US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday that Turkey has pledged to “protect” Kurdish militants in Syria after US troops withdraw from the country following a surprise decision by President Donald Trump three weeks ago.
The minister said that this guarantee was received by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personally.
Erdogan has repeatedly threatened to eliminate the Kurdish factions supported by Washington in northern Syria, which Ankara regards as “terrorist” as well as the organization of the Islamic state.
Erdogan had spoken by phone with Trump just hours before the Dec. 19 announcement that the Islamic state was defeated and that the 2,000-strong American contingent in Syria would soon withdraw from the country.
“President Erdogan promised President Trump when we discussed how it should be – he had promised that the Turks would continue the campaign against the organization of the Islamic state after our departure and be careful that the men who We fought with them and those who helped us in the campaign against the Islamic state are protected”.
Trump had raised a surprise before Christmas by announcing that he had decided to withdraw “immediately” US forces deployed in Syria to fight the Islamic state organization.
The decision raised the concerns of Washington’s allies, but Trump quickly changed his terms as he spoke of a “slow” withdrawal “over a period of time”.
John Bolton, the White House national security adviser, said during a visit to Israel that the US withdrawal from Syria should be done with “ensuring” the defense of Washington’s allies, led by Israel and the Kurds, while Israel is concerned that the US withdrawal will allow Iran to strengthen its influence in Syria.
US President Donald Trump on Monday sought to dispel fears of a rapid withdrawal of US troops from Syria, saying the pullout would be “guarded”, adding that the battle against the Islamic state was not over yet.
“We will leave Syria at an appropriate pace, while at the same time continuing to fight the organization of the Islamic state, to act with caution and to do what is necessary for the rest”, Trump tweeted.
The American president has come under strong pressure inside his country and from the capitals of his allies following his previous statements that he considers the organization of the Islamic state to have been eliminated and that he wants the US troops to leave Syria immediately.
There are currently about 2,000 US troops in Syria Which has been ravaged by a devastating war for years, most of them training local forces fighting the Islamic state.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his entourage arrived in the Turkish capital Ankara from Israel.
Bolton is accompanied by US army Chief of Staff General Joseph Dunford and James Jeffrey, who is the Special Envoy to Syria and the US Special Envoy to the International Alliance Against the Islamic State.
The delegation will meet with Turkish officials to discuss the Syrian issue, headed by Manbej, the Gulen Movement, the Kurdish organizations, in addition to the sale of the Patriot missile defense system and try to dissuade Turkey not to buy the Russian S-400 system, in addition to discuss some issues related to economic relations between the two countries.
The US delegation will leave Turkey on Tuesday after holding meetings with Turkish officials.