Turkish, US foreign ministers discuss Syria on phone

Remigio Civitarese
Gennaio 14, 2019

Last month, Trump announced that he wanted United States troops out of Syria - a decision that resulted in the resignations of Defense Secretary James Mattis and Brett McGurk, the special presidential envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIS.

The move came after Trump declared that the "Islamic State" terrorist group had been defeated in Syria.

The president announced the move in December, prompting concerns that Syrian Kurds, who had helped the U.S. fight Islamic State, would be left at the mercy of neighbouring Turkey, which views some of them as terrorists.

Kurdish-led groups who control swathes of northern Syria fear an attack from Turkey in the wake of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw troops from their region.

The announcement of a pullout is fueling concern about how quickly the USA will abandon its Kurdish allies, amid contradictory statements recently by Trump administration officials on an exit timetable.

The previous week, Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton had announced that Washington would withdraw its troops from Syria only after defeating ISIS and ensuring that the Kurds are safe.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on January 12 he was optimistic that a "good outcome" can be achieved that protects both Turkey and the Syrian Kurds, after speaking to the Turkish foreign minister. "Create 20 mile safe zone...."

US-led operations against Isis in Syria have been spearheaded on the ground by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called Bolton's remarks unacceptable, saying Turkey could not accept the U.S.' condition of protecting YPG terrorists, the Syrian affiliate of the PKK.

Trump's decision to call back US troops in Syria, who were first deployed in 2015, was followed a day later by the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who wrote a letter to the president saying he had the right to have a secretary of defense "whose views are better aligned with yours". "Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms", Trump said, using a different acronym for IS.

Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term USA policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies.

"We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well", he added.

Rami Abdel Rahman from the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several dozen jihadist fighters were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-Arab alliance.

Abdel Rahman said 16,000 people, including 760 Isis fighters, had fled the area since the start of December, though this marked the first time the SDF and the coalition provided buses, suggesting a deal struck between the warring sides.

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