Turkey says will not be ‘intimidated’ by Trump threats over Kurdish militia

Ankara: Turkey on Monday said it would not be intimidated by threats after US President Donald Trump warned of devastating economic consequences over any attack on Kurdish forces, but indicated Ankara was open to the idea of a security zone in Syria.

“We have said repeatedly we are not scared of and will not be intimidated by any threats,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, adding: “Economic threats against Turkey will get nowhere.”

Trump on Sunday warned via Twitter that the US would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds” in the wake of the US troop pullout from Syria.

Cavusoglu hit out at Trump’s use of social media. “Strategic partners, allies do not hold discussions via Twitter, via social media,” he told reporters.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin earlier vowed Ankara would continue to fight against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia despite Trump’s warnings.

Cavusoglu added that Turkey was “not against” a “security zone” in Syria, during a press conference in Ankara with his Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn.

Trump had also pushed for the creation of a 30-kilometre (20-mile) “safe zone” in his tweet but offered no details on who would create, enforce or pay for it, or where it would be located.

“What is our concern? There is a terror corridor on the other side of our border, a terror organisation that wants to divide Syria and this terror organisation is a threat to us. We are targeting this terror organisation (YPG),” Cavusoglu added.

American military support to the YPG has been a major source of tension between Turkey and the United States because Ankara accuses Washington of working with a “terrorist offshoot” of Kurdish insurgents fighting against the Turkish state since 1984.

The YPG has spearheaded the fight against the Islamic State extremist group in Syria.

But for Turkey, the YPG is the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK is blacklisted as a terror group by Ankara, the US and the European Union.

But when Trump announced he would pull out 2,000 American troops, the NATO allies’ relations appeared to be back on track with Erdogan welcoming Trump’s move.

Since then, comments by US officials including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in support of protecting Kurdish fighters have provoked angry retorts from Ankara.