Erdogan Won't Meet Bolton After Bolton Insists On Protecting Kurds

Erdogan reportedly said Turkey could attack Kurds "at any moment"

Photo by Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On Tuesday, White House national security adviser John R. Bolton left Turkey’s capital, Ankara, after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, angered that Bolton had stated that Turkey needed to promise it would not attack the Kurds after the United States pulled its troops from Syria, refused to meet with Bolton, then told the Turkish parliament that Bolton was delivering a message from Israel. He stated, "Bolton's remarks in Israel are not acceptable. It is not possible for me to swallow this. Bolton made a serious mistake. If he thinks that way, he is in a big mistake. We will not compromise."

The New York Times reported that after meeting with Parliament, Erdogan told reporters that an incursion into Syria might happen “at any moment after the Bolton meetings,’’ according to the news channel NTV.

As Reuters reported, Bolton had stated in Jerusalem, “We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops, but also so that they meet the president’s requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered.”

Erdogan ranted that Bolton had made a “grave mistake,” adding, “It is not possible for us to swallow the message Bolton gave from Israel.” Erdogan insisted that Turkey would only target Kurdish militant groups and not ordinary Kurds. Last January, according to The Guardian, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that as many as 24 civilians were killed and an estimated 5,000 displaced when Turkey attacked a Kurdish area of Afrin, Syria, claiming the assault was to target the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union party (PYD) and its military wing, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey regards as terrorist groups.

As Reuters has reported, “The Syrian YPG militia has been highly effective in the war against Islamic State.”

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara director for the German Marshall Fund of the United States, stated that Turkey wants the U.S. out of Syria so that the YPG would have less support. He said Turkey would trade the U.S. leaving Syria for the loss of United States air space in eastern Syrian and NATO air and logistical support, remarking, “If the alternative is continued cooperation with the Y.P.G., they would want them to leave.” Then he offered a veiled threat: “America will request Turkey’s further cooperation against Daesh (ISIS). I am not sure Turkey will deliver.”

Responding to the request from the United States that Turkey agree not to attack the Kurds in the event of an American pullout from Syria, he replied, “That is a hopeless cause. It is not a question of whether. Turkey will not tolerate the P.K.K. on its borders. So it is only a matter of time.”

Nasser Haj Mansour, a Kurdish politician, countered, “We’re expecting to hear from the Americans soon, but so far they have not involved us in the talks. We are hoping that Turkey would avoid any military action within our borders.” Newaf Khalil, head of the Europe-based Center for Kurdish Studies, added, “The U.S. is saying that the Turks won’t kill the Kurds if they deploy, but definitely they will kill S.D.F. fighters, their families, and many more. We’re talking about thousands.”

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