Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday rejected a U.S. call to protect Kurdish fighters in Syria who’d worked alongside American troops in fighting the Islamic State, saying they are terrorists.
Erdogan’s words were a response to U.S. national security adviser John Bolton, who told Israel Sunday protection for Kurdish fighters would be a necessary condition before the Pentagon removes about 2,000 troops from Syria. President Donald Trump announced the full withdrawal last month.
Bolton was in Ankara Monday to work with Turkish officials about how to handle armed groups in Syria after the U.S. pullout.
Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, known as the YPG, and its political wing, the Kurdish Democratic Union Party, terrorist groups.
“We cannot accept the message Bolton gave from Israel, we cannot be deceived by it,” Erdogan said in his speech Tuesday to his Justice and Development Party. “The U.S. apparently does not know them. These terror organizations do not represent my Kurdish brothers. If the U.S. sees these groups as [representatives of] my Kurdish brothers, they are seriously mistaken.”
Erdogan said he had a deal with Trump about the U.S. pullout and that Turkey will finish the fight against terrorists in Syria, but that Bolton was sending a different message.
Last month, Syrian government troops came to the aid of Kurdish fighters near the outskirts of Manbij. Erdogan has promised an upcoming offensive aimed at wiping out Kurdish fighters in Syria east of the Euphrates.