Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin (R) speaking with US National Security adviser John Bolton following their meeting at the presidential complex in the capital Ankara, on January 8, 2019. Photo: Turkish presidential press service/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – An angry Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan snubbed US National Security Advisor John Bolton who was in Turkey on Tuesday to discuss the US withdrawal from Syria.
Before his visit, Bolton had outlined conditions
for American troops to leave northern Syria – the defeat of ISIS and assurances from Turkey that they will not attack Kurdish forces in Syria.
“Claims that Turkey targets Kurds in Syria are dishonourable, ugly, vulgar, and defaming,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the parliament after Bolton’s visit.
The president declined to meet with Bolton, saying that if such a meeting was really “necessary,” then he would have made time in his “heavy schedule,” Anadolu Agency reported. He added that he can always pick up the phone to talk with US President Donald Trump at any time.
Bolton, joined by James Jeffrey, special envoy for Syria and the coalition, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, met with
Erdogan’s top aide and spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin.
Trump made the snap decision to leave Syria after a phone call with Erdogan and contrary to the opinions of his state and defense departments.
Erdogan said he and Trump made an agreement that would see Turkey take over the war against ISIS in northern Syria as the Americans withdraw. He complained that “different voices” from Trump’s administration have tried to confuse the situation.
“Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake. It is not possible for us to make compromises on this point,” he said, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Erdogan said Turkey is continuing its preparations for a military operation in northern Syria – vowing to destroy ISIS and “other terrorist organizations,” saying that the operation will begin “very soon.”
Multiple analysts have concluded
that Turkey would not be able to militarily
Ankara considers the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD) branches of the PKK. It claims that its military operations target these “terror” groups and not the Kurdish population as a whole.
Kurds, however, accuse Turkey of deliberately destroying cultural symbols and trying to impose demographic change. They point to Turkey’s operation in Afrin where, for example, Kurdish citizens have been persecuted and Kurdish place names have been removed.
“Why do you raise your flags and Turkish pictures in our Kurdish lands?” asked YPG commander Polat Can.