US President Donald Trump promised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that no more US weapons would be given to Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in Syria, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said, as reported by the state-run Anadolu news agency, apparently catching US officials involved with Syria by surprise.
Trump and Erdoğan held a phone conversation on Friday following a tweet by the US president that that he would be speaking that morning with Erdoğan “about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East.”
Welcoming Trump’s promise on the halt to the weapons supply, Çavuşoğlu said Turkey wants to see the decision implemented. “Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions and that the YPG won’t be given arms, and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” Çavuşoğlu said at a press conference in Ankara.
The foreign minister’s claim, however, appeared to catch at least some US officials who work on Syria issues off guard, with several telling The Associated Press on condition of anonymity that they were unaware of any plans to alter US assistance to the Kurds.
Ankara has objected to the US supply of weapons to the YPG, claiming it to be affiliated with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party, against which Turkey has waged a decades-long fight.
“We had a fruitful phone conversation with the U.S. President Donald Trump today,” Erdogan tweeted following the phone call.
According to a Turkish presidential source, Erdoğan and Trump discussed the recently concluded Sochi summit, the Syria crisis and bilateral ties. The leaders also discussed other regional issues, said the source, who spoke anonymously due to restrictions on talking to the media.
National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, Erdoğan spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın and Private Secretary Hasan Doğan were also present during the phone call.
Erdoğan had met on Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in the Russian city of Sochi for talks on Syria.
It had been speculated in the media, however, that Erdoğan would have preferred to discuss the upcoming trial in New York federal court of Reza Zarrab, a Turkish-Iranian gold trader accused of collaborating with Turkish officials to evade US sanctions on Iran. Zarrab appears to have agreed to a plea bargain with prosecutors to supply information in return for a reduced sentence, a deal that could possibly implicate officials close to Erdoğan as well as the president himself.