President Tayyip Erdogan rebuked Washington’s national security adviser on Tuesday for demanding that Turkey does not harm Kurdish fighters in Syria, accusing him of complicating U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw U.S. troops.
Erdogan said John Bolton, who met Turkish officials in Ankara on Tuesday but left Turkey without holding expected talks with the president, had “made a serious mistake” in setting conditions for Turkey’s military role after the U.S. pull-out.
Trump said last month he was bringing home the some 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, saying they had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State and that Turkey would take over the final stages of the military campaign.
His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington and allies abroad and prompted Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign. It also alarmed the Kurdish YPG militia which has been Washington’s main ally against Islamic State in Syria, but is considered a terrorist organization by Ankara.
Before arriving in Turkey, Bolton had said that Turkey must coordinate military action with the United States and that no U.S. withdrawal would take place until Turkey guaranteed the Kurdish fighters would be safe.
However, Erdogan said Turkey would confront the YPG in the same way that it will take on Islamic State. “If they are terrorists, we will do what is necessary no matter where they come from,” he told members of his AK Party in parliament.
“Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake. It is not possible for us to make compromises on this point.”
Turkey had reached a clear understanding with Trump over the withdrawal plans, but “different voices have started emerging from different segments of the administration,” Erdogan said.
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