–Trump warns Erdogan of destroying Turkey’s economy, says history will remember him as ‘devil’ if ‘good things don’t happen’
WASHINGTON: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan put US President Donald Trump’s letter “in the bin”.
In the letter dated 9 October, and sent after US troops were pulled out of Syria, Trump told Mr Erdogan: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”
President Trump was urging Turkey not to launch a military offensive against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria, but Erdogan ignored this request.
US Vice President Mike Pence is now in Ankara to push for a ceasefire.
The US has faced intense criticism for the withdrawal of troops, which critics say gave Turkey the green light to launch the military attack.
In recent years, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance has been a critical ally to the US in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria.
There are fears that the destabilisation of northern Syria could lead to a jihadist resurgence.
The SDF is dominated by the members of a Kurdish militia called the People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Turkey says the YPG is an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a rebel group fighting for Kurdish autonomy in the region.
What did Trump’s letter say?
In his letter to President Erdogan, Mr Trump wrote: “Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will.
“History will look upon you favourably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen.”
In response, Turkish presidential sources told BBC Turkish: “President Erdogan received the letter, thoroughly rejected it and put it in the bin.”
Earlier on Wednesday, President Trump said the US should not be intervening in Turkey’s military operation in Syria because it is “not our border”, and called the former US allies the Kurds “no angels”.
“They have a problem at a border,” he told reporters at the White House. “It’s not our border. We shouldn’t be losing lives over it.”
The president also said he thought the situation on the Turkey-Syria border was “strategically brilliant” for the US.
“Our soldiers are out of there. Our soldiers are totally safe. They’ve got to work it out. Maybe they can do it without fighting,” he said.
“We’re watching and we’re negotiating and we’re trying to get Turkey to do the right thing, because we’d like to stop wars regardless.”
On the Kurds, he added: “They fought with us. We made a lot of money for them to fight with us, and that’s okay. They did well when they fought with us. They didn’t do so well when they didn’t fight with us.”
Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels launched the offensive in northern Syria last week.
The aim, Turkey said, was to push YPG fighters back from the border, and to create a “safe zone” where up to two million Syrian refugees could be resettled.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group, said on Wednesday that 71 civilians had been killed in Syria since the beginning of the operation.
However, the health authority of the Kurdish-led administration in the region put the civilian death toll at 218 on Thursday.
At least 185 SDF fighters, 164 pro-Turkish rebels and nine Turkish soldiers have also been killed in the fighting, according to the SOHR.