Spotlight: Turkey welcomes U.S. pullout from Syria, announces deal with Trump

Source: Xinhua| 2018-12-22 04:26:21|Editor: Chengcheng
Video PlayerClose

ANKARA, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Turkey on Friday welcomed a decision of United States for pullout of all its troops from Syria and declared that it postponed an already announced operation into the east of Euphrates River in the war-torn country.

Moreover, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced a recent deal with his U.S. counterpart for eliminating residues of the Islamic State (IS) in Syria by the Turkish army.

"We welcome the U.S. decision of withdrawal from Syria. We must coordinate the pullout with the U.S., there should not be vacuum. From now on we should focus on political solution," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Malta.

U.S. President Donald Trump suggested on Wednesday in a tweet about imminent U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria as he claimed that the IS has been defeated.

Erdogan revealed Friday that Trump had asked him if the Turkish army would be able to eliminate remaining IS fighters in Syria in the case that U.S. pulls its troops out of the country.

The Turkish president was referring to his phone conversation with Trump on Dec. 14 when the U.S. president reportedly made his final decision for withdrawal from Syria.

Erdogan on Friday said he told Trump Turkey's readiness and determination to get rid of "any kind of terrorists that would pose a threat against its border."

Citing an anonymous Turkish official who is familiar with the phone conversation, daily Hurriyet reported on Friday that Erdogan reminded Trump that the Turkish army has "cleared" 4,000 IS members in Syria and stressed the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) was not "genuine" in the fight against the jihadist groups.

The U.S. president agreed and ordered his National Security Adviser John Bolton to "start the work" for pullout from Syria even when Erdogan was still on the phone, according to the daily.

The phone conversation was only two days after Erdogan declared that Turkey would launch a military operation in the east of Euphrates River in Syria.

Turkey declared its plans for "clearing" the YPG group in the east of Euphrates, which the U.S. has been backing and arming for fighting against the IS in Syria.

But on Friday, Erdogan announced Turkey postponed its military campaign into Syria after the phone conversation with Trump.

"Our phone call with President Trump, along with contacts between our diplomats and security officials and statements by the United States, have led us to wait a little longer. Obviously, this is not an open-ended waiting period," he added.

The U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish group has been center of tension between the two NATO allies since Turkey regards the YPG as Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) designated to be a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU.

But Trump's move is likely to thaw the ties between the two countries, even pave the way for further bilateral cooperation in Syria.

Despite previous disappointment, "diplomacy with the U.S. is coming to the desired level now," Erdogan said.

"President Trump and I have seen that we thought similarly and shared the same views on a range of issues related to the Syrian question. Yet the practice to the ground was overdue and difficult. Finally, in recent days, we have been able to hear the clearest and most encouraging statements to date from the U.S. administration," he said.

Despite all the statements from the U.S. regarding retreat of soldiers, "Ankara is cautious," said Hande Firat, daily Hurriyet commentator.

Firat, in her column on Friday, stressed that Pentagon is known to be against this withdrawal and added that Ankara still questions if the whole administration agrees with the idea and if Trump could change his mind.

The Turkish government will follow a wait-and-see process, and revising military operation plans will require further military and political talks between Ankara and Washington, said Naim Baburoglu, a security expert from Aydin University.

If Washington realizes its pullout, Turkey will eliminate a risk of confrontation with the U.S. troops in case of a military campaign against the YPG, he added.