Turkey says anti-terror operation into Syria imminent
A much-anticipated contact between senior Turkish and American officials took place in Ankara on Jan. 8 in which Washington’s abrupt decision to withdraw troops from Syria and its potential aftereffects have been discussed.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton led a delegation composed of James Jeffrey, the U.S. coordinator of the anti-ISIL fight, and Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief foreign policy advisor İbrahim Kalın chaired a Turkish team with the participation of Sedat Önal, deputy foreign minister, and Gen. Yaşar Güler, the Turkish chief of General Staff.
But these first talks were overshadowed by consecutive statements by senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Bolton, who have accused Turkey of targeting “Syrian Kurds” and suggested that no withdrawal will be planned unless assurances are made by the Turkish government over the protection of the U.S.’s partners in the field, the YPG.
It was Erdoğan who gave the first impressions over the talks between Bolton and Kalın in his weekly address to his Justice and Development Party (AKP) parliamentary group. Erdoğan described Bolton’s remarks as “dishonorable, ugly, vulgar and defamatory” and harshly slammed Trump’s advisor for “making a mistake.”
He went further by suggesting that Trump’s men were not in fact following the line of the U.S. president and stressed that his reference was his conversation with Trump on Dec. 14 which led the latter to decide to pull out troops from Syria.
“I want to emphasize this specifically: We are now again facing a situation that we had observed with the American administration in the past. Although we had openly discussed with Mr. Trump, different voices from certain circles of the U.S. administration are now heard. Our reference point is Mr. Trump’s perspective and commitment on withdrawing from Syria,” Erdoğan said.
That’s why he later told reporters that talks between Bolton and Kalın made him necessary to hold a phone conversation with Trump to clarify certain issues.
Another message he conveyed was that the Turkish Armed Forces has accomplished its preparations for an offensive into Syria to eliminate ISIL and that the operation was imminent. But, he added, any operation into Syria would also target YPG positions.
Turkey made clear once again that its commitment to eliminating all terrorists from its borders is there, while rebuffing Pompeo and Bolton’s remarks that saw all Syrian Kurds as the YPG.
Kalın, at a press conference after the meeting, said talks between Ankara and Washington will continue as the latter has not yet accomplished its withdrawal plan, which would be completed in 120 days.
He echoed Erdoğan words on a potential operation into Syria in coordination with the U.S., while stressing that Turkey’s national security stipulates clearing its Syrian borders from all terror groups.
Both Erdoğan and his advisor indicate that a Turkish operation into eastern Syria is near.