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US account of Erdogan-Trump call disputed by Turkey

After the US and Turkish presidents spoke late on Wednesday, the White House said Trump had urged Erdogan to limit an assault by Turkish troops against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria.

world Updated: Jan 25, 2018 14:58 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse, Ankara
Turkey,Recep Tayyip Erdogan,Donald Trump
Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party during a meeting at the Parliament in Ankara on January 16, 2018. (Reuters)

Turkey on Thursday bitterly questioned the White House’s account of a telephone call between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump on Syria, saying it did not “accurately reflect” the conversation.

After Trump and Erdogan spoke late on Wednesday, the White House said Trump had urged Erdogan to limit an assault by Turkish troops against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria dubbed Olive Branch.

Turkey launched an offensive against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia on Saturday in their enclave of Afrin, supporting Syrian rebels with air strikes and ground troops.

According to a White House statement, Trump urged Turkey “to de-escalate, limit its military actions” and “exercise caution”.

But Turkish official sources said the US statement “does not accurately reflect the content” of the call, adding that Trump did not share any concerns regarding “escalating violence”.

“The two leaders’ discussion...was limited to an exchange of views,” said a Turkish official, who asked not to be named.

Ankara views the YPG as a terror group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) inside Turkey. The PKK is blacklisted by Ankara and its Western allies.

But the YPG is still working closely with Washington against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria, in defiance of Turkey’s warnings.

In response to Erdogan’s call on the US to stop supplying weapons to the YPG, Trump said “his country no longer supplied the group...and pledged not to resume” weapons delivery, the official said.

The YPG also holds the key town of Manbij east of Afrin, and Erdogan on Wednesday raised the prospect of an operation on Manbij, where there is a US military presence.

“The US president touched upon the necessity of limiting the duration of Operation Olive Branch and, keeping in mind the presence of a small number of US troops in Manbij, the need to prevent a hot conflict in the area,” the Turkish official said.

Washington has more than 2,000 special forces and support troops inside Syria.

Trump also expressed concern about “the destructive and false” anti-American rhetoric emanating from Turkey, the White House said.

But the official said Trump “did not use the phrase ‘destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey’”.

“He mentioned that open criticism of the United States raised concerns in Washington,” said the official.

First Published: Jan 25, 2018 14:58 IST