US-Turkish tensions rise over Syria withdrawal plan


US-Turkish tensions rise over Syria withdrawal plan

Bill Van Auken

9 January 2019

The crisis over US President Donald Trump’s plan for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria escalated Tuesday after Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to meet with a visiting US security and military delegation and then publicly denounced statements by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, as he was preparing to fly out of Ankara.

“No one should expect us to accept or swallow national security adviser Bolton’s comments,” Erdogan told members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament—and an audience on live television—referring to demands that Turkey guarantee the security of the YPG Syrian Kurdish militia, which has served as the main proxy ground force for the US intervention in Syria.

Insisting that his government saw no difference between ISIS and the YPG, Erdogan declared, “If they are terrorists, we will do what is necessary no matter where they come from.”

He added that he had no need to meet with Bolton, when he could speak to Trump anytime on the telephone.

“Although we made a clear agreement with US President Trump, different voices are emerging from different parts of the administration,” Erdogan said. “Trump’s remarks continue to be the main point of reference for us.”

Bolton’s delegation—which included the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford—was relegated to meeting with Erdogan’s spokesman and a group of deputy ministers. A scheduled joint press conference was abruptly canceled.

After Bolton had left Turkey, Fahrettin Altun, Erdogan’s head of communications, tweeted: “I hope that he got a taste of the world-famous Turkish hospitality during his visit. Turkey’s national…

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