Jan 12 2019

U.S. senator Graham hopes to meet Turkey’s Erdoğan to discuss Syria

The U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on Friday issued a statement saying that he hoped to discuss the latest developments in northeastern Syria with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the near future. 

“I look forward to meeting with President Erdoğan in the near future to discuss common interests and security concerns regarding northeastern Syria,” Graham said in his statement. 

The Republican senator, a close ally of the U.S. President Donald Trump, is known for his concerns about Trump’s decision to withdraw American troops in Syria announced on Dec. 19.

He warned Trump that removing the U.S. troops would allow the Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria to resurge and would mean betraying the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which forms the backbone of U.S.-led coalition fighting ISIS. 

Trump and Graham met in late December in the White House to discuss the U.S. pullout from Syria.

Trump would be “talking to Turkey about assuring [the Turks] that they will have a buffer zone,” given “their concerns about the YPG Kurds,” Graham said after the meeting.“You got the Kurds that we need to be concerned about… They stepped up when nobody else would, and [the President] is very aware of that problem,” he said. 

The U.S. support to the YPG has been a contentious issue between two NATO allies, since Ankara sees the armed group as the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and, therefore, a threat to Turkey’s national security. 

“When you say “our Kurdish allies” I am confident that you are not referring to YPG/PYD Mr Senator,” Turkey’s ambassador to the United States, Serdar Kılıç, tweeted in response to Graham.

“There are millions of Kurds living in Turkey who are vibrant members of Turkish society, contributing to their economy, culture, and society,” Graham said on Friday.

The senator said that he had had long contended that some elements among the Syrian Kurds represented a security threat to Turkey.

“Turkey’s concern regarding YPG elements must be addressed in a real way to ensure that Turkey’s borders are secure and protected from any threats,” he said.

Graham repeated his former view that the fight against ISIS had not been completed yet. He said that the United States should continue to work with its partners until ISIS was completely destroyed.