that Pompeo had “prejudgments” regarding Turkey, citing the deleted tweet, and he added that it was not easy to erase people’s memories.

Turkey has been angered by Washington’s support for the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in the fight against Islamic State. Turkey sees the YPG as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Reporting by Can Sezer and Ezgi Erkoyun in Istanbul; Additional reporting by Jack Stubbs in Moscow; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Gareth Jones

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