Ankara denies White House readout content
US President Donald Trump administration faced another diplomatic rebuke in the Middle East when Turkish official sources denied the White House readout text released after the phone call between President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Donald Trump late Wednesday, saying it does not reflect the “true nature of the phone call”.
According to two major Turkish dailies, Hurriyet Daily News (Ankara) and Daily Sabah (Istanbul), the official sources said, “Trump did not express concern over a so-called escalating violence as a result of Turkey’s anti-terror operation in Afrin. There was merely an exchange of views on Operation Oilve Branch between the presidents.”
However, White House readout available at its website says “President Trump relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin, Syria, risks undercutting our shared goals in Syria.”
Turkey has launched “Operation Olive Branch,” operation targeting the Afrin region to oust the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers as a terror organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the separatist entity on its soil.
The Turkish source said that during the conversation, Trump discussed restricting the operation in Afrin to a certain time limit and avoiding any close combat in Manbij, due to the existence of U.S. soldiers in the region.
Instead, Turkish President Erdoğan reiterated that the PYD-YPG forces must withdraw to the East of the Euphrates River and pledged the protection of Manbij by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army against future threats by the Daesh (IS) following the withdrawal.
The White House readout said “He (Trump) urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases to displaced persons and refugees. He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces.”
The source further said that US President Donald Trump never used the expression “destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey”, but expressed discomfort about criticisms directed to his country.
The White House readout said, “President Trump also expressed concern about destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey, and about United States citizens and local employees detained under the prolonged State of Emergency in Turkey.”
Denying another White House claim, the Turkish official source said, “The state of emergency in Turkey was also not mentioned during the call.” However, White House claimed that Trump expressed the U.S. “concern about “prolonged state of emergency in Turkey.”
Sources added that the U.S. side emphasized the importance of avoiding confrontation between Turkish and U.S. forces in the region.
The Turkish side also reiterated that YPG/PYD terrorists must withdraw from Manbij, and that the Free Syrian Army (FSA) can protect the area from potential Daesh (IS) terror if needed.
The Turkish official sources said that President RecepTayyip Erdoğan also told Trump that the U.S.’ support to YPG terrorists must end as soon as possible, and Trump told that U.S. is currently not supplying and will not supply any more weaponry to the YPG.
The White House statement concluded saying, “The two leaders pledged to improve the strategic partnership between the US and Turkey, particularly in “fostering regional stability and combating terrorism in all its forms,” including ISIS, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), al-Qa’ida, and Iranian-sponsored terrorism.
Turkish official have neither denied or confirmed about discussing about “Iranian sponsored terrorism,” the term generally used about Lebanon based Hezbollah, the followers of Iranian revolutionaries who have played important role along with Iranian military advisors in defeating Daesh (IS) in Syria and Iraq.
However, observers have expressed fear of US-Turkey confrontation in Syria. Reuters reports that a US-backed Kurdish militia has deployed fighters to the frontline of Syria’s Manbij to fight against Turkey’s military as President Erdogan has indicated it would be the next target after Afrin operation.
US military personnel are deployed in Manbij, situated about 100 km east of Afrin. Forces from Turkey and NATO allies could come face to face on the battlefield, if war triggers between US and Turkish forces.
US led coalition spokesman Ryan Dilon reportedly has told Reuters on Wednesday, “Clearly we are very alert to what is happening, especially in the area of Manbij because that is where our… coalition forces are.” He further said that they “have an inherent right to defend themselves and will do so if necessary.”
Meanwhile, Sharfan Darvish of Manbij Military Council, a unit of , YPG Syrian-Kurd militia has said that his forces were preparing to confront Turkish soldiers.
He indirectly acknowledged US support to his group saying, “We are in full readiness to respond to any attack. Of course our coordination with the international coalition continues with regards to the protection of Manbij.” The US-led coalition is generally known as international coalition in the regional media.