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Erdogan blasts Bolton's 'unacceptable' comments on Syrian Kurdish militia

AFP  |  Ankara 

Turkish on Tuesday condemned comments by a key over the future of a US-allied as a "grave mistake", as tensions flared over Washington's planned withdrawal from war-torn

Erdogan's comments came shortly after held talks in the Turkish capital with Erdogan's Ibrahim Kalin, in a key meeting focusing on the surprise decision to withdraw its troops from

But it was comments made by Bolton on Sunday in that had already raised hackles in Ankara, when he suggested the retreat was also conditional on the safety of US-backed Kurdish fighters, considered terrorists by

"has made a grave mistake on this issue," told his party's lawmakers in parliament.

US caused a political storm last month when he announced the troop pullout, claiming to have succeeded in the battle against the Islamic State (IS) group.

Fighting continues however, with for Human Rights saying IS suicide attackers had hit the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in eastern late on Sunday, killing 23 of its fighters.

The pullout, which has since stressed will be gradual, was hailed by as the "right call" in a column published Tuesday in

But it has also raised concerns that Kurdish fighters would be exposed to the threat of a cross-border operation by their archfoe

US-led coalition forces have provided air power and other support to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in its operation to flush out IS from the last rump of its now-defunct "caliphate".

As part of this, American forces have worked closely with the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia, seen by as a "offshoot" of the outlawed (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

That support for the YPG has shaken relations between and

US drew the wrath of the Turkish leadership last week when he said would ensure "the Turks don't slaughter the Kurds" in Syria as American troops withdraw.

"That targets the Kurds is the most vile, the most dishonourable, the ugliest and the cheapest slander," Erdogan said on Tuesday.

But the Turkish leader made it clear that would not soften its stance against the YPG.

"Those who are in the terror corridor in Syria will learn necessary lessons," he said.

After meeting Bolton on Tuesday, Kalin also urged Washington to take back all the weapons provided to forces.

He denied comments by Pompeo that Turkey had promised the US not to attack the Kurdish fighters.

"Nobody should expect Turkey to provide assurances to a terror organisation," he told journalists in Ankara.

Bolton's described the talks as "productive" and centred on "the president's decision to withdraw at a proper pace from northeast Syria".

When Trump first announced the pullout of 2,000 ground troops on December 19, Ankara was a lonely voice among NATO allies welcoming the decision.

Erdogan has promised Trump that Turkey could finish off the remnants of IS in Syria.

"A military victory against the group is a mere first step," he said in the New York Times, warning against premature declarations of victory.

Nicholas Heras, an at the Center for a New American Security, said Ankara would need so much support from Washington to completely eradicate IS, that it would be "to the point where the would essentially still be inside Syria".

Trump on Monday conceded that the fight against IS was not over. "We will be leaving at a proper pace while at the same time continuing to fight and doing all else that is prudent and necessary!" he tweeted.

Last month, Erdogan threatened to launch a cross-border operation against the YPG, east of the Euphrates River, which he said later would be delayed after Trump's pullout order.

Turkish military forces supporting Syrian rebels launched incursions into against IS in August 2016 and against the YPG in January 2018.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 08 2019. 22:11 IST
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