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The conversation is the latest step in an intensifying round of exchanges between Washington and Ankara, following the January 8 visit of White House National Security Adviser Amb. John Bolton to Turkey.
Bolton arrived there with a “non-paper”—a set of ideas to coordinate the implementation of President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from Syria and hand over responsibility to Turkey.
Erdogan - Decision - Leader - Danger - Violence
Erdogan had eagerly accepted that decision, but it is not clear that either leader understood what would be involved, including the danger of renewed violence.
On Saturday, following a two-day visit to Ankara, US Senator Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) called for a major delay in the pace of the US withdrawal, warning that an unplanned, uncoordinated departure of US forces could lead to a “nightmare” for Turkey, which could face “chaos” on its southern border.
Day - Sunday - Erdogan - Trump - Phone
The following day, on Sunday, Erdogan and Trump had another phone conversation. Prof. Joshua Landis, who heads the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, suggested to the Qatari news channel, Al-Jazeera, that Erdogan was reaching out to Trump, in the belief that Trump was more sympathetic to his views than Trump’s advisers.
While that is likely, it does not seem that Erdogan heard from Trump what he expected to hear, as Washington and Ankara issued somewhat differing accounts of their conversation.
Ankara - Account - US - Withdrawal - Turkey
Ankara’s account emphasized the US withdrawal and Turkey’s replacement of US forces, while Washington’s account emphasized that the two presidents had agreed to continue “to pursue a negotiated solution for northeast Syria that achieves our respective security concerns.”
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