by WorldTribune Staff, February 8, 2017
U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a Feb. 7 phone conversation, discussed joint action aimed at liberating the Islamic State (ISIS)-controlled Syrian cities of al-Bab and Raqqa.
Turkish presidency sources said that CIA Director Mike Pompeo would visit Turkey on Feb. 9 to discuss the Kurdish YPG and U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt.
Trump and Erdogan also discussed Syrian “safe zones” and the refugee crisis, Reuters reported on Feb. 8. The Turkish sources also said Erdogan urged Trump not to support the YPG, which has been the most effective fighting force against ISIS.
Erdogan’s relations with former U.S. President Barack Obama were strained by Obama’s support for the YPG, which Ankara regards as a terrorist organization.
Trump spoke about the two countries’ “shared commitment to combating terrorism in all its forms” and welcomed Turkey’s contributions to the fight against ISIS, the White House said in a statement, but it gave no further details.
The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of U.S.-backed militias, started a new phase of its campaign against ISIS in Raqqa on Feb. 4.
Turkey, a NATO ally and part of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, has repeatedly said it wants to be part of the operation to liberate Raqqa but does not want the YPG, which is part of the SDF alliance, to be involved.
The Turkish army and Syrian rebel groups it supports are fighting ISIS in a separate campaign around al-Bab, northeast of the city of Aleppo. Ankara has complained in the past about a lack of U.S. support for that campaign.
There was no immediate confirmation from Washington of Pompeo’s visit.