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Erdogan, Trump consider creating security zone in Syria

Erdogan, Trump consider creating security zone in SyriaTurkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US counterpart Donald Trump mooted Monday the creation of a “security zone” in northern Syria as tensions rose over the fate of Kurdish fighters in the war-torn country. In a telephone conversation, the leaders “discussed the idea of creating a security zone cleared of terrorism in the north of the country,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement. This came after Turkey vowed it “will not be intimidated” by Trump’s threats of economic devastation if Ankara attacked Kurdish forces as US troops withdraw from Syria.



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Turkey's Erdogan rebukes Trump's top security adviser over Kurds in Syria

Turkey's Erdogan rebukes Trump's top security adviser over Kurds in SyriaErdogan 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.



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Erdogan blasts Bolton's 'unacceptable' comments on Syrian Kurdish militia

Erdogan blasts Bolton's 'unacceptable' comments on Syrian Kurdish militiaTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday condemned comments by a key US envoy over the future of a US-allied Syrian Kurdish militia as a “grave mistake”, as tensions flared over Washington’s planned withdrawal from war-torn Syria. Erdogan’s comments came shortly after US National Security Adviser John Bolton held talks in the Turkish capital with Erdogan’s adviser Ibrahim Kalin, in a key meeting focusing on the surprise US decision to withdraw its troops from Syria.



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Turkey's Erdogan warns US of 'grave mistake' in making conditions for Syria withdrawal

Turkey's Erdogan warns US of 'grave mistake' in making conditions for Syria withdrawalTurkey’s president has warned the US it has made a "grave mistake" asking for protection for Kurdish fighters battling Islamic State in Syria and threatened once again to launch an assault against them. Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) terrorists, said Turkey would “not make concessions” and said preparations for an offensive were nearly complete. "John Bolton has made a grave mistake on this issue,” a furious Mr Erdogan told parliament as the US national security adviser arrived in Ankara for talks with Turkish officials. “The (YPG’s) fight with Islamic State in Syria is a huge lie." Mr Bolton was in Turkey on Tuesday as part of a tour of the Middle East with Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, aimed at limiting damage over the announcement by Donald Trump, the US president, that he would remove its troops from Syria. Such a move would leave YPG allies, whose fighters have led a coalition to defeat Isil, exposed to a Turkish attack. YPG fighter holds a sniper rifle on his shoulder as he attends the funeral of a slain commander in the northeastern city of Qamishli Credit: AFP Mr Bolton said on Sunday he would be seeking assurances from Ankara that they would not attack the YPG as a condition to a US withdraw, which Mr Trump had failed to address during a December phone call with Mr Erdogan, in a bid to salvage relations with the Kurds. Mr Bolton met for roughly two hours with  Ibrahim Kalin, his Turkish counterpart, and other senior officials at Ankara's presidency complex but was snubbed by Mr Erdogan himself, reflecting just how at odds the Nato partners are on the issue.   Mr Trump, in a tweet before Christmas, declared Isil had been defeated and said the US’s 2,000 or so troops would be returning as soon as possible. However, Mr Bolton, Mr Pompeo and even Mr Trump have tried to backtrack the comments, offering differing timelines ranging from 30 days to four months for the withdrawal.  The shifting timetable has left allies and other players in the region confused and jockeying for influence over a withdrawal strategy that appeared to be a work in progress. In Turkey's case, it appears to have emboldened Mr Erdogan, who was reported to have asked the US to hand over its 22 military bases in Syria or dismantle them.   Responding to Mr Erdogan’s threats, a top Syrian Kurdish official said his fighters are prepared to confront Turkish forces if they enter northeastern Syria. Shahoz Hasan, co-chair of the largest Kurdish group in Syria the Democratic Union Party, or PYD, says it was clear from the latest statements that Turkey has planning an assault. "We will be ready." he said. Any such offensive would likely see the YPG redirecting fighters battling the last Isil to the northern border with Turkey. Despite Mr Trump’s claim, fierce fighting is still ongoing for a small pocket of territory in eastern Deir Ezzor province. In a stark reminder of the lingering threat, a war monitor reported that the jihadists had killed 23 US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters in a counterattack in eastern Syria on Monday aimed at defending their last bastion. Isil took advantage of poor visibility to unleash suicide attackers on SDF along the front line in the Euphrates valley, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Tuesday.



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Erdogan invites Trump to Turkey amid Syria pullout

Erdogan invites Trump to Turkey amid Syria pulloutTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent more troops to Syria’s border on Monday ahead of an imminent US withdrawal, as the White House announced he had invited Donald Trump to Ankara. Unlike several other allies of the United States, Turkey has praised President Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 of his ground forces from Syria, a country where it will now have a freer rein to target Kurdish fighters. On Monday Ankara sent more troops to its Syrian border and said an offensive targeting the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia and IS group will be launched in the coming months.



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Trump says Erdogan will 'eradicate' Isil in Syria and praises the Turkish leader as 'a man who can do it' 

Trump says Erdogan will 'eradicate' Isil in Syria and praises the Turkish leader as 'a man who can do it' Donald Trump has said Turkey will finish off the Islamic State in Syria as he praised the country's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan as "a man who can do it". The US president has doubled down on his decision to withdraw US troops from the region following the departure of his Defence Secretary James Mattis over the move. In a stinging resignation letter Mr Mattis warned that America must "show respect" to its allies. Mr Trump has defended his position, tweeting: "President Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria….and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right 'next door.' Our troops are coming home!" The US military confirmed that the order to withdraw American soldiers from Syria had been signed after Mr Trump held talks with his Turkish counterpart to negotiate the terms of the pullout. The US currently has around 2,000 troops in the civil war-racked country, where they have been deployed to assist in a multinational fight against the Islamic State (Isil) jihadist group. President @RT_Erdogan of Turkey has very strongly informed me that he will eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria….and he is a man who can do it plus, Turkey is right “next door.” Our troops are coming home!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 24, 2018 Turkey was a rare ally that lauded Mr Trump's decision on Syria, a country where it will now have a freer rein to target Kurdish fighters who were armed and trained by the US and played a major role in the war against Isil but are deemed terrorists by Ankara. Mr Trump and Mr Erdogan spoke by telephone on Sunday and "agreed to ensure coordination between their countries' military, diplomatic and other officials to avoid a power vacuum which could result following any abuse of the withdrawal and transition phase in Syria," the Turkish presidency said in a statement. Mr Trump tweeted that he and Mr Erdogan "discussed (Isil), our mutual involvement in Syria, & the slow & highly coordinated pullout of US troops from the area." Some fear Turkey will now have freer rein to target Kurdish fighters who were armed and trained by the US Credit: Anadolu Agency  Mr Trump's advisers have reportedly persuaded the president to withdraw the troops more slowly than he would like in order not to jeopardise their safety. A withdrawal could have extraordinary geopolitical implications, and it runs counter to long-established US policy for the region. Thousands of Isil fighters are thought to remain in Syria, but Mr Trump on Wednesday declared that "we've won against ISIS," using another acronym for the extremists. Late on Sunday he tweeted that President Erdogan had assured him that any remaining Isil fighters will be eliminated. However US politicians – including those from Mr Trump's own Republican party – and international allies fear the withdrawal is premature and would further destabilise the already devastated region. A US pullout, said Mutlu Civiroglu, a Kurdish affairs analyst, will open the way "for Turkey to start its operations against the Kurds, and a bloody war will begin." French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday said he "deeply regretted" Mr Trump's decision, and that "an ally must be reliable." Israel has been careful to point out that it respects the US decision, but analysts say that beneath those public pronouncements are concerns over whether its main enemy Iran will have a freer hand. Mr Trump's sudden decision sparked turmoil within his administration, prompting the resignation of Brett McGurk, the special envoy to the anti-Isil coalition, as well as Mr Mattis.  Mr McGurk said he could not support Mr Trump's Syria decision, saying it "left our coalition partners confused and our fighting partners bewildered." Plans for the troop pullout will now be overseen by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, who Mr Trump announced on Sunday would replace Mr Mattis starting January 1. Unlike Mr Mattis, Mr Shanahan has never served in the military and has spent most of his career in the private sector, including with aircraft giant Boeing. Until Mr Trump finds a permanent Pentagon chief, Mr Shanahan will lead plans for US troops to leave Syria along with a significant drawdown in Afghanistan, both of which critics worry will leave war-torn regions at risk of continued and potentially heightened bloodshed.



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Trump says discussed 'highly coordinated' Syria pullout with Erdogan

Trump says discussed 'highly coordinated' Syria pullout with ErdoganDonald Trump said Sunday he had discussed Syria and “the slow & highly coordinated pullout of U.S. troops from the area” in a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Trump shocked US allies on Friday when he announced plans to pull the 2,000 US troops out of Syria, where they have been helping coordinate a multinational fight against IS. The decision followed an earlier Trump phone call with Erdogan, who has been pressing for a US withdrawal.



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Erdogan vows to clear Syria of Kurd militia, IS

Erdogan vows to clear Syria of Kurd militia, ISTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday vowed to drive out a US-backed Kurdish militia and jihadists from Syria as Kurdish forces there warned that any attack by Ankara could seriously undermine the fight against the Islamic State. Erdogan’s promise followed the shock decision by US President Donald Trump to pull out 2,000 American ground forces from Syria on the grounds that IS had been “beaten”.



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Turkey will enter Syria's Manbij if U.S. doesn't remove YPG fighters, Erdogan says

Turkey will enter Syria's Manbij if U.S. doesn't remove YPG fighters, Erdogan saysTurkish forces will enter the Syrian town of Manbij if the United States does not remove YPG Kurdish fighters, and it will also target Kurdish-controlled areas further east, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. Erdogan said this week that Turkey would launch a new operation within days against the U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish YPG militia which controls swathes of Syria’s northern border region, in what will be Turkey’s third military campaign in Syria in two years.



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Erdogan takes Saudi prince to task, demands extraditions

Erdogan takes Saudi prince to task, demands extraditionsTurkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded Saturday that Saudi Arabia extradite suspects in the killing in Istanbul of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, taking to task the kingdom’s crown prince who was basking in his quick return to the world stage at the G20. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s presence at the summit of the Group of 20 powers in Buenos Aires demonstrated he was firmly in control, as he met with Western leaders and sealed an oil pact with Russian President Vladimir Putin.



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