WASHINGTON DC — Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has invited US President Donald Trump to visit Turkey in 2019, a White House spokesperson said on Monday.
“While nothing definite is being planned, the President is open to a potential meeting in the future,” White House spokesperson Hogan Gidley said in a statement a day after Erdogan and Trump talked over phone.
The Turkish presidency said Trump and Erdogan agreed during a phone call on Sunday to coordinate to prevent an authority vacuum from developing as the United States withdraws from Syria.
Erdogan welcomed Trump’s abrupt decision last week to withdraw American troops from Syria, which has upended US policy in the region and would remove a source of friction between the two countries.
A senior US official said Trump had not discussed the pullout decision with Erdogan in advance.
Turkish Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın said on Monday that US military officials will visit Turkey this week to discuss the details of the Syria pullout with their counterparts.
The talks will cover a range of topics, including U.S. taking back the arms it distributed for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which are dominated by the PKK terror group’s Syrian affiliate the Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed wing the People’s Protection Units (YPG), under the pretext of fighting Daesh.
Turkey will also closely coordinate with Russia regarding possible power vacuum in eastern Syria as U.S. pulls out, including in the area east of Euphrates, said Kalın.
Trump stunned his cabinet, lawmakers and much of the world last week as he ordered American troops home, rejecting the advice of his top aides, following a conversation with Erdoğan over an imminent Turkish cross-border operation to eliminate the YPG terrorists from northern Syria.
Stressing that a phone call between Erdoğan and Trump on Dec. 14 was a historic one, Kalın said the Turkish president “clearly relayed the message that neither the U.S. nor Turkey needed the PYD or the YPG terrorists to eliminate the Daesh threat.”
The conflict in Syria following Trump’s announcement of a US pullout, the fallout from the murder of a US-based Saudi journalist in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Turkey’s demand for the extradition of a Muslim cleric from the United States are among the main issues occupying the two NATO allies.