Friday, March 22, 2019 | ePaper

Turkey says its Syria offensive doesn't hinge on US pullout

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Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu listens at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey on Tuesday

AP, Ankara :
Turkey's foreign minister says a planned Turkish military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria doesn't depend on whether the United States withdraws its troops from the region.
Mevlut Cavusoglu said in an interview with NTV news channel on Thursday that Turkey would take the necessary steps to thwart threats from the fighters "whether they (U.S.) withdraw or don't withdraw."
Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish fighters, who are allied with U.S. in the fight against the Islamic State group, as offshoot of outlawed Kurdish rebels inside Turkey.
Turkey this week rejected U.S. national security adviser John Bolton's demands for assurances that Ankara would protect the Syrian Kurdish fighters before Americans withdraw.
Cavusoglu says American "security units" are trying to deter President Donald Trump from his decision to pull out.
Meanwhile, Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan rebuked Washington's national security adviser on Tuesday for demanding that his country not attack Kurdish fighters in Syria, accusing him of complicating President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw U.S. troops.
Erdogan said John Bolton, who held talks with Turkish officials in Ankara on Tuesday but left without meeting the president, "made a serious mistake" in setting conditions for Turkey's military role after the U.S. pullout.
The rebuke highlights the difficulties in implementing Trump's goal of bringing home some 2,000 U.S. troops stationed in Syria. Trump's plan, clouded by mixed messages from the president and his administration, hinges on Turkish cooperation to secure a huge swathe of northeast Syria as the United States departs.
Bolton made the case to Turkish officials for the need for guarantees that U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters in the campaign against Islamic State would not be harmed after a U.S. withdrawal, a senior U.S. official said. But there were no signs of any agreement between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organization partners, whose relations have been strained over Syria and other issues.
Trump's abrupt announcement last month sparked concern among officials in Washington and some Western allies, and was a major factor in Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' decision to resign. It also alarmed the YPG, Washington's main partner against Islamic State in Syria.

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