US National Security Adviser John Bolton said on Friday talks between the US military and its Turkish counterparts on the Kurds and Syria will continue next week, in the hopes of producing results both countries accept.
Bolton, in a radio interview, said he, President Donald Trump, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo understood Turkey had committed "not to harm the Kurds who had fought with us against ISIS."
Bolton had suggested on Tuesday that protecting Washington's Kurdish allies would be a pre-condition of the US withdrawal troops from Syria, which began earlier on Friday. That drew a rebuke from Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who called his comments "a serious mistake."
"What we’re still pursuing in these military-to-military conversations are assurances and protocols and procedures so that everybody feels comfortable with how this is going to happen. And we’re hoping those discussions, which will continue next week, will produce results that are acceptable on both sides," he said in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, according to a transcript.
The US-led coalition against Islamic State began the process of withdrawing from Syria on Friday, making good on Trump's announcement that he had decided to remove 2,000 US troops. Trump's decision stunned allies that have joined Washington in the battle against Islamic State, frequently called ISIS.
The US decision has injected new uncertainties into the eight-year long Syrian war and a flurry of contacts over how a resulting security vacuum will be filled across a swathe of northern and eastern Syria where the US forces are stationed. Turkey aims to pursue a campaign against Kurdish forces that have allied with the United States, and the Russia and Iran-backed Syrian government sees the chance to recover a huge chunk of territory.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton and his Turkish counterpart Ibrahim Kalin (R) meet at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey on January 8. Reuters