United States President Donald Trump on Sunday warned Turkey of economic devastation if Kurdish forces are attacked after the planned pullout of American troops from Syria. He also urged the Kurds not to provoke Ankara.
“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions,” Trump tweeted. “Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20-mile safe zone...”
The president did not provide details of who would create, enforce or pay for the safe zone, or where it would be located.
In December, Trump claimed that US troops had defeated the Islamic State group in Syria and would return home. US forces have fought alongside a Kurdish militia in northern Syria against the Islamic State.
Last week, the US military began moving non-essential gear out of Syria. However, an unidentified US defence official confirmed that troops were not being withdrawn at this stage.
Turkey’s presidential spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin on Monday said the country expects the US to honour their strategic partnership. “Terrorists can’t be your partners and allies,” he tweeted. “Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda.”
He said that it was a “fatal mistake” to equate Syrian Kurds with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK – which is on the US list of terrorist organisations – and its Syrian branches PYD and YPG. “Turkey fights against terrorists, not Kurds,” Kalin added. “We will protect Kurds and other Syrians against all terrorist threats.”
The PYD, or the Democratic Union Party in Syria, is a Kurdish political outfit. The YPG, or the People’s Protection Units, is a homegrown defence force of the Kurdish area in Syria. Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist group with links to the PKK, AFP reported.