Er­doğan re­bukes US se­cu­rity ad­viser

Cyprus Today - - TURKEY -

TUR­KEY’S Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­doğan re­buked Wash­ing­ton’s na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser on Tues­day for de­mand­ing that his coun­try not at­tack Kur­dish fighters in Syria, ac­cus­ing him of com­pli­cat­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s plan to with­draw US troops.

Mr Er­doğan said John Bolton, who held talks with Turk­ish of­fi­cials in Ankara on Tues­day but left with­out meet­ing the pres­i­dent, “made a se­ri­ous mis­take” in set­ting con­di­tions for Tur­key’s mil­i­tary role af­ter the US pull out.

The re­buke high­lights the dif­fi­cul­ties in im­ple­ment­ing Mr Trump’s goal of bring­ing home some 2,000 US troops sta­tioned in Syria. Mr Trump’s plan, clouded by mixed mes­sages from the pres­i­dent and his ad­min­is­tra­tion, hinges on Turk­ish co­op­er­a­tion to se­cure a huge swathe of north-east Syria as the United States de­parts.

Mr Bolton made the case to Turk­ish of­fi­cials for the need for guar­an­tees that US-backed Kur­dish fighters in the cam­paign against Is­lamic State would not be harmed af­ter a US with­drawal, a se­nior US of­fi­cial said. But there were no signs of any agree­ment be­tween the two North At­lantic Treaty Or­gan­i­sa­tion part­ners, whose re­la­tions have been strained over Syria and other is­sues.

Mr Trump’s abrupt an­nounce­ment last month sparked con­cern among of­fi­cials in Wash­ing­ton and some Western al­lies, and was a ma­jor fac­tor in De­fence Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis’ de­ci­sion to re­sign. It also alarmed the YPG, Wash­ing­ton’s main part­ner against Is­lamic State in Syria.

But the plan was lauded by Ankara. Tur­key con­sid­ers the YPG a ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tion and an ex­ten­sion of the out­lawed Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade in­sur­gency in its largely Kur­dish south-east. Wash­ing­ton’s sup­port for the mili­tia has in­fu­ri­ated Tur­key.

A se­nior Turk­ish of­fi­cial said Mr Bolton had asked to see Mr Er­doğan but his ear­lier re­marks may have been a fac­tor in the meet­ing not go­ing ahead. Mr Er­doğan later told re­porters there was no need for him to meet Mr Bolton.

In­stead, Mr Bolton met his Turk­ish coun­ter­part İbrahim Kalin as well as the deputy de­fence and for­eign min­is­ters, while on a quick tour to the re­gion to man­age fall­out from Mr Trump’s abrupt de­ci­sion on Syria.

Mr Bolton also told the Turk­ish of­fi­cials the US with­drawal would be done in a de­lib­er­ate and or­derly fash­ion and that at this point the United States had no plans to aban­don its Syria base at al-Tanf near the Iraqi bor­der, the se­nior US of­fi­cial said.

Ahead of Tues­day’s talks, Tur­key’s Hür­riyet news­pa­per said Ankara would ask US of­fi­cials ei­ther to hand over its mil­i­tary bases in Syria to Ankara or to de­stroy them. It cited un­spec­i­fied sources as say­ing Tur­key would not ac­cept the han­dover of what it said were 22 US mil­i­tary bases to the YPG.

A se­nior Turk­ish se­cu­rity of­fi­cial said last week Wash­ing­ton needed to al­low Tur­key to use its bases in Syria. Mr Kalin said Tur­key wanted the bases emp­tied and handed over to “lo­cal el­e­ments”.

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing, Mr Kalin said there was no slow­down in the US with­drawal from Syria and that Tur­key was fo­cused on what hap­pens to US bases in Syria and the weapons Wash­ing­ton has given the YPG.

On Wed­nes­day Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said that de­spite Turk­ish threats against Wash­ing­ton’s Kur­dish al­lies in Syria the US troop with­drawal would not be scup­pered and promised to en­sure the Kurds would still be pro­tected.

Mr Pom­peo was meet­ing lead­ers in Iraq’s cap­i­tal and its semi­au­tonomous Kur­dis­tan re­gion, aim­ing to re­as­sure them about Wash­ing­ton’s plans for the with­drawal.

US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser John Bolton and his Turk­ish coun­ter­part İbrahim Kalin meet at the Pres­i­den­tial Palace in Ankara on Tues­day

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