Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says the United States is not fulfilling its pledge to remove Kurdish militants from a Syrian border region and that he would raise the issue when he meets US President Donald Trump next week.
Turkey launched an offensive in northeastern Syria on October 9 in a declared attempt to eliminate Kurdish militants from the so-called People’s Protection Units (YPG) from border areas.
The incursion came after the US abruptly pulled its forces out of the region, clearing the path for Ankara to go ahead with a planned military action against Washington’s longtime Kurdish allies.
Nine days into the operation, Turkey agreed on October 17 to pause the offensive for 120 hours while the US facilitates the withdrawal of Kurdish militants from a planned 120-kilometer (75-mile) safe zone between the Syrian border towns of Tell Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.
Ankara views the US-backed YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984.
Erdogan is scheduled to discuss implementation of the agreement with Trump in Washington on November 13. The meeting would go ahead following a phone call between the two leaders.
"While we hold these talks, those who promised us that the YPG...would withdraw from here within 120 hours have not achieved this," he said while speaking at a news conference on Thursday.
Hours before the US-brokered five-day truce between Turkish and Kurdish-led forces was due to expire, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart signed a memorandum of understanding that asserted YPG militants must withdraw from the Turkish-controlled "safe zone" in northeastern Syria within 150 hours.
Erdogan said the Russian-brokered deal had also not been fulfilled, with Kurdish militants still in the 30-kilometers border strip, adding that he would hold talks with Putin soon on the issue.
Erdogan's visit to Washington comes amid heightened tensions between the two NATO allies following Turkey's offensive into northern Syria and Congress's decision to recognize the Armenian genocide committed by Ottoman forces a century ago.
Turkey has also been suspended from the F-35 US fighter jet program after it acquired Russia's S-400 missile defense system despite numerous US warnings.