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Trump talks to Erdogan on US Turkish tension climbing



The Trump administration is furiously working to avert a new Turkish military offensive against US Kurdish partners in Syria, and hopes to prevent an attack that threatens US troops working in the country and derailing the fight against the Islamic State could.

President Trump spoke with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday and urged him to stop his impending raid, US officials said.

Erdogan expressed his long-standing concern over the Kurdish fighters in Syria, whom he considers an arm of Kurdish fighters in Turkey, according to a Turkish official.

The two men "agreed on the need for more effective coordination" in Syria, the official said, but it was not immediately clear if they had reached a deal to avert Mr. Erdogan's forthcoming offensive.

Earlier this week, Mr. Erdogan threatened to launch the operation within days, triggering a widespread alarm in Washington.

US officials warned Mr. Erdogan in public statements that the threatened attack was unacceptable, threatening US troops working in northeastern Syria with Kurdish fighters seeking to attack Turkey.

American military also fear a Turkish offensive would obstruct US-backed efforts to seize the last remaining Syrian sanctuaries for Islamic State militants. The Kurdish forces in Syria have led the fight against the Islamic State, and a Turkish military offensive would force them to turn their attention to defense.

A Turkish offensive could also force the Trump administration to rethink its broader Syrian strategy. Beyond the fight against the Islamic State, the US military presence on the ground has given Washington a critical location to oversee the Iranian and Russian operations in the country and the certainty that they could have a say in any peace deal.

US. Military and diplomatic officials have also asked their Turkish counterparts to reconsider their threats.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo spoke to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Chief of General Staff, General Joe Dunford Yasar Guler, Chief of the Turkish General Staff, according to US officials.

USA Relations with the Kurdish armed forces in Syria have long been a source of friction between Washington and Ankara.

The US military began working with the fighters in 201

4 as Washington sought to find reliable Syrian fighters capable of fighting the Islamic State.

] Since then, the US has strengthened its relations with the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces and helped them build a quasi-autonomous region in northeastern Syria along the Turkish border.

Around 2,000 US forces work in northeastern Syria, where they provide military support to the SDF, which has brought the Islamic state to the brink of defeat.

The American-backed fighters have been trying for months to capture the last forces of the Islamic state, and the campaign has been accelerating in recent days.

Some US officials fear that a Turkish offensive could effectively end the fight against the Islamic State, which would allow the extremist group to flee and regroup.

The U The US and Turkey have taken various steps to ease tensions in Syria. The two countries agreed on joint patrols in a small strategic city that was exempted from control of the Islamic State by the Kurdish troops.

The US established new observation posts on the Turkish border in northeastern Syria, angering Turkish leaders when they saw them as Washington's new attempt to prevent all Turkish action against their Kurdish rivals.

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at [email protected] and David Gauthier-Villars to [email protected]


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