August 22, 2019
World News

Turkey: Trump threat will not work

Turkey has dismissed President Donald Trump’s threat to “devastate” its economy if it attacks Kurdish forces in Syria following a planned pullout of US troops.

“You cannot get anywhere by threatening Turkey economically,” Foreign Minister Nevlut Cavusoglu said.

US forces have fought alongside a Kurdish militia in northern Syria against the Islamic State (IS) group.

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

In December Mr Trump announced that the US would pull out all troops from Syria because the Islamic State militant group had been “defeated”.

The sudden move shocked allies and led to criticism. Several senior US military officials resigned shortly afterwards.

There were also fears that Kurds in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had partnered with the US, would be attacked by Turkey once the US withdrew.

What was Mr Trump’s threat?
Mr Trump tweeted on Sunday that the withdrawal from Syria had begun, and that the US would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit the Kurds”.

He also said any remaining IS fighters could be attacked from the air, and that a 20-mile (32km) “safe zone” could be established.

His tweet could be seen as a response to criticism that his decision to withdraw troops will hurt the US’s regional allies.

Mr Trump offered no specifics on how the US could hurt Turkey’s economy, and his announcement appeared to catch his advisers by surprise.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is currently touring the Middle East, responded to questions about Mr Trump’s threat with: “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.”

Meanwhile, Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described Mr Trump’s tweet as a “domestic policy message” to critics.

Can the US actually hurt Turkey’s economy?
Mr Cavusoglu has rejected Mr Trump’s threats, saying: “We have said multiple times that we will not fear or be deterred by any threat.”

He also criticised Mr Trump’s methods, saying: “Strategic alliances should not be discussed over Twitter or social media.”

However, US sanctions have had an impact on Turkey’s economy before.

The Trump administration imposed sanctions and trade tariffs in August, amid a row over a detained US pastor – contributing to a sharp drop in the value of the Turkish lira. Pastor Andrew Brunson was released in October.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said Turkey expected the US to “honour our strategic partnership”.

“Terrorists can’t be your partners and allies,” he said.

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