Ilhan Tanir
Nov 24 2017

U.S. reconsidering military support to Syrian Kurds, Trump tells Erdoğan

President Donald J. Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had a phone call on Saturday. The White House, in its readout, later stated that "President Trump reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Turkey, particularly in combating terrorism in all its forms and fostering regional stability."

While the White House did not mention the PKK, ISIS or FETÖ (the Turkish government's terrorist organization classification of Fethullah Gülen's followers), it instead mentioned "combating terrorism in all its forms". The official readout issued by the Office of the Turkish Presidency meanwhile said, "the U.S. and Turkey agreed to fight all terrorist organizations including DAISH (ISIS), the PKK and FETÖ together." 

If true, and Trump agreed to deal with FETÖ, this would be the first time the White House has promised Turkey to fight against the Gulenist Network. The leader of the network, Gülen, lives in Pennsylvania, and is accused by Erdogan's government of being the main actor behind the failed coup in 2016. Demands by Turkey to extradite him have not been met.

Earlier in the day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavuşoğlu reported that Trump disclosed to Erdoğan that the U.S. would halt weapons sales to the Syrian Kurds. The White House readout, however, did not explicitly claim the exact same thing, but rather read: "President Trump also informed President Erdoğan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return." The White House said Trump's approach is consistent with previous policy.

Both leaders, according to the White House, also "discussed the purchase of military equipment from the United States."

Last summer, the U.S. government had frozen arms sales to Erdoğan's bodyguards after they attacked demonstrators in Washington. Since then, Erdoğan has slammed the U.S. government and Congress for blocking weapons sales to Turkey.

Both leaders also discussed Syria and "implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and supporting the United Nations-led Geneva Process to peacefully resolve the civil war in that country."

The White House said, "President Trump and President Erdoğan underscored the need to end the humanitarian crisis, allow displaced Syrians to return home, and ensure the stability of a unified Syria free of malign intervention and terrorist safe havens."