Trump Threatens to 'Devastate Turkey Economically if They Hit Kurds'

Erdogan's spokesman fires back: 'Terrorists can't be your partners and allies'

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, July 11, 2018.
\ POOL New/ REUTERS

U.S. President Donald Trump on Sunday warned Turkey not to conduct an offensive against Kurdish troops in northern Syria.

"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," Trump added. He also suggested the creation of a "20 mile safe zone."

"Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey," Trump said in another tweet.

>> Trump made a fatal error. Turkey is incapable of taking on ISIS, even if Erdogan wanted to | Opinion ■ Erdogan rejoiced at Trump's Syria pullout. Then he realized it was Trump | Analysis ■ Is Trump about to become the third U.S. leader to betray the Kurds?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman responded on Monday, saying Turkey expected the United States to honor their strategic partnership.

Relations between the two NATO allies have been strained over U.S. 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 U.S. terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG," spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter. 

"Terrorists can't be your partners & allies. Turkey expects the U.S. to honor our strategic partnership and doesn't want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda," he said. 

Trump announced the withdrawal of 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria last month. Ankara postponed a planned offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, but still pledged to pick up the battle against the Islamic State group after the U.S. withdrawal.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that the fight against Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) does not depend on "anybody's permission," and threatened to strike the Kurds should Trump not follow through with his announced withdrawal.

“If the [pullout] is put off with ridiculous excuses like Turks are massacring Kurds, which do not reflect the reality, we will implement this decision,” Cavusoglu said, referring to Turkey's threat to launch an incursion into Kurdish controlled Syria.

The YPG in Syria fought alongside the United States against Islamic State extremists. But Ankara regards the YPG, which controls territories on the border with Turkey, as a terrorist organization linked to insurgents of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) inside Turkey.