"I think, first of all, [that the withdrawal of US troops from Syria] will take longer than is expected. Secondly, the number of troops might not be the same as what [US President Donald Trump] said — it might be not a total pullout, residual armed forces may remain in Syria. As to transfer of the US military bases to Turkey I give it a low chance," Yilmaz said.
Commenting on the chances of the United States taking back arms that it gave to the Syrian Kurds, another outcome sought by Ankara and discussed during Kalin's talks with Bolton, the lawmaker expressed little hope.
"Regarding the arms provided by the US to Kurds, it would not be easy to collect them back because the arms have been already distributed. In recent history, it happened in Iraq when the US could not manage to recollect all of them. This will repeat in Syria as well. Maybe some heavy weapons could be collected if they are preserved in warehouses and controlled by the US, but the rest will not be easy to collect," Yilmaz said.
Yilmaz highlighted that the issue of Syrian Kurds was not an easy matter to discuss because the United States had already invested in solidifying and strengthening the Democratic Union Party and People's Protection Units in Syria. If Washington accepted Turkey’s stance on the issue, this would signify the collapse of the former's mission in Syria, according to the lawmaker.
As for the role of US pullout on Syrian settlement, Yilmaz noted that it would lead to the United States having a diminished role in the peace settlement process in Syria, as three ceasefire guarantor states — Russia, Turkey and Iran — would take centre stage. He noted, though, that it would be wrong to expect Washington to completely withdraw from the process.
"I think the possible Syrian settlement will be different because if there is no presence of the US army [on the ground], [Washington] would have little chance to influence all this political settlement — Russia, Turkey and Iran will be more dominant in the Syrian peace settlement. But we can’t say that the US will not play any role at the table," the lawmaker said.
Recently, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said that during his talks with US National Security Adviser John Bolton in Turkey, he discussed the future of US bases in Syria after US troops leave. According to Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper, Kalin asked the United States to transfer the bases to Turkey during the meeting.
On 19 December, Trump declared victory over the Daesh* terrorist group in Syria and said he would withdraw the approximately 2,000 US troops currently deployed to the Middle Eastern country. The White House declined to offer a timeline for the withdrawal, while some US officials said that it may take from 60 to 100 days.
*Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS) is a terrorist group banned in Russia
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