Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned the US it has made a "grave mistake" asking for protection for Kurdish fighters battling Isil (Islamic State) in Syria and threatened once again to launch an assault against them.
کد خبر: ۸۶۸۱۲۳
تاریخ انتشار: ۱۹ دی ۱۳۹۷ - ۰۸:۴۵ 09 January 2019

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has warned the US it has made a "grave mistake" asking for protection for Kurdish fighters battling Isil (Islamic State) in Syria and threatened once again to launch an assault against them.

Mr Erdoğan - who considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) terrorists - said Turkey would "not make concessions" and preparations for an offensive were nearly complete.

"John Bolton [US national security adviser] has made a grave mistake on this issue," a furious Mr Erdoğan told parliament as Mr Bolton arrived in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials. "The (YPG's) fight with Islamic State in Syria is a huge lie."

Damage

Mr Bolton and Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, were in Turkey yesterday as part of a tour of the Middle East aimed at limiting damage over the announcement by Donald Trump, the US president, that he would call home its troops from Syria.

Such a move would leave YPG allies, whose fighters have led a coalition to defeat Isil, exposed to a Turkish attack.

Mr Bolton said on Sunday he would be seeking assurances from Ankara they would not attack the YPG as a condition to a US withdrawal - which Mr Trump had failed to address during a December phone call with Mr Erdoğan - in a bid to salvage relations with the Kurds.

Mr Bolton has talks for roughly two hours with Ibrahim Kalin, his Turkish counterpart, and other senior officials at Ankara's presidency complex but was snubbed by Mr Erdoğan himself, reflecting just how at odds the Nato partners are on the issue.

Mr Trump, in a tweet before Christmas, had declared Isil defeated and said 2,000 or so American troops would be returning home as soon as possible.

However, Mr Bolton, Mr Pompeo and even Mr Trump have tried to backtrack the comments, offering differing timelines ranging from 30 days to four months for the withdrawal.

The shifting timetable has left allies and other players in the region confused and jockeying for influence over a withdrawal strategy that appeared to be a work in progress. In Turkey's case, it appears to have emboldened Mr Erdoğan, who was reported to have asked the US to hand over its 22 military bases in Syria or dismantle them.

Responding to Mr Erdoğan's threats, a top Syrian Kurdish official said his fighters were prepared to confront Turkish forces if they enter north-eastern Syria.

Shahoz Hasan, co-chair of the largest Kurdish group in Syria the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, says it was clear from the latest statements Turkey was planning an assault.

"We will be ready," he said.

Fighters

Any such offensive would likely see the YPG redirecting fighters battling the last Isil enclaves to the northern border with Turkey.

Despite Mr Trump's claim, fierce fighting is still ongoing for a small pocket of territory in eastern Deir Ezzor province.

In a stark reminder of the lingering threat, a war monitor reported that the jihadists had killed 23 US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters in a counterattack in eastern Syria on Monday aimed at defending their last bastion.

Isil took advantage of poor visibility to unleash suicide attackers on the SDF along the front line in the Euphrates valley, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

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