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‘Will devastate Turkey if they hit Kurds’

‘Will devastate Turkey if they hit Kurds’
Donald Trump (File)
WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 1/14/2019 11:20:14 AM IST

President Donald Trump warned Turkey on Sunday of economic devastation if it attacks Kurdish forces in the wake of the US troop pullout from Syria, while also urging the Kurds not to “provoke” Ankara.

Trump took to Twitter to reveal some of his latest thoughts in the slow drip-drip of information being released by his administration after his shocking December announcement of the troop withdrawal.

His top diplomat Mike Pompeo is on a whirlwind regional tour aimed at reassuring allies amid rising tensions between the US and Turkey over the fate of Washington’s Syrian Kurdish allies in the fight against the ISIS.

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

“Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds,” Trump tweeted, while pushing for the creation of a 20-mile (30-kilometer) “safe zone.”

“Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey.” Trump did not detail who would create, enforce or pay for the safe zone, or where it would be located.

US-led operations against ISIS in Syria have been spearheaded on the ground by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Ankara sees the backbone of that alliance, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK) which has fought a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state.

On Saturday, more than 600 people were evacuated from the remaining ISIS holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said, as US-backed fighters prepare for a final assault on the area.

“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms,” Trump said.

“Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term US policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”

Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman said that several dozen jihadist fighters were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-Arab alliance.

Abdel Rahman said some 16,000 people, including 760 ISIS fighters, have fled the area since the start of December, though this marked the first time the SDF and the coalition provided buses, suggesting a deal struck between the warring sides.

Turkey urges US to honour ties

President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Monday Turkey expected the United States to honour their strategic partnership after US President Donald Trump warned it would devastate Turkey economically if they attack a Kurdish militia in Syria.

Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained over US backing for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil. “Mr @realDonaldTrump It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.

“Terrorists can’t be your partners & allies. Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda,” he said.

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