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Turkish president slams Bolton, accusing him of making 'serious mistake' setting conditions on US troop withdrawal from Syria


President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says he has a 'clear agreement' with President Donald Trump

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (ADEM ALTAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan slammed national security adviser John Bolton on Tuesday, accusing the senior Trump administration official of making a "serious mistake" in setting new conditions on the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria.

What are the details?

Speaking in Israel on Sunday, Bolton told reporters that while the Trump administration is committed to pulling the American military out of northern Syria, "There are objectives that we want to accomplish that condition the withdrawal."

Bolton explained, "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."

He added that the administration has "told the Kurds our best judgment is that you stand fast now."

In response, Erdogan said Tuesday, "The message that Bolton gave in Israel is unacceptable. It is not possible for us to swallow."

"Bolton has made a serious mistake and whoever thinks like this has also made a mistake. It is not possible for us to make compromises on this point," he reiterated, Reuters reported.

Erdogan was speaking to his ruling party's lawmakers in Parliament while Bolton was in Ankara. According to Bloomberg, the Turkish president refused to meet with Bolton during his visit, which the Associated Press called "an apparent snub."

Erdogan also said during his speech that "despite the fact that we reached a clear agreement with Mr. [Donald] Trump, different voices have been raised from different echelons of the U.S. administration," hinting at discord and then adding, "Mr. Trump's views on Syria and his determination to pull out remain our point of reference."

Anything else?

Days after a Dec. 19 telephone call between the two leaders, President Trump tweeted his confidence in Erdogan to "eradicate whatever is left of ISIS in Syria" after the U.S. pullout.

In an op-ed published by The New York Times on Monday, Erdogan insisted that "Trump is right on Syria. Turkey can get the job done." The Turkish president wrote that "the first step is to create a stabilization force featuring fighters from all parts of Syrian society. ... In this sense, I would like to point out that we have no argument with the Syrian Kurds."

Erdogan went on to refer to the Kurdish YPG group — which has reportedly been a force against ISIS in Syria — as a terrorist organization. Skeptics fear Turkish forces will consider any Kurds to be "terrorists," as Kurdish factions have been at war with Turkey for decades.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that as a condition of the U.S. withdrawal, "We want to make sure that when we leave the Kurds do not get slaughtered, and I don't trust Turkey to take care of the Kurds."

Meanwhile, Turkey has amassed tanks and armored vehicles along its border with Syria in preparation of taking control of northeastern Syria following the United States' departure.

During his message to Parliament on Tuesday, Erdogan said, "Very soon, we will take action to neutralize terrorist organizations in Syria. We have completed our preparations for the operation to a large extent," The Washington Post reported.

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