Tuesday, March 26, 2019 | ePaper
Turkey to ask US to hand over military bases in Syria
Reuters, Ankara :
A Turkish flag flutters on a military vehicle on the border of Manbij city, Syria
Turkey was expected to ask U.S. officials either to hand over its military bases in Syria to Ankara or to destroy them, the newspaper Hurriyet reported, a request that could further complicate discussions over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.
The request was expected to come in talks on Tuesday between U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Turkish counterpart, Ibrahim Kalin. Bolton had also added a condition to the talks: Turkey must agree to protect the Kurdish YPG militia, a U.S. ally. Ankara calls YPG a terrorist group.
It was unclear immediately after the talks whether either condition was met. With tensions simmering over U.S. plans to exit Syria, Bolton did not meet with President Tayyip Erdogan.
Trump said last month he was bringing home the some U.S. 2,000 troops in Syria, saying they had succeeded in their mission to defeat Islamic State. His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington and allies abroad and prompted Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to resign.
The YPG has been a key ally in campaign against Islamic State, an alliance that has long caused tension between Washington and Ankara. Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey's mainly Kurdish south east.
"Give them or destroy them," a Hurriyet newspaper headline said, referring to what it said were 22 U.S. military bases in Syria. It cited unspecified sources as saying Turkey would not accept Washington's handing them over to the YPG.
A senior Turkish security official told Reuters last week Washington needed to allow Turkey to use its bases in Syria.
Bolton was joined by U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford and U.S. special Syria envoy James Jeffrey as he met with Kalin on Tuesday morning in Ankara. They concluded their talks by late morning. Kalin is Erdogan's spokesman and deputy head of Turkey's security and foreign policies board.
Erdogan warned on Monday the U.S. withdrawal must be planned carefully and with the right partners. Only Turkey, he said, had "the power and commitment to perform that task". In an op-ed article for the New York Times, Erdogan said Turkey was committed to defeating Islamic State and "other terrorist groups" in Syria.
Arab states, including some that once backed rebels against President Bashar al-Assad, are seeking to reconcile with him after decisive gains by his forces in the war, aiming to expand their influence in Syria at the expense of non-Arab Turkey and Iran.