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US General McMaster in Istanbul amid US-Turkey tensions over Syria

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US National security adviser H.R. McMaster (R) arrives for a joint press conference with US President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Erna Solberg of Norway at the White House in Washington, DC, on January 10, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

US National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster has met with Turkish presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın in Istanbul amid tensions between the two countries in the wake of Ankara’s offensive in Syria.

Unnamed Turkish presidency sources initially broke out the news to the pro-government Daily Sabah on Sunday, which was followed by a statement from the White House.

“The priorities and sensitivities of both the US and Turkey were discussed, in addition to overall relations, common strategic challenges and regional developments,” wrote the daily in its report.

Last month, Turkey launched an offensive called “Olive Branch” against Kurdish forces in Afrin, a region in northern Syria, which was faced with Washington’s criticism.

“Turkey is an ally and we’re going to work with them, but this current issue offensive is a distraction and we have to focus as allies on the mission at hand and that’s defeating ISIS (Daesh),” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said at the time.

The latest meeting by Lieutenant General McMaster is tapped as an effort to calm tensions between Washington and Ankara, which have a "long-term strategic partnership," according to the White House statement.

"They also exchanged views on American-Turkish relations as longstanding allies, their common strategic challenges, and regional developments. While discussing these issues, they addressed issues affecting bilateral relations in detail and explored ways to expand the joint fight against all forms of terrorism," the statement read.

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This is while US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said that Turkey had warned the US before launching airstrikes in northern Syria.

"They warned us before they launched the aircraft they were going to do it, in consultation with us," he said in late January. “And we are working now on the way ahead. We’ll work this out.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is also expected to travel to Turkey next week.

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