(MENAFN - The Peninsula) BRUSSELS: USDefense Secretary Jim Mattis urged Turkey to remain focused on fighting Islamic State militants in Syria, a Pentagon statement on Thursday said.
Relations between the United States and Turkey, allies within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, have become frayed by their diverging interests in the Syrian civil war.
Washington is focused on defeating the jihadist group while Ankara, keen to prevent Syria's Kurds from gaining autonomy and fuelling Kurdish insurgents on its soil, last month launched a military incursion into the Afrin region of Syria to sweep the Kurdish YPG militia from its southern border zone.
Mattis made the remark during a meeting with his Turkish counterpart Nurettin Canikli on Wednesday on the sidelines of a NATO meeting.
"He called for a renewed focus on the campaign to defeat ISIS, and to preventing any vestige of the terrorist organization from reconstituting in Syria," the statement said, using an acronym for Islamic State.
The two men agreed to continue their full range of bilateral defense activities and to look for ways to further strengthen cooperation, the Pentagon said.
U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson is expected to visit Turkey on Thursday and Friday, where U.S. officials predicted he will have difficult conversations.