Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 June 2019

John Bolton to make Turkey trip amid Kurdish 'slaughter' controversy

Mike Pompeo said the US was hoping to prevent Turkey ‘slaughtering’ Kurds in northern Syria

John Bolton, US National Security Adviser, is to travel to Turkey for discussions on a series of issues. AFP
John Bolton, US National Security Adviser, is to travel to Turkey for discussions on a series of issues. AFP

United States President Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton is to travel to Turkey in coming days, as Ankara expressed anger at comments made by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Washington was looking to avert a Turkish slaughter of Kurds after the US pullout of northern Syria.

"Bolton will travel to Israel and Turkey to discuss the withdrawal of US forces from Syria, and how the US will work with allies and partners to prevent the resurgence of ISIS, stand fast with those who fought with us against ISIS, and counter Iranian malign behavior in the region," Garrett Marquis, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said.

Mr Bolton also will focus on Syria and "how the US will work with allies and partners to prevent the resurgence of ISIS, stand fast with those who fought with us against ISIS, and counter Iranian malign behaviour in the region," according to National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis.

The State Department announced Friday that veteran diplomat Jim Jeffrey, who has been serving since August as the special representative for Syrian engagement, would assume Brett McGurk's anti-ISIS duties after he resigned last month.

Mr Bolton was scheduled to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before being joined in Turkey by Jeffrey and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen Joseph Dunford. They are expected to pressure Turkish officials not to launch an offensive targeting Kurdish fights in Syria.

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But his trip has been overshadowed by a new row between Washington and Ankara after comments made by Mr Pompeo.

Turkey criticised him for saying that Washington wants to prevent Turkey from “slaughtering” Kurds after the exit of American troops.

Turkey has long promised a new military operation in northern Syria against the Kurds but said it would delay the plans after the US withdrawal.

Turkey considers the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, a terrorist group linked to an insurgency within its own borders. It says they are an extension of the group that has been outlawed by the US and EU as a terrorist organisation and has carried out numerous deadly attacks on Turkish soil.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement released on Friday said that Mr Pompeo had displayed “a worrying lack of information” about the situation by equating the YPG as synonymous with the Kurdish population at large in northern Syria.

The withdrawal has prompted concerns that ISIS will be able to regroup and use territory ceded by US troops to launch attacks against Kurdish forces, giving it another foothold just months after losing the majority of its territory in both Iraq and Syria.

Updated: January 5, 2019 06:14 PM

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