Trump threatens Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks Syrian Kurd militia

By Daren Butler and Lesley Wroughton

ISTANBUL/RIYADH (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with financial devastation if it assaults a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria, drawing a pointy rebuke from Ankara on Monday and reviving fears of one other downturn in ties between the NATO allies.

Relations between america and Turkey have lengthy been strained by Washington’s help for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Staff Celebration (PKK) that’s waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.

Talking in Riyadh, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated he didn’t suppose the risk would change plans to withdraw troops from Syria. Requested what Trump meant by financial devastation, he stated: “You will should ask the president.”

“We now have utilized financial sanctions in lots of locations, I assume he’s talking about these sorts of issues, Pompeo stated, including he had not spoken with Ankara since Trump’s remark.

Trump stated on Sunday america was beginning the navy pull-out from Syria that he introduced in December however that it will proceed to hit Islamic State fighters there.

“Will assault once more from present close by base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically in the event that they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile secure zone…Likewise, are not looking for the Kurds to impress Turkey,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

Ankara is effectively conscious of the price of strained ties with america. A diplomatic disaster final 12 months, when Trump imposed sanctions on two of President Tayyip Erdogan’s ministers and raised tariffs on Turkish metallic exports, helped push the Turkish lira to a file low in August.

The lira slid as a lot as 1.6 p.c to five.5450 in opposition to the greenback and stood at 5.52 at 1122 GMT on Monday.

Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin stated Trump ought to respect Washington’s alliance with Ankara.

“Mr @realDonaldTrump It’s a deadly mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists listing, and its Syria department PYD/YPG,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.

“Terrorists cannot be your companions & allies. Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and would not need it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda,” he stated on Monday.

SAFE ZONE PROPOSAL

Trump gave no particulars concerning the secure zone proposal, however Pompeo stated Washington wished to offer safety for individuals who have fought in opposition to Islamic State and to stop any assault on Turkey from Syria.

“If we are able to get the area and the safety preparations proper it will be factor for everybody within the area,” Pompeo added stated.

Trump introduced final month he would withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, declaring that they had succeeded of their mission to defeat the Islamic State group and had been now not wanted.

Nevertheless, U.S. officers have given combined messages since then. The U.S.-led coalition stated on Friday it had began the pullout however officers stated later it concerned solely tools, not troops.

Turkish Overseas Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu stated Ankara was not in opposition to the thought of a safe zone alongside the border, however stated strategic companions and allies shouldn’t talk over social media.

“Nothing may be achieved by threatening Turkey economically. We have to take a look at how we are able to coordinate collectively and the way we are able to clear up this,” he stated in a information convention with Luxembourg’s international minister.

The Kurdish YPG has been a U.S. ally within the struggle in opposition to the jihadists and it controls swaths of northern Syria. Erdogan has vowed to crush it within the wake of Trump’s choice to tug U.S. troops out of the area.

Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun stated: “Turkey will proceed its anti-terror struggle decisively” and that it was a protector of the Kurds, not their enemy.

“Terror is terror and it have to be eradicated at its supply. That is precisely what Turkey is doing in Syria,” he wrote on Twitter.

Turkey has swept YPG fighters from Syria’s Afrin area and different areas west of the Euphrates river in navy campaigns over the previous two years. It’s now threatening to strike east of the river, which it has averted till now – partly to keep away from direct confrontation with U.S. forces.

An official from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of militias led by the YPG, stated on Sunday Islamic State militants had been “residing their remaining moments” within the final enclave they maintain close to the Iraqi border.

(Further reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen, Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Stephen Kalin in Riyadh; Writing by Daren Butler; Enhancing by David Dolan and Angus MacSwan)

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