Turkey asks US to hand over military bases in Syria
Ankara has asked the United States to hand over 16 of its military bases in northern Syria, which were set up for the fight against ISIL, to Turkey or local authorities in the region after the U.S. withdraws, the Turkish presidential spokesperson said after discussions with U.S. officials.
“We are pleased with [President Donald] Trump’s decision for withdrawal [from Syria], but it needs to be clarified as to what kind of structure will be left behind, what will happen to the heavy weapons that have been deployed, the fate of American military bases and logistics centers. In this meeting we discussed these in detail,” presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın said on Jan. 8.
Turkey also expects the U.S. to collect the arms delivered to the YPG back, said the spokesperson, noting that the U.S. authorities informed Turkey that they were conducting a work on the issue of arms.
His statements came after roughly two hours of a meeting with White House national security adviser John Bolton on Jan. 8.
Bolton was joined by U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and U.S. special Syria envoy James Jeffrey for the talks with his Turkish counterpart, Kalın.
The U.S. official arrived in Ankara late Jan. 7 to meet Turkish officials over safeguarding the YPG in Syria, which the U.S. sees as its crucial ally fighting radical groups on the ground.
But Bolton reportedly departed Turkey on Jan. 8 noon without meeting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in an apparent snub over disagreements about the issue of the YPG.
Kalın said Bolton had asked to see Erdoğan, but there was no scheduled meeting with the president, while stressing that it should not be considered as a “reaction” to the U.S. official.
The president later told reporters there was no need for him to meet Bolton.
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also did not attend the meeting with Bolton.
Ankara wants to learn how and when the U.S. will “end” its relations with the YPG in Syria, Kalın stated.
Saying “Turkey will slaughter Kurds if it enters Syria” is solely PKK propaganda and the US should refrain from such comments, he stated.
The spokesperson also said he submitted two dossiers to Bolton, one was of information on Turkey’s policies “embracing Kurdish brothers” in the region and the other was about “crimes” committed by the YPG in Syria and alleged human rights violations of the group.
The U.S. plans for the pullout from Syria have not been “slowed down,” according to information Ankara has gathered from American officials, he said.
The withdrawal process should not allow “new opportunities for terrorist organizations or other elements, including the PYD/YPG,” Kalın noted.
Before arriving in Turkey, Bolton had said that Turkey must coordinate military action with the United States and that no U.S. withdrawal would take place until Turkey guaranteed the YPG would be safe.
Bolton and Kalın had a productive discussion of Trump’s decision to withdraw at a proper pace from northeast Syria, identified further issues for dialogue, and emphasized the strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Turkey, National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis said in a written statement.