The United States and its allies must work more closely with Turkey in Syria, President Donald J. Trump said Tuesday in a call with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron. Washington has previously expressed concern about Turkey’s decision to plunge itself more deeply into Syria’s civil war with an offensive against Kurdish-held border areas.
But according to the White House, in conversation with President Macron, Mr. Trump “stressed the need to intensify cooperation with Turkey with respect to shared strategic challenges in Syria.”
President Trump hasn't said much publicly about the US expulsion of the alleged Russian spies, but in a call to Macron he supported the move, and also said he wanted to work more closely with Turkey on Syria pic.twitter.com/hl0bKUR1x7
— Dave Clark (@DaveClark_AFP) March 27, 2018
In January, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered an assault against the enclave of Afrin in northern Syria to root out the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) there.
Turkey views the YPG as simply an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is fighting an insurgency inside Turkey and whose fighters Ankara and Washington brand “terrorists.”
But the U.S. military has worked closely with the YPG inside Syria, making the Kurdish fighters the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), set up to fight the Islamic State group.
US officials have repeatedly complained that Turkey’s battle against the YPG is a distraction from the anti-ISIS fight, but Trump’s remarks Tuesday suggest growing sympathy for his NATO ally.
In addition to discussing Turkey and Syria, Mr. Trump and Mr. Macron touched on the allied response to Russia’s alleged attempt to assassinate a double-agent in a nerve agent attack on British soil.
“Both leaders expressed support for the West’s strong response to Russia’s chemical weapons attack in Salisbury, United Kingdom, including the expulsion of numerous Russian intelligence officers on both sides of the Atlantic,” the White House said.
This marked Mr. Trump’s first personal, public comment on the Western response after he allowed his spokeswoman to announce Washington’s unprecedented decision to expel 60 alleged Russian agents.