Trump warns Turkey of economic devastation if it attacks Kurds

Ann Santiago
January 15, 2019

The third Erdogan-Trump call since December 14 followed a threat by the United States president on Sunday to devastate Turkey economically if it attacks America's Kurdish partners.

Trump also commented on Twitter to the Kurds, asking them not to "provoke" Turkey.

Turkey had reacted angrily to suggestions that Trump's plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the safety of the US-backed Kurdish fighters, who are viewed as terrorists by the Turkish government.

And before a visit to Ankara last week, White House National Security adviser John Bolton said the U.S. retreat was conditional on the safety of the Kurdish fighters, provoking angry retorts from Turkish officials. After capturing Raqqa, the SDF plastered the former capital of ISIS with portraits of Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan, who is imprisoned in Turkey and considered a terrorist by the US government.

Trump tweeted earlier about the United States starting its pullout from Syria, while hitting the remaining Islamic State fighters there.

Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, said its fighters had stepped up attacks in the last two days and taken control of the area between the Islamic State enclave and the Iraqi border, cutting an escape route.

"We will confirm that there has been no redeployment of military personnel from Syria to date", he said. "Turkey expects the USA to honour our strategic partnership and doesn't want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda", he said on Monday.

The US-led coalition on Saturday fired more than 20 missiles against militant positions, the Observatory said.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that talks were under way on Washington's proposal to establish a "safe zone" in flashpoint border areas of northeastern Syria, where tensions are rising between Turkey and Kurdish militia.

USA secretary of state Mike Pompeo is greeted by Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia's minister of state for foreign affairs in Riyadh on Sunday.

In that context, Mr Trump "assumes that the incentives and disincentives he has at his disposal will discourage Mr Erdogan from taking unilateral action [against Syrian Kurdish militants] that could jeopardize Washington's Syrian Kurdish partners" Mr Erdemir said.

"We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well", he added.

The withdrawal would be "orderly and deliberate" in accordance with the "incredibly clear" guidance from Trump, said Pompeo, a West Point graduate, former Army captain, and former Central Intelligence Agency director.

In a note on Twitter earlier, Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if it attacked a USA -allied militia in Syria, comments that drew a sharp rebuke from Ankara and revived fears of a downturn in ties.

"Mr Brunson was a hostage; the Kurds in Syria represent an existential problem [for Turkey]" Mr Cook told The National, highlighting an important distinction between the two cases.

Turkey says the weapons are ultimately transferred to the PKK - designated as a terror group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union - and used against Turkey.

US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation summit in Brussels, Belgium on July 11, 2018.

The White House confirmed the phone conversation between Trump and Erdogan saying, Trump expressed desire to work with Erdogan on Turkey's security concerns in northeast Syria.

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