No date has been set for a top-level meeting between the Turkish and American leaders, who have suddenly warmed their ties.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
The White House confirmed Monday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has officially invited President Donald Trump to meet with him in Ankara early in 2019, although no date has been mentioned as yet. “While nothing definite is being planned, the president is open to a potential meeting in the future,” the statement said.
Even before the U.S. president would make his trip, an American military delegation is to visit Turkey this week. “They will discuss how to coordinate [the withdrawal] with their counterparts,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said at a news conference.
The invitation follows Trump’s sudden decision last week during a phone conversation between the Turkish and U.S. leaders to withdraw all 2,000 American troops from Syria. The move is something that Turkey, Russia and Iran have all been urging for months, as they maintained that the U.S. was not invited in by Syria and that its presence was therefore an “invasion” of sorts.
Trump, meanwhile, had kept the troops there that his predecessor, Barack Obama, had sent, in an effort to defeat the ISIS terrorists who still maintained a grip on a small slice of Syrian territory. However, the American presence was especially unwelcome by Ankara as the main American role was to help train Kurdish forces to fight the Sunni Muslim extremists near the Syrian-Turkish border. The Kurds currently control some 30% of Syrian territory, and their aspiration is to set up an autonomous region there, something both Damascus and Ankara reject.
Ankara has long claimed that these men are affiliated with Kurds in their own country whom they deem to be terrorists. Once the U.S. withdraws, Erdogan will have almost a free hand to take harsh measures against these Kurds, and a Turkish military buildup on the joint border has already reportedly begun.
The U.S. president has pushed back against those who have criticized his move for several reasons, including the question mark it leaves over the fate of his erstwhile Kurdish allies. The American mission was always to defeat ISIS, he said, and it seems he was convinced by Erdogan that Ankara could finish the job for its NATO ally.
In a “long and productive call,” the two discussed “the slow & highly coordinated pullout of US troops from the area,” Trump tweeted on Sunday. “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!”