US, Turkey to meet to discuss Syria withdrawal this week: Ankara

US, Turkey to meet to discuss Syria withdrawal this week: Ankara
A spokesman for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that an American military delegation will travel to Turkey to discuss withdrawal from Syria.
2 min read
24 December, 2018
A spokesman for President Erdogan said the talks will take place this week [Getty]
A US military delegation will visit Turkey this week to discuss the withdrawal of American ground forces from Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman said on Monday.

"They will discuss how to coordinate (the withdrawal) with their counterparts," Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference in Ankara after US President Donald Trump's shock decision last week to order the pull-out of 2,000 troops.

The US has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

Critics of Trump's move fear that thousands of IS members could make gains in Syria, despite the US leader's claim that the group had been defeated.

"There is no question of a step backwards, vulnerability or a slowdown in the fight against Daesh," Kalin vowed, using an Arabic language acronym for the IS group.

"Turkey will show the same determination against Daesh... We can bring peace to this region," he added.

He referred to Turkey's cross-border offensive launched in August 2016 against IS in northern Syria and said Ankara would take all measures to avoid a power vacuum after the US withdrawal.

Kalin said there would be further talks between the two countries' foreign ministries and other departments including a meeting planned in Washington on January 8.

"There will be intensive traffic" between officials, he added, a day after Trump and Erdogan held a telephone conversation agreeing to coordinate the Syria pull-out.

Trump's order came as Ankara warned it would launch an operation east of the Euphrates River against the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia which dominates the SDF.

Ankara says the YPG is a "terrorist offshoot" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Although Turkey said it would postpone the offensive, a Turkish military convoy has arrived in the Turkish border district of Elbeyli carrying howitzers and artillery batteries.
Parts of the convoy entered Syria, the private IHA news agency reported.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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