Turkish Deputy PM: If US wants no confrontation, must stop arming terrorists

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Thursday said if the US does not want a confrontation with Turkey, it should stop arming terrorist organizations, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

“If the US administration does not want to confront Turkey – and they don’t want that, neither does Turkey — the solution is clear: Cut off support to terrorists,” Bozdağ said on A Haber TV.

Bozdağ called on the US to stop arming the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), which it sees as the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

Bozdağ’s statement came a day after the White House released a readout of a phone conversation between Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and US President Donald Trump. According to the statement Trump warned Erdoğan against the growing risk of conflict between the two nations. Erdoğan demanded that Washington end its support for Kurdish militias.

The White House readout of a Wednesday phone conversation between Erdoğan and Trump differs from what the two leaders actually discussed and could have been prepared in advance, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday, local media reported. “I think the statement was prepared by the United States before the telephone conversation took place,” Çavuşoğlu said in İstanbul at a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart, Karin Kneissl. “Hence, it did not fully reflect the truth.”


Meanwhile, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has called on the government to release the full content of a phone call between Erdoğan and Trump. “The best solution is to release all phone calls as voice recordings. Hence, the facts will be revealed,” Kılıçdaroğlu said in reference to a recent debate between Ankara and Washington over what the two leaders discussed on Wednesday. Kılıçdaroğlu said he sees the Turkish statement as invaluable.

“President Trump relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin, Syria, risks undercutting our shared goals in Syria. He 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,” said a White House readout released on Wednesday.

“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,” the White House added.

But Ankara denied the content of the White House readout. “The readout issued by the White House does not accurately reflect the content of President Erdoğan’s phone call with President Trump,” said Turkish sources.

US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday called on Turkey to de-escalate the situation in northern Syria’s Afrin region, urging a decrease in violence on the ground. “We call on Turkey to de-escalate the situation [in Afrin], not an increase, but a decrease in violence,” Nauert said.

Responding to a reporter’s question about whether US calls to Turkey for restraint in Afrin had been heeded, Nauert said, “We are really very concerned about that.”

Turkey on Jan. 20, 2018 launched “Operation Olive Branch” in Afrin against People’s Protection Units (YPG) positions, a component of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), considered by authorities in Ankara to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which has waged a decades-long war against the Turkish state.

The Turkish Armed Forces seeks to establish a 30-kilometer-deep safe zone in Afrin during the operation in which two Turkish soldiers have died in four days of fighting. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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