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Erdogan rebukes Bolton’s 'unacceptable' comment on Syrian Kurdish YPG forces

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, on January 8, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has censured as “unacceptable” and a “grave mistake” latest comments made by US National Security Adviser John Bolton about the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which forms the primary component of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), in northern Syria.

“It is not possible for us to accept and stomach the message Bolton gave from Israel.

“Regarding this matter, Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake. It is not possible for us to make compromises on this point. Those who are part of the terror corridor in Syria will receive the necessary lesson. There is no single difference between the PKK, YPG, PYD and Daesh,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party at the parliament in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Tuesday.

He then accused Bolton of complicating US President Donald Trump's plan to withdraw US troops from Syria.

Trump said last month that he was bringing home the some 2,000 American troops deployed in Syria, alleging they had succeeded in their mission to defeat the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group.

His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to step down in protest.

“Despite reaching a clear understanding with Mr. Trump, different voices have started emerging from different segments of the administration. Despite that, Trump's views on Syria and his decision to withdraw remains our point of reference,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish leader pointed out that his country has largely completed its preparations for a military offensive against Daesh terrorists in neighboring Syria.

“In compliance with the agreement we reached with Mr. President (Donald Trump), we have largely completed our preparations for a military offensive against elements of Daesh, who are still active in Syria. At the same time, we are determined to take steps against terrorist organizations such as PYD and YPG along with Daesh. We will mobilize to neutralize these terrorist organizations in Syrian lands very soon,” Erdogan stated.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) speaks with the US National Security Advisor John Bolton, during a statement to the media following their meeting in Jerusalem al-Quds on January 6, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

Bolton on Sunday outlined conditions for a US troop departure from Syria. Those “conditions” appeared to contradict Trump’s insistence that the withdrawal would be immediate and without conditions.

One of those provisions is that the government of Turkey guarantees the safety of YPG forces in Syria.

“There’s no timetable for when that may happen or when the US may begin withdrawing its ground forces from the region,” Bolton said, but he highlighted that the US will leave northern Syria.

“There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal,” Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem al-Quds. “The timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

Bolton touched down in Ankara on Monday to hammer out a deal for Kurdish YPG forces in Syria. He met Turkish officials on Tuesday, but left Turkey without holding expected talks with President Erdogan.

A spokesman for the US National Security Council said on Tuesday that Bolton and his Turkish counterpart Ibrahim Kalin had a productive discussion regarding Washington’s decision to withdraw military forces from Syria.

US National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Turkish counterpart Ibrahim Kalin (R) meet at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, on January 8, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Garrett Marquis also said in a statement the two sides had exchanged viewpoints on other issues, and that the United States looks forward to ongoing military-to-military consultations.

Meanwhile, Kalin said there is no slowdown in the United States' withdrawal from Syria, stressing that Ankara is focused on what would happen to American bases and weapons given to Kurdish fighters.

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been fighting for an autonomous region inside Turkey since 1984.

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