Turkey, US agree to work on de-escalating bilateral tension over Syria

Turkey, US agree to work on de-escalating bilateral tension over Syria

Hande Fırat - ANKARA
Turkey, US agree to work on de-escalating bilateral tension over Syria

Turkey and the United States have agreed to work on de-escalating tension between the two long-standing allies over the latter’s support to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria as the Turkish military carries out a massive operation to defeat the group along its borders.

“We may have a difference of opinion on some issues, but we are allied countries,” H.R. McMaster, the national security advisor to U.S. President Donald Trump, told President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief foreign policy advisor and spokesman İbrahim Kalın during a phone conversation on Jan. 27, according to sources familiar with the conversation.

The conversation between the two advisors came after Trump and Erdoğan spoke over the phone on Jan. 24 in which the two leaders discussed Turkey’s ongoing “Operation Olive Branch” against the YPG in the Afrin district of Syria. Turkey considers the YPG as the offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and, hence, a terrorist group.

Both the content of the conversation and the readout issued by the White House over the Trump-Erdoğan phone call have further fueled already strained ties between Turkey and the U.S.

Turkey accused the White House of mischaracterizing the talk by inserting matters that were never discussed between the two leaders in the presidential readout.

According to the same sources, McMaster admitted the lack of coordination within the White House in the issuance of the readout after the conversation.

“We were in Davos when the phone conversation took place but the statement was issued by our staff in Washington at the White House,” McMaster told his counterpart, sources informed the daily Hürriyet.

The two officials have agreed to issue presidential statements following future phone exchanges or in-person meetings in full coordination, a custom that was abandoned in the latest conversation.

Turkey, US to overcome confidence crisis

Apart from this issue, Kalın and McMaster mainly focused on Turkey’s ongoing military operation and disagreements over the U.S. support to the YPG.

According to the information Hürriyet gathered from senior Turkish officials, Kalın and McMaster agreed to work on improving ties between the two allies on the grounds of mutual interests and respect. They also agreed to work on overcoming the existing confidence crisis between the two allies, with Ankara believing that it will not be an easy process.

According to sources in Ankara, re-building trust between the two allies heavily depend on the steps the U.S. will take with regard to its partnership with the YPG. McMaster reiterated that no weapons will be delivered to the YPG, during the phone talk with Kalın, a commitment that was already given to Turkey in recent months. 

“We will closely follow to what extent they will fulfill their commitments,” the sources said, underlining once again that they want concrete actions taken by the U.S. in the field.

According to the sources, here are five measures the U.S. needs to take:

1. No weapons should be given to the YPG.
2. Weapons already delivered to the YPG should be taken back immediately.
3. Military training given to the YPG should be ceased.
4. No logistical support should be given.
5. All ties with the YPG should be cut.

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