Turkey’s presidency said U.S. President Barack Obama had shared his concerns over the Syrian conflict and promised his support on Friday, hours after a tense exchange between the two NATO allies over the role of Kurdish militants.
In a phone conversation that lasted one hour and 20 minutes, Ankara said Obama had told his counterpart President Tayyip Erdogan that Turkey had a right to self-defense, and expressed worries over advances by Syrian Kurdish militias near Turkey’s border.
Obama stressed to Erdogan that Syrian Kurdish YPG forces should not seek to exploit recent gains by the Syrian government to seize additional territory, the White House said in a statement.
He also called for Turkey to “show reciprocal restraint” by stopping artillery strikes in the area, the statement said.
Earlier on Friday, Erdogan had said U.S.-supplied weapons had been used against civilians by a Syrian Kurdish militia group that Ankara blames for the deadly suicide bombing this week.
The State Department, which sees the Syrian Kurdish YPG fighters as useful allies against Islamic State, said the United States had “not provided any weapons of any kind” to the group.
The issue risks driving a wedge between the NATO allies at a critical point in Syria’s civil war, as the United States pursues intensive talks with Syria’s ally Russia to bring about a “cessation of hostilities.”
Turkey has blamed the YPG for the suicide car bomb attack on Wednesday that killed 28 people, most of them soldiers. But a Turkey-based Kurdish splinter group has claimed responsibility for the bombing and threatened more attacks.
Obama expressed his condolences to Erdogan over the bombing in the Turkish capital, the White House said.
Before the call with Obama, Erdogan said he was saddened by the West’s refusal to call the Syrian Kurdish militia terrorists, and would explain to the U.S. president how weapons provided by the United States had aided them.
“I will tell him, ‘Look at how and where those weapons you provided were fired’,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul.