Trump’s statement for withdrawal from Syria ‘rhetorical,’ says Turkish FM Çavuşoğlu
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has described U.S. President Donald Trump’s statements on withdrawal from Syria as “purely rhetorical,” saying the main objective of a senior Turkish diplomatic delegation’s visit to Washington is to understand the U.S.’s “real intensions” in the war-torn country.
Speaking in a March 30 press conference with his visiting Ukrainian counterpart, Çavuşoğlu said Trump had spoken of his eventual intention to withdraw the U.S. from Syria in previous conversations with Turkey, but his March 29 remark was likely an “individual” comment.
He also referred to a contradicting statement from the State Department on the same day.
“We will understand the real intention of the U.S. at the meeting in Washington,” Çavuşoğlu said, noting that Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will meet with Turkish Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Ümit Yalçın later on March 30.
The two diplomats were scheduled to meet to discuss the outcomes of a working group between Ankara and Washington during which various contentious issues between the two sides were addressed, including Syria.
The United States will leave Syria “very soon,” U.S. President Trump had said on March 29.
“We’ll be coming out of Syria like very soon. Let the other people take care of it now,” he told supporters during a speech in Ohio.
“We’re going to have 100 percent of the caliphate, as they call it - sometimes referred to as land. We’re taking it all back quickly,” he said.
Trump continued to slam U.S.’s spending in the Middle East, calling it “futile” and arguing that it detracts from domestic spending.
“We spent seven trillion dollars in the Middle East, and you know what we have for it? Nothing,” he said.
Shortly after Trump made the comments, the State Department said it was unaware of any policy change to pull the U.S. out of Syria.
There are about 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria as part of the U.S.-led anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition campaign.
Prior to being ousted from office by Trump, outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. would “maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring [ISIL] cannot re-emerge.”