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US to coordinate troop withdrawal from Syria with Turkey

ANKARA: A US military delegation will visit Turkey this week to discuss the withdrawal of American ground forces from Syria, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Monday.

“They will discuss how to coordinate (the withdrawal) with their counterparts,” Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference in Ankara after US President Donald Trump’s shock decision last week to order the pull-out of 2,000 troops.

The US has for years supported the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the fight against the militant Islamic State (IS) 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 Jan 8.

“There will be intensive traffic” between officials, he added, a day after Trump and Erdogan held a telephone conversation agreeing to coordinate the Syria pull-out.


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