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Turkey's Erdogan does not believe US will retrieve arms from Kurdish groups

February 27, 2019 at 3:02 am

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Kahramanmaras, Turkey on 23 February 2019 [Metin Aktas/Anadolu Agency]

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said he does not believe the United States will take back weapons from Kurdish militias in Syria, Reuters reports.

In an interview with Turkish broadcaster NTV, Erdogan stressed the need for the United States to take back weapons from Kurdish groups in Manbij.

Earlier this month, a senior US Army general said the United States should keep arming and aiding the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces following the planned US withdrawal from Syria.

In December, President Donald Trump confounded his own national security team with a surprise decision to withdraw all 2,000 US troops from Syria, declaring that Daesh had been defeated there.

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Turkey has long stressed the importance of the United States retrieving the weapons Washington has given the YPG, the United States’ main partner against Daesh in Syria, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization.

“The generals with him said that they have the serial numbers, and they will collect the weapons when all is done. I do not find this sincere,” Erdogan said on Tuesday.

“If this withdrawal becomes a stalling method, our approach will be different,” he said, adding that 200 to 400 soldiers may stay, and 500 may stay from other US-led coalition forces.

Smoke rises after Assad regime forces' carried out an air strike in the Ein Terma town of Eastern Ghouta, which is a de-conflict zone under control of opposition forces, in Damascus, Syria on 17 August, 2017 [Ammar Süleyman/Anadolu Agency]

Smoke rises after Assad regime forces’ carried out an air strike in the Ein Terma town of Eastern Ghouta, which is a de-conflict zone under control of opposition forces, in Damascus, Syria on 17 August 2017 [Ammar Süleyman/Anadolu Agency]

Last week, the United States said it would leave a small peacekeeping group of 200 American troops in Syria for a period of time after a US pullout. A commander of US-backed Syrian forces called for 1,000 to 1,500 international troops to remain in the country to help fight Daesh and expressed hope the United States, in particular, would halt plans for a total pullout.

The decision to withdraw was announced after Trump spoke by phone to Erdogan. A White House statement said the two leaders agreed, regarding Syria, to “continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone.”

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“What is important to us is that Turkey will control the secure zone,” Erdogan said on Tuesday. “We cannot leave the control to neither Germany nor France or America. I clearly told this to them.”

Erdogan said he might meet with White House adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, in Turkey on Wednesday alongside Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, and the meetings would cover economic and regional issues.