The United States and Turkey remain at odds over American troops’ withdrawal from war-ravaged Syria even as top U.S. officials visited Turkey this week.
The public disagreement comes shortly after President Donald Trump announced that he would order the withdrawal of all troops from Syria, thus leaving U.S.-backed Kurds, whom Ankara sees as terrorists, at the mercy of Turkey.
National Security Adviser John Bolton veered Sunday from President Trump’s message, saying that the withdrawal would be conditional and troops would remain in the northeastern part of the war-torn country until ISIS was defeated and the U.S. received assurance that its allies there would be safe.
On Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed frustration with such a claim and refused to meet with Bolton. He said Bolton’s comments are not aligned with what he said was a deal with Trump and signaled that he preferred to communicate with the President instead.
“Despite the fact that we reached a clear agreement with Mr. Trump, different voices have been raised from different echelons of the U.S. administration,” said Erdogan on Tuesday, adding that he could soon hold another phone call with Trump, like the one the two leaders held in December, prior to the announcement.
According to the Turkish president, during the initial call he told Trump that Turkey would take on the remaining ISIS fighters in Syria after the U.S. withdrew, although, he added, there was no mention of America’s Kurdish allies.
Last week, Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that ensuring Kurds’ safety was just one of the conditions that have to be met before troops are pulled out of Syria. Though some U.S. officials have said that the President believes Erdogan already committed to protecting the Kurds, the Turkish leader pointed out on Tuesday that U.S. demands are a “serious mistake” and Turkey “cannot make any concessions.”
“Those involved in a terror corridor will receive the necessary punishment,” Erdogan said.