Ankara says Trump accepted Erdogan invite to visit Turkey
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Ankara says Trump accepted Erdogan invite to visit Turkey

No date set for 2019 trip, which comes as countries work to coordinate withdrawal of US troops from Syria

US President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump, right, shakes hands with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a meeting at the Palace Hotel during the United Nations General Assembly, September 21, 2017, in New York. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

A Turkish official on Monday said President Donald Trump has accepted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s invitation to visit the country.

Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters after a Cabinet meeting on Monday that Trump wants to make the trip in 2019, but a date has not been set.

Kalin said Erdogan extended the invitation during a weekend phone call between the two presidents on the withdrawal of American troops from Syria.

Trump tweeted on Sunday that he had a “long and productive” call with Erdogan, in which they discussed “the slow & highly coordinated” pullout of US military personnel.

Trump’s surprise decision to withdraw troops from Syria was also announced last week after a call with Erdogan.

Erdogan’s spokesperson also said a US military delegation will visit Turkey this week to discuss the withdrawal of American ground forces from Syria.

“They will discuss how to coordinate (the withdrawal) with their counterparts,” Kalin said.

The US has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Syria.

Critics of Trump’s move fear that thousands of IS members could make gains in Syria, despite the US leader’s claim that the group had been defeated.

“There is no question of a step backwards, vulnerability or a slowdown in the fight against Daesh (IS),” Kalin vowed, adding: “Turkey will show the same determination against Daesh… We can bring peace to this region.”

He referred to Turkey’s cross-border offensive launched in August 2016 against the IS in northern Syria and said Ankara would take all measures to avoid a power vacuum after the US withdrawal.

Kalin said there would be further talks between the two countries’ foreign ministries and other departments including a meeting planned in Washington on January 8.

“There will be intensive traffic” between officials, he added.

Trump’s order came as Ankara warned it would launch an operation east of the Euphrates River against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia which dominates the SDF.

Ankara says the YPG is a “terrorist offshoot” of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

Although Turkey said it would postpone the offensive, a Turkish military convoy has arrived in the Turkish border district of Elbeyli carrying howitzers and artillery batteries.

Parts of the convoy entered Syria, the private IHA news agency reported.

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