Trump, Turkish leader discuss Syrian crisis in call

Jill Colvin
Associated Press

Palm Beach, Fla. — President Donald Trump spoke Friday with Turkey’s president “about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East” before hitting the links with Tiger Woods and pro golfer Dustin Johnson.

During the call between U.S. and Turkish leaders, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu claimed, Trump said the United States would no longer supply arms to Syrian Kurdish fighters. Cavusoglu was in Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s office during the call.

Turkey considers the Kurdish Syrian fighters, known by the initials YPG, to be terrorists because of their affiliation with outlawed Kurdish rebels in Turkey. A U.S. decision to arm the fighters soured relations between the two NATO allies.

“Mr. Trump clearly stated that he had given clear instructions and that the YPG won’t be given arms and that this nonsense should have ended a long time ago,” Cavusoglu said.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about Cavusoglu’s claims and did not immediately release its own take on the call.

Erdogan’s office said in its summary that the two leaders had discussed the Syrian crisis and other regional issues during their phone call Friday, and that they also discussed ties between Turkey and the United States.

Their talk came days after Erdogan attended a trilateral meeting with the Russian and Iranian leaders in Sochi, Russia, to promote a peaceful settlement in Syria. Relations between NATO allies Turkey and the United States have soured over a number of issues, including U.S. support to Syrian Kurdish fighters which Ankara considers to be terrorists because of their links to outlawed Kurdish rebels in Turkey.

The leaders also called on other countries to provide humanitarian aid, clear Syrian territory of mines and restore vital infrastructure destroyed by the war.

In a series of morning tweets from Florida, Trump said he’d be calling Erdogan to discuss the situation 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!” he wrote.

Trump railed during his campaign about the ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq but has boasted about progress under his watch in recent months. Trump has used the $6 trillion figure to describe U.S. spending on Middle East conflicts, though fact checkers have said the number is only partially accurate, since it falls on the high end of analysts’ estimates and includes future costs, such as future medical care and disability benefits as well as nation-building costs.

Trump also tweeted that after his call he would be “heading over to Trump National Golf Club, Jupiter, to play golf (quickly) with Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson. Then back to Mar-a-Lago for talks on bringing even more jobs and companies back to the USA!”

In a break from the practice of past administrations, the Trump White House rarely discloses when the president is golfing, let alone whom he golfs with during frequent trips to courses he owns in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia.

Trump and his aides often appear concerned about the perception that he is vacationing during his trips away from the White House, insisting that he is partaking in high level meetings and making calls while staying in Bedminister, New Jersey, or at his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida.

Wood plans to return to competitive play next week after his most recent back surgery sidelined him for seven months.

Trump also complained again Friday about football players who kneel during the National Anthem to protest racism and police brutality. “Can you believe that the disrespect for our Country, our Flag, our Anthem continues without penalty to the players,” Trump said in one of several tweets Friday morning, accusing NFL commissioner Roger Goodell of having “lost control” of what he called a “hemorrhaging league” where “Players are the boss!”

Trump’s tweet was in response to one from his social media chief, Dan Scavino. Scavino had shared a Breitbart News story about New York Giants player Olivier Vernon taking the knee during the anthem on Thanksgiving ahead of a game against the Redskins.

The website is run by Trump’s former chief strategist.