Turkey disputes White House readout of Trump-Erdogan call



The United States would prefer that Turkish troops "remove themselves" from a conflict in the Syrian border town of Afrin and focus on "long-term strategic goals" like ending Syria's war, President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser said Thursday.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos before Trump's arrival, Tom Bossert said Turkey "ought to be mindful of the potential for escalation as they move into Syria and Afrin."

The United States has expressed concerns over Turkey's military offensive against the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin in northwestern Syria, which began Saturday, but Bossert's comments were the most direct call yet for Turkey to withdraw.

Turkey has vowed to expand its operation against Syrian Kurdish forces, known as the People's Defense Units or YPG, to other areas along the border. Ankara views the YPG as a major threat because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey.

The YPG forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces, a U.S. ally that drove the Islamic State group from much of northeastern Syria. U.S. troops are embedded with the SDF in other parts of Syria, where they are working to prevent a resurgence of IS, but do not operate in or near Afrin.

The rising tensions between the U.S. and its NATO ally Turkey were on display after a phone call Wednesday between Trump and his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The White House said Trump expressed concern about the fighting and told Erdogan the Afrin operation jeopardizes shared goals in Syria. It said Trump also expressed concern about "destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey," in reference to recent anti-American statements made by Turkish officials.

Turkish officials disputed the White House readout, saying it did not "accurately reflect" the content of their discussions. They said Trump did not voice concerns about the violence or use the phrase "destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey." The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with government rules.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim lashed out at the United States, saying "it is astounding and unacceptable ... that a country which is supposed to protect NATO's borders is giving open support to armed entities that target our borders."