Turkey official disputes Trump-Erdogan call readout

Posted January 26, 2018

The call came as Erdogan announced Turkey would extend its military operation against Kurds from the Afrin area to the Syrian town of Manbij - a move that wold bring Turkish forces closer to USA forces working with the Kurds.

The Kurdish source, meanwhile, denied claims that the YPG is part of the USA -led anti-terror coalition, expressing astonishment about the withdrawal of the Russian forces from Afrin ahead of the Turkish attack.

Instead, Turkish President Erdoğan reiterated that the PYD-YPG forces must withdraw to the East of the Euphrates River and pledged the protection of Manbij by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army against future threats by the Daesh (IS) following the withdrawal.

However, a Turkish official said that Trump did not raise concerns about escalating violence in Afrin and the two Presidents had simply exchanged views on the operation.

Two US defense officials told CNN last week that the US military continues to carry out overt patrols in the Manbij area, with the primary mission of deterring conflict. Analysts have cautioned that the area could be a flashpoint in already strained relations between Washington and Ankara.

The German government has come under domestic pressure after battlefield images showed Turkey deploying German-made Leopard 2 tanks in its offensive in northern Syria.

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The U.N. envoy for Syria said on Wednesday that he was "optimistic" about this round of talks.

Although the USA does not have any forces in Afrin province, it deployed troops to Manbij March past year, following Kurdish forces taking control of the town in 2016.

President Donald Trump plans to raise the USA concerns over the Turkish offensive in a telephone call with Erdogan expected on Wednesday, a senior US official said.

The US and Turkey are North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies but they have diverging interests in the Syrian civil war.

Dana White, chief spokeswoman for the Pentagon, said she is aware of news reports that Turkey has asked the USA military to leave Manbij, but is not aware of any direct conversations about it.

He indirectly acknowledged United States support to his group saying, "We are in full readiness to respond to any attack".

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"With the Olive Branch operation, we have once again thwarted the game of those sneaky forces whose interests in the region are different".

While acknowledging Turkey's "legitimate security concerns", Pentagon spokesperson Dana White told reporters that the Turkish operation in Afrin was undermining the fight against ISIS, calling it "a distraction".

"There was a desire on the part of the foreign fighters who fought in Raqqa and who are fighting in Deir al-Zor to go to Afrin", YPG spokesman Redur Xelil said. The Syrian Kurdish group is a main part of a US -backed rebel alliance that has inflicted recent defeats on Islamic State militants.

Erdogan said Turkish troops and allied fighters have killed at least 268 Syrian Kurdish fighters since the operation began, a number disputed by Kurdish officials and a war monitoring group.

Iran's reaction to Turkey's military operation is not muted either.

Turkey's foreign minister says U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson raised the possibility of the creation of a 30-kilometer-deep "safe zone" in Syria running along Turkey's border, during their meeting in Paris earlier this week, to help address Turkey's security concerns.

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