The Turkish government claimed Washington would stop arming the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia considered among the most successful on the ground fighting the Islamic State (ISIS), following a conversation between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on November 24.
While the United States supports the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its militia, the YPG, Turkey considers both groups to be an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), which Ankara has outlawed and recognizes as a terrorist organization.
“President Trump instructed [his generals] in a very open way that the YPG will no longer be given weapons,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters after the phone call, according to the Hurriyet Daily News. “He openly said that this absurdity should have ended much earlier.”
The U.S. has reportedly provided around 4,000 truckloads of weapons to the YPG in the fight against the Islamic State. The decision to arm these fighters had soured relations between the U.S. and Turkey, both NATO allies.
The White House released a readout of the call that did not mention the YPG fighters:
President Donald J. Trump spoke today with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey. President Trump reaffirmed the strategic partnership between the United States and Turkey, particularly in combating terrorism in all its forms and fostering regional stability. On Syria, the two leaders discussed the importance of implementing United Nations Security Council Resolution 2254 and supporting the United Nations-led Geneva Process to peacefully resolve the civil war in that country. President Trump and President Erdoğan underscored the need to end the humanitarian crisis, allow displaced Syrians to return home, and ensure the stability of a unified Syria free of malign intervention and terrorist safe havens. Consistent with our previous policy. President Trump also informed President Erdoğan of pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria, now that the battle of Raqqa is complete and we are progressing into a stabilization phase to ensure that ISIS cannot return. The leaders also discussed the purchase of military equipment from the United States.
Erdoğan reportedly said the phone conversation with Trump was very productive, and he shared a picture of himself on the phone with the leader of the free world. In addition to Çavuşoğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) chief Hakan Fidan and presidential spokesman İbrahim Kalın were in the picture.
Prior to his phone call with Erdoğan, Trump tweeted, “Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!”:
Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
In July, the leader of the YPG told Reuters that Turkey’s military presence near Kurdish-controlled areas in northern Syria amounted to a “declaration of war.” Upon sending troops into Syria, Erdoğan claimed that he was invading the country to “end the rule of the tyrant” Bashar al-Assad but has since claimed Turkey wants to participate in eradicating the Islamic State. The YPG has no ties to Assad and has taken a leading role in fighting ISIS.