WASHINGTON - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has invited US President Donald Trump to visit Turkey in 2019 following a visit by US military officials this week.

“Our president invited honourable [US President] Trump to visit Turkey. He responded that he might come in 2019,” Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin told reporters in Ankara on Monday.

White House spokesman Hogan Gidley said in a statement that they had received the invitation; noting, however, that it was too early to speak of any plans. “While nothing definite is being planned, the President is open to a potential meeting in the future,” he said.

The two leaders held a phone call earlier on Sunday to coordinate their efforts at preventing an authority vacuum from developing as the United States withdraws from Syria. Erdogan welcomed Trump’s abrupt decision last week to withdraw American troops, which removed a source of friction between the two countries. A senior US official told Reuters that Trump had not discussed the decision to withdraw with Erdogan in advance.

US military officials will visit Turkey this week to discuss the details of the troops’ withdrawal with their counterparts, a spokesman for Erdogan said on Monday. They will also discuss further coordination on possible future military operations in northwest Syria as well as security issues, Pentagon spokesperson Heather Babb later told Sputnik. “I can confirm that there will be meetings this week in Turkey… The United States and Turkey are coordinating actively on all issues affecting both Turkish security and the situation in northeast Syria. I will not get into details of those discussions,” Babb said.

Erdogan ready to visit Russia soon

Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan has revealed his plans to visit Russia within the next few days and meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow, for its part, said that a meeting with Erdogan in coming days is currently not on Putin’s agenda, according to Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov.

Erdogan’s announcement comes after Turkey stated earlier in the day that its army was ready to start a military operation on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River against the Kurdish forces at the earliest opportunity.

Prior to that, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Monday that Ankara intended to coordinate with Moscow its actions in Syria to the east of the Euphrates.

Earlier, US President Donald Trump declared the US would be pulling out its nearly 2,000-strong military force from Syria as the Daesh* terrorist group had been crushed in the country. The decision was met with criticism from Washington’s European allies, including Germany and France. Subsequent media speculations claimed that Trump made the move only after being reassured by Erdogan that Turkey would eliminate terrorist remnants in Syria.

Syria has been in a state of civil war since 2011, with the government forces fighting against numerous opposition groups, as well as militant and terrorist organisations. Russia, along with Turkey, is a guarantor of the ceasefire regime in Syria. Moscow has also been providing humanitarian aid to residents of the crisis-torn country.

Erdogan invites Trump to Turkey: White House

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has commented on Paris’ plans to remain in Syria amid the withdrawal of US troops, saying that “there will be no benefit to anyone”, according to the Anadolu news agency. Meanwhile, Hurriyet, another Turkey-based news outlet, reported that the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday the country’s military is determined to enter northern Syria as soon as possible. Earlier, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar said Ankara had completed preparations for the operation.

The development comes on the heels of reports of the Turkish president inviting Donald Trump to Ankara, as well as reports stating that military officials of both states are set to hold a meeting to better coordinate their actions in Syria.

Donald Trump recently declared the US will be pulling out its nearly 2,000-strong military force from Syria as the Daesh terrorist group had been crushed in the country. The decision was met with criticism from Washington’s European allies, including Germany and France. Subsequent media speculation suggested that Trump made the move only after being reassured by Erdogan that Turkey would eliminate terrorist remnants in Syria.

In December, Erdogan announced that Turkish forces were prepared to kick off an offensive on the east bank of the Euphrates River against Kurdish formations as soon as possible. Later, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu said that the operation in northern Syria would be postponed until the Americans withdraw from the region completely. At the same time, Erdogan’s spokesman said that Ankara is going to coordinate its anti-Daesh campaign with Moscow.

Turkey slams Netanyahu’s remarks on Ankara’s Kurdish policy

The Turkish Defence Ministry on Tuesday criticised Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent comments about Ankara’s hard-line policy toward the Kurds, calling them “slander,” Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday. The Turkish Defence Ministry on Tuesday rejected Netanyahu’s statement as “baseless and deluded,” stressing that those responsible for the killing of Palestinian children could not criticise the Turkish army, according to the Anadolu news agency. On Sunday, Netanyahu criticised Turkey’s army for “massacring” Kurdish women and children, calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan the “anti-Semitic dictator.” The prime minister’s comments came a day after Erdogan accused the Israeli prime minister of committing “state terror” against the Palestinian people.

Erdogan and Netanyahu have on numerous occasions verbally clashed, with the Turkish president accusing Israel of “thuggery, violence and state terror” amid the Palestinians’ Great March of Return The row between the Turkish and Israeli leaders flared following the recent escalation of tensions on the Israel-Gaza border, which claimed lives of four Palestinians on Friday.

Since April-May 2018, relations between Israel and Turkey hit a new low after they expelled each other’s envoys following Erdogan and Netanyahu clashing over protests in the Gaza Strip and the US Embassy’s relocation to Jerusalem.