U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton visited Ankara this week and held a two-hour meeting with İbrahim Kalın, the special adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Days before the meeting, Bolton made a statement in Israel demanding guarantees that Turkey would not attack the mainly Kurdish forces allied with the Americans in Syria. Bolton’s statement precipitated a backlash from Ankara. While Turkey was planning to “neutralize” the Kurdish fighters of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northeast Syria, the demand by its NATO ally that Ankara protects the same group naturally caused some anger.
Press reports said Bolton would also meet Erdoğan in Ankara, but the Turkish head of state snubbed the U.S. official and said it would be more appropriate for him to meet his counterpart Kalın. The White House said Erdoğan did not meet Bolton due to preparations for Turkish local elections in March. Bolton, who arrived in Ankara Tuesday afternoon, left at noon on Wednesday citing an emergency meeting in the United States.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s opponents interpreted Bolton’s visit as a humiliation, but the White House said it had been productive. Kalın similarly highlighted the positive points of the meeting after making it clear that he disagreed with Bolton’s statement about assurances for the safety of the Kurdish groups.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was more direct than Bolton when in an interview he noted, “the importance of ensuring that the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds”. Pompeo’s statement confirms that even if the United States withdraws from Syria, it will continue to protect the Kurds.
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