U.S. President Donald J. Trump told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in phone call on Tuesday that Washington believes there is a need for a negotiated settlement of regional issues, according to a readout of the conversation released by the White House.
According to the Turkish press readout released by Ankara on Tuesday’s call, both leaders discussed Libya, bilateral and other regional issues. Both readouts also noted that the pair discussed trade issues between the countries. Ankara mentioned the $100 billion trade target set a long time ago, the White House simply referred to it as “positive trade issues between the United States and Turkey.”
Turkey has been in involved in at least three wars in the region: Syria, Iraq and Libya. In Syria, Turkish forces and Turkey backed Syrian militias took over several chunks of territories in Syria’s northern and northeastern parts, while Turkish forces expanded into Idlib province. Joint Russian-Turkish patrols in Idlib continue despite occasional attacks.
In Afrin and northeastern Syria, Turkey seized lands from U.S. allied Kurdish forces. In northern Iraq, or Kurdistani Iraq, Turkish forces have been involved in two different military operations – “Claw-Eagle” and “Claw-Tiger” from the air and land into the another US allied Kurdish Government’s territory.
In Libya, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu just yesterday signalled an impending operation against Al-Jufra air base and the key city of Sirte. The Libyan National Army (LNA), led by commander Khalifa Haftar, must turn over the coastal city of Sirte and Jufra air base to the Ankara-backed Government of National Accord (GNA), before the latter agrees to a ceasefire in Libya Çavuşoğlu said.
Turkey has marked the rebel-controlled Al-Jufra in Libya as a new military target, a strategic point that another strong U.S. ally, Egypt, has called a “red line” for military intervention.
“There are preparations for an operation, but we are trying the (negotiation) table. If there is no withdrawal, there is already military preparation, they (GNA) will show all determination here,” Çavuşoğlu also told Turkish state TV TRT on Monday.
Whether the call initiated by Erdoğan was to inform Washington about the impending operation in Libya against the Al-Jufra airbase and Sirte remains to be seen.
Trump’s stated remarks in the White House readout that underscore the belief “in the need for a negotiated settlement of regional issues,” could be taken as an indication in that sense and Trump’s possible effort to prevent Turkey from waging a war against cities deemed a “red line” by Egypt.
Tomorrow, is also the fourth anniversary of the July 15 coup attempt, which failed to topple the government of Erdoğan.
Erdoğan also held a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday. The Russian readout of the call, called for a ceasefire in Libya, but most of the readout focused on the conversion of the Hagia Sophia.
In the short readout released by White House, there is no reference to the iconic structure Turkey is transforming into a mosque.