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Mattis, Turkish Defense Minister Discuss Complex Syria Environment

WASHINGTON --

The complex security environment in Syria was among the topics that Defense Secretary James N. Mattis and Turkish Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli discussed Feb. 14 during a meeting at the NATO defense ministers conference in Brussels, chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana W. White said.

In a statement summarizing the meeting, White said Mattis met with his Turkish counterpart “to reaffirm the longstanding defense relationship between the U.S. and our NATO ally, Turkey.”

“Secretary Mattis acknowledged Turkey’s legitimate security concerns and reiterated our commitment to help Turkey fight the PKK and threat of insurgency within its borders,” White said. The PKK, also known as the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, began a campaign of armed violence in 1984 that has resulted in some 30,000 casualties. Its goal has been to establish an independent Kurdish state in southeast Turkey, northern Iraq, and parts of Iran and Syria.

Danger of a Resurgent ISIS

Mattis and Canikli also discussed the complex security environment in Syria and the danger a resurgent Islamic State of Iraq and Syria could pose to all NATO allies, White said.

“Secretary Mattis called for a renewed focus on the campaign to defeat ISIS and prevent any remnants of the terrorist organization from re-emerging,” White said.Mattis also thanked Canikli for Turkey's contributions to global security, she said, adding that the two leaders agreed to continue strengthening U.S.-Turkey defense cooperation.