Does Erdogan expect Trump to ditch Syrian Kurds?

Al Monitor | Amberin Zaman: reports that US President Donald Trump’s congratulatory call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following the April 16 referendum to give Turkey’s presidency greater powers may have only served to heighten differences over US support for the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The US State Department had been hesitant to congratulate Erdogan on the referendum, according to Zaman, based upon reporting from an observer group from the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and Council of Europe. The group’s statement said “fundamental freedoms essential to a genuinely democratic process were curtailed. The dismissal or detention of thousands of citizens negatively affected the political environment.” The head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe said, “The referendum did not live up to Council of Europe standards. The legal framework was inadequate for the holding of a genuinely democratic process.”

The Turkish Foreign Ministry slammed the OSCE report as “politically motivated and accusatory” and reflecting a “biased and prejudiced approach.”

Zaman writes, “The prevailing consensus within the administration was that knowing how badly Erdogan wanted Washington’s seal of approval, some concessions could be wrested in exchange, particularly over the bitter differences between Turkey and the United States in the US-led coalition’s campaign in Syria. … But such calculations came to naught when Trump placed the phone call without seeking the State Department’s advice, though Al-Monitor learned from sources familiar with details of the exchange that [US Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson was in the room when the call took place.”

Zaman adds, “A Turkish official speaking to Al-Monitor on strict condition of anonymity denied speculation that Trump’s business partners in Turkey had helped arrange the phone call. Rather, Erdogan’s office had sought the conversation with Trump prior to the referendum and it was agreed in advance that it would take place. … The official described the conversation as ‘very very good’ and confirmed that it was mostly focused on Syria. The official said Erdogan had repeated Turkey’s concerns over the US alliance with the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and had urged they be excluded from a planned offensive to liberate Raqqa.”


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