US equating Kurds with PYD/YPG ‘fatal mistake’, Turkey warns Trump

US equating Kurds with PYD/YPG ‘fatal mistake’, Turkey warns Trump

ANKARA

Turkey's presidential spokesperson İbrahim Kalın had held a meeting with White House national security adviser John Bolton on Jan. 8 to discuss the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

Turkey on Jan. 14 warned U.S. President Donald Trump against conflating Syrian Kurds with the illegal PKK, while stressing the strategic partnership between two countries.

“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,” Presidential Spokesman İbrahim Kalın said on Twitter.

“Turkey fights against terrorists, not Kurds. We will protect Kurds and other Syrians against all terrorist threats,” he added.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also slammed the U.S. for conflicting messages, sometimes released through social media.

"Strategic partners do not talk via Twitter and social media," Çavuşoğlu said Jan. 14, adding that the two countries' officials were already in talks to coordinate Trump's promised withdrawal from Syria.

"The proposal for a 30 km buffer zone [on Syria's border with Turkey] did not come from the U.S. It is not their idea. It was the proposal of Mr. President [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] to Europeans, including Russians," he added, noting that the Obama administration had "failed to support our idea due to various excuses and now they are coming up with it due to Turkey's determination."

The statements came in response to Trump’s threat to target Turkey’s economy if Ankara hits the PYD/YPG amid Washington’s withdrawal of troops from Syria.

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“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. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone....” Trump said on Twitter.

In response, Kalın said: “Mr @realDonaldTrump 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.”

Speaking in Riyadh, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he did not think Trump's threat would change plans to withdraw troops
from Syria. Asked what Trump meant by economic devastation, he said: "You'll have to ask the president."

"We have applied economic sanctions in many places, I assume he is speaking about those kinds of things," Pompeo said, adding he had not spoken with Ankara since Trump's comment.

Turkish President Erdoğan has signaled that a cross-border operation in northeastern Syria will happen soon. Since 2016, Ankara has carried out two similar military operations in northern Syria.

Turkey deems the PYD/YPG, backed by the U.S. against the ISIL, as an offshoot of the PKK.

The PKK is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU.

Turkey-US talks intensify to shape Syria withdrawal