Erdoğan, Trump discuss establishment of terror-free safe zone in northern Syria in phone call

Mon 14 Jan 2019 19:02 GMT | 23:02 Local Time

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President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan held a phone call with his U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Monday on the latest developments in Syria and bilateral ties, amid a diplomatic spat over the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, Daily Sabah reports.

The two leaders underlined that they will not allow any elements trying to prevent the U.S.' withdrawal from Syria, and discussed the establishment of a terror-free safe zone in Syria's north based on the country's territorial integrity.

In the phone call, Erdoğan reiterated that Turkey has no problems with Kurds and its goal is to rid the region of terror groups such as Daesh, the PKK and its Syrian branches the People's Protection Units (YPG) and the Democratic Union Party (PYD).

Erdoğan added that Turkey was behind the U.S.' decision to withdraw from the region, saying Ankara was ready to provide all kinds of support.

However, Trump and Erdoğan underscored the importance of fulfilling the Manbij roadmap to prevent a vacuum of authority and healthy communication with the public regarding the matter.

The two leaders also agreed to advance bilateral economic relations.

Earlier Monday, Trump on Twitter said the U.S. was starting a "long overdue" pullout from Syria and Washington would strike from a nearby existing base if Daesh started to re-form.

Trump went as far as saying that Washington would "economically devastate" Turkey if Ankara decided to strike against the militants of the U.S.-backed YPG.

The comments immediately drew rebukes from Turkish officials, with Ankara asserting that it will not shrink from threats and rejecting any conflation of "Kurds" with terrorist groups.

Ankara has been infuriated by U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the YPG, under the pretext of fighting against Daesh. The U.S. provided military training and supplied truckloads of weapons to the YPG, disregarding warnings from Ankara that the YPG is organically linked to the PKK, and partnering with one terrorist group to fight another was not acceptable.

Turkey says the weapons are ultimately transferred to the PKK – designated as a terror group by the U.S., Turkey and the EU – and used against Turkey. The PKK has been waging a terror campaign, which had led to the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women and children, since the 1980s.

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