Turkey, US top diplomats speak by phone over Syria plan

Turkey, US top diplomats speak by phone over Syria plan

Turkey, US top diplomats speak by phone over Syria plan

AFP photo

Turkish and U.S. foreign ministers had a phone conversation early May 9 to discuss an upcoming meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump as well as developments in Syria, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.  

Erdoğan and Trump will meet in the White House on May 16 in their first in-person meeting after the latter took office, and preparations are underway as senior Turkish officials meet their counterparts in Washington. 

Citing diplomatic sources, Anadolu Agency said the phone talk occurred upon the demand of the U.S. side, and the Astana process that brought about a new Russian plan to establish de-escalation zones in Syria was also on their agenda. The foreign ministers of the two countries, Rex Tillerson and Mevlut Çavuşoğlu, spoke by phone before the former is set to meet Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 10. 

Turkey, Russia and Iran have agreed to deploy monitors in the Syrian field to observe the implementation of the cease-fire in four de-escalation zones, although details are yet to be discussed. U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis raised questions over the Russian plan, including whether it would be effective.

Speaking to reporters traveling with him to Copenhagen, Mattis said the borders of the proposed cease-fire areas are still being worked out, although the general locations are “well understood.” He suggested that it’s still not yet clear what impact the plan could have on the U.S.-led fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

“It’s all in process right now,” said Mattis, who was offering some of the first extensive public U.S. comments on the agreement reached on May 5. “Who is going to be ensuring they’re safe? Who is signing up for it? Who is specifically to be kept out of them? All these details are to be worked out and we’re engaged,” he added.