Exchange of non-papers between Turkey and US aims to set political framework for post-US pullout: Diplomat

Exchange of non-papers between Turkey and US aims to set political framework for post-US pullout: Diplomat

Sevil Erkuş - ANKARA

Turkey’s response to a non-paper, delivered by a top White House aide during talks in Ankara on Jan. 8, mainly outlines how Ankara perceives Turkey’s role in a deal reached between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump regarding the post-U.S. pullout period, a Turkish diplomatic source has told Hürriyet Daily News.

The non-paper “demonstrates our vision on how we see the framework of the coordination and cooperation that we are trying to establish with the United States after their decision to withdraw from Syria,” said the diplomat on condition of anonymity.

The paper corresponds to Turkey’s views, attitude in a reply to Bolton’s non-paper and to Ankara’s vision on cooperation and coordination through the withdrawal process of the U.S.

White House National Security Adviser John Bolton delivered a non-paper to the Turkish team last week that outlines basic points of the U.S. policy with regard to its withdrawal and expectations from Turkey.

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“You know, what we did was to give the Turks a piece of paper, a non-paper, that’s a fancy diplomatic term for just being a set of ideas, but expressing what the U.S. position was fully agreed upon by the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, so that the Turks knew we were all speaking with one voice despite the media commentary that would have you believe otherwise,” Bolton said.

Turkey’s response, submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Ankara and to the State Department in Washington D.C. on Jan. 14, is a presentation of Turkey’s well-known views on this issue which have been conveyed to the U.S. officials several times, according to the diplomat.

However, any negotiation, on any level on the issue of the post-U.S. pullout period first requires setting a higher level political framework for defining mutual understanding in this cooperation, according to Ankara.

“In our current negotiations, we are building the principle consensus. When we can’t establish this framework on political consensus, other talks seem to be in a bit of space. Each of the discussions from military to military or through the intelligence channels should be built in accordance with a certain upper consensus,” the diplomat said.

Ankara expects Washington to clarify the issue of a safe zone at a working group meeting on Syria between Turkish and U.S. officials in Washington on Feb. 5 which would be crucial for discussions on the U.S. proposal, according to the diplomat. The top soldiers of the two countries are also expected to meet on Jan. 15 on the sidelines of a gathering in Brussels.

“Safe zone is not a new matter, but we will see in time what is in the minds of Americans,” said the diplomat.

Erdoğan, Trump discuss 'terror-free safe zone' in Syria's north

In a tweet Jan. 14 Trump said he spoke with Erdoğan “to advise where we stand on all matters including our last two weeks of success in fighting the remnants of ISIS [ISIL], and 20 mile safe zone.”

In Bolton’s five-point non-paper the U.S. reportedly reiterated that the withdrawal of its anti-ISIL forces in northeastern Syria would happen in a deliberate, orderly and strong manner.

Secondly, the U.S. committed itself to defeating the remnants of ISIL and continuing to damage ISIL targets throughout the withdrawal period.

Thirdly, the U.S. declared that it wants a negotiated solution to Turkish security concerns with regards to the YPG, meaning that it opposes any mistreatment of opposition forces that fought alongside the U.S. against ISIL.

Fourthly, the U.S. would pursue the withdrawal of Iranian-backed forces from Syria and a political solution in Syria.

Finally, the U.S. made clear that the release of captured ISIL militants - described as “foreign terrorists” by the U.S. official - held by the YPG-led SDF is “unacceptable.”

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