High level discussions on Syria to include Trump, Erdoğan call

Officials from Turkey and the United States have been engaging in a flurry of diplomatic contacts over Turkey’s military operation in northwest Syria that will include a phone call on Wednesday between U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Turkish state media organ Anadolu Agency reported.

Turkey began its incursion, “Operation Olive Branch”, into the northwest Syrian region of Afrin last Saturday to strike armed Kurdish groups in the area, who are backed by the U.S. military.

Turkey considers the groups, including the People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to be extensions of the separatist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organisation designated as a terror group by Turkey, the United States and European Union. The United States considers the SDF an indispensable ally in the fight against the extremist jihadist Islamic State (IS) in Syria.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters in France that Erdoğan and Trump had set the hour for their phone conversation on Wednesday, which Anadolu Agency reports was requested by Trump.

Çavuşoğlu had already met the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, to discuss the operation, revealing that all sides were concerned about the humanitarian crisis within Syria.

A high-level U.S. delegation also arrived in Ankara on Tuesday to discuss the situation at the Foreign Ministry in a four-and-a-half hour meeting, Anadolu Agency reports. The meeting was attended by Ahmet Muhtar Gun, the Turkish Deputy Foreign Ministry Undersecretary, and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary Jonathan Cohen.