The street outside the US Embassy in Turkey is to be renamed “Olive Branch” after the operation in Syria against US-backed Kurdish forces, the mayor of Ankara announced yesterday according to Reuters.
“We have signed the necessary proposal to change the name of the Nevzat Tandogan Avenue in front of the US Embassy to ‘Olive Branch’. May it go well, may the souls of our saintly martyrs rejoice,” Ankara Mayor Mustafa Tuna tweeted.
The proposal was to be presented to the municipal parliament yesterday and is thought to have been swiftly approved just days before US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is due to visit the country on Thursday.
Tensions between Turkey and the US have escalated in recent months over the Trump administration’s backing of the YPG (People’s Protection Unit) in Syria, Kurdish militias that have been affiliated to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), a designated terror organisation that has launched continual attacks against Turkey. Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group, but Washington sees it as a key component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) battling Daesh in Syria.
Last month, Turkey launched an air and ground offensive as part of “Operation Olive Branch” in response to the US announcing its intention to establish a permanent 30,000 strong patrol along the Turkish-Syria border, much of which would be made up of SDF fighters. The offensive has opened a new front in the long-running civil war.
On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan held talks with US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster during which “the long-term strategic partnerships between Turkey and the US were confirmed and the sensitivities and priorities of the two countries were handled,” according to a presidential source.
However, yesterday Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu accused Washington of leaving pockets of Daesh militants in Syria intact to justify continued cooperation with Kurdish forces in the country.
Turkish public opinion in favour of the US is low according to a poll published yesterday by the Centre for American Progress, which found 83 per cent of Turks view America unfavourably and 46 per cent believe the country should do more to confront it.
This is not the first time that street names have been used as a tool of protest. Last month Mayor Tuna renamed the street hosting the UAE embassy after Fahreddin Pasha, an Ottoman military commander the UAE foreign minister appeared to criticise online, leading to a heated exchange with President Erdogan.