Trump threatens to 'devastate' Turkish economy over Syrian Kurds

Nellie Chapman
January 14, 2019

Turkey views some Kurdish groups in the region as terrorist organizations and Kurds make up the majority of US-allied fighters operating in Syria in the civil war against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

The speech sought to lay out the Trump administration's strategy for the Middle East and criticized former U.S. President Barack Obama, without naming him, for "fundamental misunderstandings" about the Middle East.

President Trump's unexpected announcement last month that troops would leave the country has fueled fears that a power vacuum could strengthen ISIS and cede influence in the region to Iran and Russian Federation.

Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Mr Pompeo said the United States recognised "the Turkish people's right and Mr Erdogan's right to defend their country from terrorists".

"Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions".

But, he added, "we also know that those are fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well".

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the U.S. withdrawal plans.

Turkey, however, regards the People's Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists.

Trump's decision to leave Syria, which he initially said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked United States allies and angered the Kurds in Syria.

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US President Donald Trump on Sunday warned Turkey 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.

Sousan said intensified dialog was important when set against challenges, "especially the expansionist ambitions that lead the policies of the Turkish regime".

What has Mike Pompeo said?

Turkey considers the PKK a terrorist group and there are fears Turkey will attack Kurdish fighters inside Syria when the Americans leave.

Special representative for Syria Jim Jeffrey, a former USA envoy to Turkey and Iraq, is expected to return to Turkey to continue discussions, Pompeo added.

Trump's hasty announcement in December of a US exit from the war-torn country has caused confusion among allies and adversaries alike, and it also led to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

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Pompeo also spoke about the partial government shutdown, which has become the nation's longest. "They understand that there are squabbles in Washington, but their mission remains, their duties continue and they're executing them".

The tour includes Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Oman and Kuwait.

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