Erdoğan, Obama discuss urgency of weakening ISIL, cooperation against PKK
REUTERS photoTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Barack Obama held a lengthy phone call discussing the war in Syria and efforts to defeat jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as well as Turkey’s fight against militants of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The telephone call late on May 18 lasted longer than an hour. Both Erdoğan’s office and the White House released separate readouts almost simultaneously, early in the morning of May 19.
“President Erdoğan and U.S. President Obama who tackled the current situation in Syria agreed on the urgency of displaying a joint effort for the purpose of weakening and vanquishing [ISIL] and ensuring the [elimination] of its capacity to launch terror attacks in Turkey, Europe and other regions,” Erdoğan’s office said,.
“The two leaders drew attention to the importance of international cooperation on issues of ensuring the continuity of the cease-fire in Syria and making progress in the political transition process,” it said.
As recently as May 17, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that he would resign if Moscow could show any evidence that Turkey has been aiding ISIL.
“I am ready to resign if you have any evidence that Turkey is helping DAESH,” Çavuşoğlu said at the International Syria Support Group (ISSG) meeting in Vienna.
Russia has repeatedly accused Ankara of helping ISIL smuggle oil via its Syrian border.
Erdoğan has previously condemned the claims, which he described as “despicable.”
On May 19, it was not yet clear which side, Erdoğan or Obama, initiated the phone call. On May 20, officials from the Turkish president’s office told Hürriyet Daily News that the U.S. side requested the phone call.
The two leaders also dealt with the ongoing threats posed by the PKK against Turkey.
“The two leaders discussed opportunities for deepened cooperation in the fight against all terrorist groups, including the PKK. In this context, the president emphasized the U.S. commitment to Turkey’s security as a NATO ally,” the White House readout said.
After the collapse of a de facto phase of non-conflict last July, Turkey’s southeast has seen some of its worst fighting since the height of the conflict between Turkey’s security forces and the PKK in the 1990s.
Erdoğan, who had spearheaded the peace process between the state and the PKK, has ruled out any return to negotiations and has vowed to crush the militant group. Thousands of people, including hundreds of civilians, have been killed in the violence since July 2015.
The PKK is considered a terrorist organization by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.