Turkey says it wants the United States to take back the weapons it has given to Syria-based Kurdish militants, whom Ankara considers a threat to its security, and will discuss the issue with American officials in an upcoming meeting.
Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hami Aksoy told a news conference in Ankara on Tuesday that Turkey would tell US authorities during meetings on March 8-9 that it expected Washington to take concrete steps on retrieving the weapons it has provided to the so-called Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Aksoy also said that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is scheduled to visit Russia between March 12 and 14, and later meet with his US counterpart Rex Tillerson in Washington on March 19.
Regarded by Ankara as a terrorist organization and the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the YPG forms the largest part of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed anti-Damascus militant group.
Ankara has been waging the so-called Operation Olive Branch against the Kurds in Syria’s Afrin region since January 20 in a bid to eliminate the YPG. Turks have said the offensive could extend to Manbij and beyond.
The offensive came after the US said it would set up a 30,000-strong militant border force at Turkish doorstep.
Turkey is wary of the presence of Kurdish militants close to its borders in Syria, and has been opposed to Washington’s efforts to train and arm them in the Arab country.
Earlier this month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused US President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama of failing to tell the truth over US support for the YPG.
Erdogan had earlier said the YPG is trying to establish a “terror corridor” on Turkey’s southern border, linking Syria’s northern city of Afrin with a large Kurdish-controlled area to the east.
Senior authorities in Ankara have warned Washington that there could be a confrontation between Turkish and American troops in northern Syria if arms transfer to the Kurds was not stopped.
During his Tuesday press conference, Aksoy said that the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey are expected to hold a summit in April to discuss Syria and potential steps in the region.
Russia, Iran, and Turkey have been organizing peace talks for Syria in the Kazakh capital of Astana since January 2017. Together, the three countries have been acting as guarantor states for the peace process.
Capitalizing on the achievements of Astana, Russia on January 29-30 convened a high-profile meeting on Syria — the Syrian Congress of National Dialog — in the Russian city of Sochi. Around 1,600 delegates representing a wide range of Syrian political factions attended the Sochi talks.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman also said that Turkey would set up camp for 170,000 people in nine locations near Syria’s Idlib, and in the area Ankara controls by further east in northern Syria.
Turkey controls a swathe of land further east in Syria stretching from the area around Azaz to the Euphrates River, which was taken during its “Euphrates Shield” operation that ended in early 2017.