The White House’s written statement differs from what was actually discussed in a phone conversation between the Turkish and U.S. presidents late on Jan. 24, according to Turkish sources.
“The readout issued by the White House does not accurately reflect the content of President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s phone call with President [Donald] Trump,” said the sources.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Jan. 25 that he White House statement “might have been prepared in advance.”
“I think the statement was prepared by the United Sates before the telephone conversation took place,” Çavuşoğlu said in Istanbul in a joint press conference with his Austrian counterpart Karin Kneissl.
“Hence, it did not fully reflect the truth,” the foreign minister added.
The sources said the two leaders only exchanged views on Turkey’s ongoing military operation in Syria.
“President Trump did not share any ‘concerns [about] escalating violence’ with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin. The two leaders’ discussion of ‘Operation Olive Branch’ was limited to an exchange of views,” they added.
During the conversation, Trump discussed restricting the operation in Afrin to a certain time limit and avoiding any close combat in Manbij, due to the presence of U.S. soldiers in the region, the sources added.
Erdoğan reiterated that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) must withdraw to the East of the Euphrates River and pledged the protection of Manbij by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA) against future threats by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) following the withdrawal.
The Turkish sources also stressed that Trump did not use the words “destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey.”
“In response to President Erdoğan’s call on the United States to end the delivery of weapons to the [Democratic Union Party] PYD-YPG, President Trump said that his country no longer supplied the group with weapons and pledged not to resume the weapons delivery in the future,” the sources added.
They also said that there was no discussion of the ongoing state of emergency in Turkey, but Trump mentioned the U.S. citizens and local personnel currently under arrest.
“President Erdoğan responded to Mr. Trump’s request by noting that there was the rule of law in Turkey and highlighted that the independent judiciary would reach its verdict following the completion of relevant indictments,” the sources said.
According to a White House statement earlier, Trump “urged Turkey to de-escalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases to displaced persons and refugees.”
“He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces,” it said, adding that he “expressed concern about the destructive and false anti-American rhetoric emanating from Turkey.”