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Bolton (L) today with Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin. Photo: Halil Sagirkaya/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused today to meet with national security adviser John Bolton, then "took to live television instead to insult him for a lack of perspective," Bloomberg reports.

Background: President Trump announced a U.S. withdrawal from Syria last month after a conversation with Erdogan, but Bolton has since said the U.S. will not pull out until certain conditions are met. They include a guarantee from Turkey that it will not attack U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters, who hold a large swathe of territory that borders Turkey. The Turkish president considers those fighters terrorists. He was infuriated by Bolton's demands, which he called a "serious mistake" in a speech to Parliament today.

“Although we made a clear agreement with U.S. President Trump, different voices are emerging from different parts of the administration. Trump’s remarks continue to be the main point of reference for us.”
— Erdogan

Flashback: Trump said last month that U.S. troops in Syria were "all coming back, and they’re coming back now.” The announcement led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, confusion among the other key players in the conflict and panic from the Kurdish forces.

  • The U.S. withdrawal timeline has since been extended to at least four months. Under Bolton's conditions for withdrawal, the U.S. could remain indefinitely.
  • Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo both traveled to the Middle East this week to reassure allies about the Syria withdrawal, but there's still a great deal of confusion about what the U.S. plan entails.

The Turkey divide:

Expand chart
Data: Conflict Monitor by IHS Markit as of Jan. 7; Map: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The big picture: Bloomberg's Margaret Talev reports that Bolton arrived in Ankara with "5 core conditions" for U.S. withdrawal from Syria, and she criticized an op-ed by Erdogan published yesterday in the NY Times.

  • Erdogan — who has for months been threatening an offensive into Syrian territory held by the Kurdish YPG — argued that a Turkey-led "stabilization force" was needed following the U.S. withdrawal.
  • Both sides say a Bolton-Erdogan meeting was never formally scheduled. Bolton met with lower-level officials instead.
  • As NBC's Josh Lederman points out, Turkey's pro-government Daily Sabah has slammed Bolton and bemoaned what it calls a "soft coup against Donald Trump" in an editorial.

Go Deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Fall and winter COVID surge "unlikely" if people get vaccinated.
  2. Politics: School boards are the next political battleground.
  3. Vaccines: Pfizer begins application for full FDA vaccine approval — Moderna says its COVID booster shot shows promise against variants.
  4. Economy: U.S. adds just 266,000 jobs in April, far below expectations.
  5. World: Asia faces massive new COVID surgeIndia records its deadliest day of the pandemic.
  6. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Kevin McCarthy officially endorses Elise Stefanik to replace Liz Cheney

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) officially endorsed Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to become the GOP's next House Republican conference chair during a Fox News appearance Sunday.

Why it matters: The GOP has been feuding internally over the fate of the current chair, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), because of her criticisms of former President Donald Trump, and her vote to impeach him for his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

Fauci: Vaccines could turn COVID-19 "surges" into "blips"

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday that if more Americans get vaccinated in accordance with the Biden administration's goals, COVID-19 surges may be replaced by "blips."

State of play: Last week President Joe Biden announced his goal to get 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by July 4, with at least 70% of Americans having at least one shot.