Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has invited his US counterpart Donald Trump to visit Turkey, while Ankara and Washington are tightening their relations to coordinate the expected withdrawal of US troops in Syria.
The White House announced late Monday that Erdogan had invited Trump to visit Turkey in 2019.
“Although nothing definitive is being planned, the president (Trump) is open to a potential meeting in the future,” said Hogan Gidley, a spokesman for the US executive.
In the meantime, “an American delegation will come to Turkey this week,” Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters earlier. “They will discuss ways to coordinate (withdrawal) with their Turkish counterparts”.
After a telephone conversation Sunday between Donald Trump and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish presidency said the two leaders had “agreed to coordinate the military, diplomats and other leaders of their countries to avoid a power vacuum. which could result from an exploitation of the withdrawal (US, Ed) and the transition phase in Syria “.
On Twitter, Trump said he spoke with Turkish number one “IS, our mutual engagement in Syria and the slow and extremely coordinated withdrawal of US troops from the region” as well as “dramatically increased trade relations”.
Kalin further assured that the expected US withdrawal would have no impact on the fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in northern Syria.
“There will be no interruption in the fight against the IS, Turkey will show the same determination against the IS.It is out of the question to slow down our fight against the IS,” he said.
He also said that Turkey did not need Kurdish militias of the YPG supported by Washington but that Ankara considers them “terrorists” because of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
“To beat the IS, as Turkey, we do not need the PKK or the YPG,” he said.
– Reinforcements at the border –
“As we have not left the Syrian Arabs prey to Daesh (IS), we will not let the Syrian Kurds fall prey to the cruelty of the PKK and the YPG,” Erdogan said in a speech. in Ankara.
“Why are we in Syria right now, so that our Arab and Kurdish brothers regain their freedom,” he added.
Reinforcing the pressure on the YPG, unhinged by the announcement of the imminent withdrawal of their US allies, Turkey has sent Monday new military reinforcements on its border with Syria in preparation for the offensive that looms, even if M Erdogan decided to stay in the immediate future.
Military units, Howitzer cannons and artillery batteries were sent in convoy to the Elbeyli district, facing the Syrian border in the Turkish province of Kilis, according to state agency Anadolu.
This dispatch of reinforcements began this weekend with the arrival of a hundred Turkish military vehicles in the region of al-Bab, controlled by pro-Turkish forces in northern Syria, said the daily Hürriyet .
Military reinforcements were also dispatched to Akcakale town and Ceylanpinar district in Sanliurfae province (southeastern Turkey).
Struggling US allies, Trump Wednesday ordered the departure as soon as possible of some 2,000 US military stationed in northeastern Syria where they fight against jihadists alongside the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) , a coalition of Arab-Kurdish militias dominated by the YPG.
The president, a longtime opponent of the US presence in a costly conflict, said the US troops were no longer useful because the IS was “largely defeated”.
And he seems to be counting on Mr. Erdogan to finish.
“Turkey’s President Erdogan gave me assurances in very strong terms” that he was going to “eradicate what’s left of ISIS in Syria,” he tweeted.
According to the Washington Post, citing sources in the White House, Donald Trump’s advisers persuaded him to withdraw the US troops more slowly than he wanted to, so that their security would not be threatened.