by WorldTribune Staff, January 15, 2019
Amid recent tension over the fate of American-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria, U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Jan. 14 discussed the creation of a “security zone” in north Syria.
Trump and Erdogan, in a telephone conversation, “discussed the idea of creating a security zone cleared of terrorism in the north of the country,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement.
Trump also noted the conversation with Erdogan in a post on Twitter: “Spoke w/ President Erdogan of Turkey to advise where we stand on all matters including our last two weeks of success in fighting the remnants of ISIS, and 20 mile safe zone. Also spoke about economic development between the U.S. & Turkey – great potential to substantially expand!”
The phone conversation between Trump and Erdogan came one day after the U.S. president had threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if it were to attack the Kurdish YPG after the U.S. withdraws its troops from Syria.
On Jan. 13, Trump said the United States was starting to withdraw its forces from Syria but those remaining would continue to hit ISIS if need be.
“Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone … Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey,” Trump tweeted.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin tweeted in response: “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. There is no difference between DAESH (ISIS), PKK, PYD and YPG. We will continue to fight against them all.”
The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are led by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a mostly Kurdish militia. The U.S. makes a distinction between the YPG and the PKK, but Turkey does not and has more than once expressed its outrage over the American support for YPG, which it views as a terrorist organization.
On Jan. 12, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he was “optimistic” that a way could be found to protect the Kurds while allowing Turkey to “defend their country from terrorists” following the U.S. pullout from Syria.