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Turkey hails Pompeo comments over defence against ‘terrorists’

Turkey on Saturday welcomed the latest statement made by Washington’s top diplomat over Ankara’s right to defend itself from “terrorists” after the US withdraws from Syria.

“We find correct his statement about the removal of the elements that concern Turkey,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in a speech in the southern Turkish province of Antalya.

Cavusoglu spoke on the phone Saturday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was in Abu Dhabi as part of a regional tour, and they discussed “the steps that need to be taken” in Syria, he said.

The latest comments follow tensions between the US and Turkey over the fate of Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies in the fight against Islamic State group jihadists.

Pompeo had earlier said Washington recognised “the Turkish people’s right and (Turkish President Recep Tayyip) Erdogan’s right to defend their country from terrorists”.

But, he added, “we also know that those fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well”.

Turkey had rejected any suggestions that US President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the safety of the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

Ankara sees the YPG as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

Washington however considers the group as an effective force in the fight against IS.

Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton had a tense meeting with Turkish officials in Ankara this week.

Cavusoglu once again “rejected and condemned” Bolton’s comments on the conditional withdrawal and said despite different voices coming out from Washington, the Turkish president’s interlocuter was Trump.

He repeated Ankara’s threat to launch an offensive to eradicate Syrian Kurdish fighters from Syria.

“We will do whatever needed to clear terror across our border,” he said. “Nobody should doubt about it.”

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