The U.S. national security adviser John Bolton held tense talks with Turkish officials over Syria on Tuesday in Ankara, while being snubbed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his remarks on the Kurdish militants after Washington's planned military withdrawal from Syria.
Erdogan refused to meet with Bolton, according to the Turkish media, and the U.S. official, who had a two-hour discussion with Ibrahim Kalin, the Turkish leader's aide and spokesman, left Ankara soon afterward.
Bolton was accompanied by U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Joseph Dunford and U.S. Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey, who is also the newly appointed Special Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat Islamic State (IS).
During his weekly speech in parliament on Tuesday, Erdogan vehemently criticized the U.S. proposal that the Kurdish fighters should play a key role in Syria after the pullout of all American troops.
"Bolton has made a serious mistake. Whoever agrees with what he says is making the mistake. We will not have any compromise on this. What he said cannot be accepted," said the Turkish strongman.
"We will very soon mobilize to eliminate terrorist organizations in Syria," Erdogan said. "If there are other terrorists who would attempt to intervene, it is our duty to eliminate them as well."
Kalin, for his part, told reporters after his meeting with Bolton that Turkey "will not allow the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria to create a new opportunity for terror organizations," in a clear reference to the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG).
He also said Erdogan did not promise to protect U.S.-backed Kurdish militia in Syria during his phone conversations with U.S. President Donald Trump.
Before arriving in Turkey, Bolton irritated the Turkish government by saying the U.S. pullout is based on Turkey's promise to ensure the safety of the Kurdish militia, an ally of the U.S. forces in defeating the IS.
After his meeting with Kalin, Bolton's spokesman Garrett Marquis on his Twitter account called the discussion "productive," saying the two officials "identified further issues for dialogue, and emphasized the strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Turkey."
Trump's announcement of pulling the 2,000 troops out of Syria has raised expectations that Turkey could launch a military operation targeting the YPG, which Ankara considers a terrorist group with links to Kurdish separatists in Turkey.
Ankara has repeatedly threatened to launch a new offensive to crush the YPG in northern Syria, while building up its forces on the border area.
"We do not think the Turks ought to undertake military action that's not fully coordinated with and agreed to by the United States," Bolton told reporters in Jerusalem on Sunday.
Turkey must "meet the president's (Trump) requirement that the Syrian opposition forces that have fought with us are not endangered," he added.
Kalin responded to Bolton during the weekend, pointing out that "it is an irrational allegation that Turkey is targeting the Kurds," underlining that the YPG is a terrorist group in the eyes of Ankara.
"There is no doubt that a terrorist group cannot be an ally of the United States," which is also Turkey's NATO partner, Kalin said, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.
Since Trump abruptly announced the pullout of U.S. forces from Syria, the duration of the withdrawal has been extended by officials to months, even years.
Notably, the U.S. president reportedly backtracked on his initial announcement. Trump tweeted on Monday that the withdrawal will be done at "a proper pace" and in a "prudent" way.