ANKARA: The White House summary of a phone conversation between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump has reflected the content inaccurately, a Turkish official told to foreign media.
Erdogan and Trump spoke over the phone on Tuesday to discuss the intensifying situation in northern Syria, following a Turkish offensive there to rid the area of Kurdish fighters.
“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,” the official said, on the condition of anonymity.
The White House readout of the phone call said that Trump “relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin risked undercutting their “shared goals in Syria”.
“He urged Turkey to de-escalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases to displaced persons and refugees,” the synopsis said.
Trump also warned Erdogan against bringing the US and Turkish forces into conflict, according to the White House. Washington has about 2,000 ground troops in Syria.
The White House statement said: “President Trump also expressed concern about the destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey, and about United States citizens and local employees detained under the prolonged state of emergency in Turkey.”
However, the Turkish official denied there was any mention of the state of emergency or the phrase “destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey”.
“[Trump] mentioned that open criticism of the United States raised concerns in Washington,” according to the source.
In response, Erdogan stressed that a number of US policies, including Washington’s military support to the Syrian Kurdish fighters and “its harbouring” of Fethullah Gulen – a self-exiled Turkish Muslim scholar – caused “outrage” among the Turkish people, the source said.
Regarding the release of US citizens imprisoned in Turkey, Erdogan told Trump that there was rule of law in his country and highlighted that the independent judiciary would reach its verdict following the completion of relevant indictments.
Erdogan also said that the US-backed Syrian Kurdish forces must withdraw to the east of the Euphrates River in Syria and pledged the protection of Manbij city by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army against future threats by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group.
The US and Turkey – NATO allies – have diverging interests in Syria, with Washington focused on defeating the ISIL and Ankara eager to prevent Syria’s Kurds from gaining autonomy and increasing Kurdish unrest on its soil.