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Turkish President Snubs Bolton Over Comments That Turkey Must Protect Kurds

Category: Diplomatic Relations,Politics

Squaring the circle has fallen to Mr. Bolton since Mr. Trump’s announcement, which drew fierce criticism from lawmakers in both parties, blindsided military commanders, prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and rattled allies, chiefly Israel.

In Jerusalem, before he traveled to the Turkish capital, Ankara, Mr. Bolton pledged that American forces would remain in Syria until the Islamic State was fully defeated, setting the stage for a more gradual withdrawal than the one Mr. Trump heralded. He also demanded guarantees that Turkey would not attack Kurdish forces allied with the Americans.

“We don’t think the Turks ought to undertake military action that’s not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States, at a minimum so they don’t endanger our troops,” Mr. Bolton told reporters.

Once in Ankara, he also protested to Turkish officials about Mr. Erdogan’s Times piece. In it, the Turkish president wrote that the American-led coalition against the Islamic State had carried out airstrikes in Raqqa, Syria, and Mosul, Iraq, that showed “little or no regard for civilian casualties” — something he said Turkish troops had avoided in their counterterrorism operations.

Mr. Erdogan and the Turkish government were clearly rankled. The pro-government, English-language paper Daily Sabah accused Mr. Bolton of being part of a “soft coup against Trump” in Washington, adding, “It was probably a bad idea for Bolton to go rogue and try to impose conditions on the United States withdrawal from Syria.”

In fact, Mr. Trump has pushed back against suggestions that he is out of sync with his national security adviser. Mr. Pompeo, who joined Mr. Bolton and other officials in urging the president to slow down the withdrawal in Syria, is starting a trip to the Middle East in which he is expected to deliver the same message as Mr. Bolton.

Aides to Mr. Bolton insisted that he did not feel snubbed by Mr. Erdogan. “The U.S. Embassy in Turkey requested a series of meetings, but due to scheduling conflicts one with President Erdogan was never confirmed,” a spokesman for Mr. Bolton, Garrett Marquis, said in a statement.

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