Turkish, US ministers discuss Syria after Erdoğan warns of military operation into north
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu and U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo held a phone call late Dec. 13 to discuss Syria, a Foreign Ministry official said.
Chief of Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler and his U.S. counterpart Joseph Dunford also spoke over the phone on Dec. 13.
The talks came after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Dec. 12 said Turkey will conduct a military offensive into northern Syria “in the next few days.”
“It is time to realize our decision to wipe out terror groups east of the Euphrates [river],” Erdoğan said in a speech at the Turkish Defense Industry Summit held at the presidential complex in Ankara on Dec. 12.
“We will start the operation in the east of the Euphrates in a few days to save it from the separatist terrorist organization,” Erdoğan added, referring to the YPG. “Turkey’s target is never the U.S. soldiers, but rather the members of the terror group.”
“There is no Daesh threat in Syria anymore,” Erdoğan said, accusing the U.S. of “delaying tactics” regarding its promise to clear the northeastern Syrian town of Manbij from YPG members.
“It is clear that the purpose of U.S. observation points in Syria is not to protect our country from terrorists but to protect terrorists from Turkey,” he noted.
The Pentagon had announced on Dec. 11 that American observation posts in northern Syria, meant to prevent altercations between the Turkish army and U.S.-supported YPG, have been erected, despite Ankara’s request to scrap the move.
The Turkish army since 2016 had launched two military operations in Syria, the last of which saw Ankara-backed Syrian rebels take the border city of Afrin from the YPG in March.
The United States has long been complaining that tensions between Turkey and the SDF, of which the YPG is the backbone, have at times slowed down progress on fighting ISIL.