US contacts Turkey on Syria peace, YPG
United States President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke on the phone on Nov. 24 only days after a Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on Syria, with Ankara saying that Washington has pledged not to send weapons to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) any more.
“President Trump instructed [his generals] in a very open way that the YPG will no longer be given weapons. He openly said that this absurdity should have ended much earlier,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters after the phone call.
Çavuşoğlu said Trump had given his assurance after President Erdoğan repeated Ankara’s concerns over the continued delivery of heavy weapons and armored vehicles to the YPG, a group Ankara considers a terror organization because of its links with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
During the conversation, Erdoğan once again urged for the need to completely resolve the visa crisis between the two allies, according to Çavuşoğlu.
“We stressed that there should not be such unnecessary issues between the two countries,” he said.
Erdoğan said the phone conversation with Trump was very productive, as he shared a picture of himself on the phone with the U.S. president. Çavuşoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Chief Hakan Fidan and presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın are also seen in the picture.
Turkey has been slamming the U.S. for providing around 4,000 truckloads of weapons to the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Erdoğan questioned why the U.S. has continued to supply them with weapons if the war against ISIL was about to be won.
The two presidents have exchanged views on the recent Sochi Summit with the participation of the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey, Çavuşoğlu said, adding Ankara’s opposition to the YPG’s participation in a peace conference has also been supported by Iran.
A day later, Çavuşoğlu said that Turkey expects Trump “to keep his promise” on the YPG issue.
“We want to see Trump’s promise on not giving arms to YPG terror group being implemented. A country like the U.S. shouldn’t have any business with terror groups,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in the southern province of Antalya on Nov. 25, adding that Trump told Erdoğan about the YPG decision twice during the phone call.
‘Joint fight against all terrorist groups’
On Nov. 24, a statement was released from the Turkish Presidency on the phone call, which said that the leaders discussed the bilateral relations between Turkey and the U.S., and exchanged views regarding the Syrian crisis and regional matters.
“President Erdoğan shared information with U.S. President Trump about the Sochi summit and the two leaders also discussed the fight against terror,” the statement read, as it added that Erdoğan and Trump agreed on joint fight against “all terrorist organizations,” including the PKK, ISIL and the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), widely believed to have been behind the July 15, 2016, failed coup attempt.
“The two leaders highlighted the importance of strengthening the Turkey-U.S. relations and agreed on joint fight against all terrorist organizations, including DEASH, PKK, FETÖ and similar groups,” it said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Turkey has been demanding the U.S. to extradite the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, the leader of FETÖ, and the issue has been a subject of tension between the two countries.
White House releases statement
A statement was also released from the White House after the phone call, which said that “Trump reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Turkey, particularly in combating terrorism in all its forms and fostering regional stability.”
The White House also said that the leaders discussed the ongoing Syria crisis.
"Consistent with our previous policy, President Trump also informed President Erdoğan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return," the release said, using another name for ISIL.
According to White House, the leaders have also touched upon the importance of the Geneva process on Syria and the necessity to implement U.N. Resolution 2254.
"On Syria, the two leaders discussed the importance of implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and supporting the United Nations-led Geneva Process to peacefully resolve the civil war in that country," the release said.
"President Trump and President Erdoğan underscored the need to end the humanitarian crisis, allow displaced Syrians to return home, and ensure the stability of a unified Syria free of malign intervention and terrorist safe havens,” it added.
Moreover, Erdoğan and Trump “also discussed the purchase of military equipment from the United States," according to the White House.
'Reform process will not be simple'
Before the conversation, Trump said he would contact the Turkish president.
“Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey … about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East,” the U.S. president tweeted.
“I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!” he wrote.
“It is obvious that the reform process will not be simple, it will require compromise and concessions from all parties, including, obviously, the Syrian government,” said Russian President Vladimir Putin after the Sochi summit.
The national dialogue congress will serve for two goals: To draw up a new constitution and to run a “fair and transparent election” under the monitoring of the United Nations, Erdoğan told journalists after the summit.
He said there was “no such situation at the moment,” in regards to whether Turkey had initiated any contact with Bashar al-Assad or mediators.
Syria’s main opposition stuck by its demand on Nov. 23 that al-Assad does not play a role in an interim period under any U.N.-sponsored peace deal.
A gathering in Saudi Arabia of more than 140 participants from a broad spectrum of Syria’s mainstream opposition also blasted Iran’s military presence in Syria and called on Shia militias backed by Tehran to leave the country.
“The participants stressed that this [the transition] cannot happen without the departure of Bashar al-Assad and his clique at the start of the interim period,” opposition groups said in a communique at the end of the meeting.
Iran-backed militias sowed “terrorism and sectarian strife” between Sunni and Shia Muslims, the communique said.
The opposition groups met to seek a unified position ahead of U.N.-backed peace talks after two years of Russian military intervention that has helped Assad’s government recapture all of Syria’s main cities.
“The Syrian opposition has sent a message that it is ready to enter serious direct talks over a political transition in Syria and has a unified position and a vision for the future of Syria,” Ahmad Ramadan, opposition spokesman, told Reuters.
The participants elected 50 members to a High Negotiations Committee and were about to finalize the delegation for the next round of U.N.-sponsored talks, scheduled to be made “in days.”
U.N. peace talks mediator Staffan de Mistura was set to visit Moscow.
There had been speculation that the opposition at the meeting could soften its demands that the Kremlin’s ally al-Assad leave power before any transition.