Erdoğan, Trump discuss establishment of terror-free safe zone in northern Syria in phone call

Published 14.01.2019 20:37
Updated 15.01.2019 11:24
Erdoğan, Trump discuss establishment of terror-free safe zone in northern Syria in phone call

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a phone call with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Monday on the latest developments in Syria and bilateral ties, amid a diplomatic spat over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

The two leaders underlined that they will not allow any elements trying to prevent the U.S.' withdrawal from Syria, and discussed the establishment of a terror-free safe zone in Syria's north based on the country's territorial integrity.

In the phone call, Erdoğan reiterated that Turkey has no problems with Kurds and its goal is to rid the region of terror groups such as Daesh, the PKK and its Syrian branches the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

Erdoğan added that Turkey was behind the U.S.' decision to withdraw from the region, saying Ankara was ready to provide all kinds of support.

However, Trump and Erdoğan underscored the importance of fulfilling the Manbij road map to prevent a vacuum of authority and facilitate healthy communication with the public regarding the matter.

The two leaders also agreed to advance bilateral economic relations.

Trump also "expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey's security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat" the YPG, the White House said in a separate readout of the call.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford is set to meet with his Turkish counterpart Yaşar Güler on Tuesday for further consultations, the White House said.

Earlier Monday, Trump on Twitter said the U.S. was starting a "long overdue" pullout from Syria and Washington would strike from a nearby existing base if Daesh started to re-form.

Trump went as far as saying that Washington would "economically devastate" Turkey if Ankara decided to strike against the militants of the U.S.-backed YPG.

The comments immediately drew rebukes from Turkish officials, with Ankara asserting that it will not shrink from threats and rejecting any conflation of "Kurds" with terrorist groups.

Ankara has been infuriated by U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG, under the pretext of fighting against Daesh. The U.S. provided military training and supplied truckloads of weapons to the YPG, disregarding warnings from Ankara that the YPG is organically linked to the PKK, and partnering with one terrorist group to fight another was not acceptable.

Erdoğan has signaled that a cross-border operation against the YPG terrorist group in northeastern Syria will happen soon. Since 2016, Ankara has carried out two similar military operations in northern Syria.

Turkish and U.S. troops began joint patrols in Manbij on Nov. 1 as part of an agreement that focuses on the withdrawal of YPG terrorists from the city to stabilize the region.

PKK is a terrorist group recognized by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU, which in its 30-year terror campaign has taken some 40,000 lives.

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