By David Brennan — Newsweek
Turkey’s foreign minister has dismissed President Donald Trump’s threats of an economic blockade if Ankara orders an offensive on U.S. allied Kurdish forces in Syria, stating that the country is not afraid of America.
On Monday, Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey would ignore the threats issued by Trump on Twitter that the U.S. would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds” in the northern part of Syria, The Guardian reported.
“We have said repeatedly we are not scared of and will not be intimidated by any threats,” Cavusoglu said in televised remarks from the capital. “Nothing can be achieved by threatening Turkey economically. We need to look at how we can coordinate together and how we can solve this,” he said, according to Reuters.
Turkey has been fighting a domestic Kurdish insurgency since the 1970s and considers Kurdish militias across the border in Syria to be terrorist organizations.
But the Syrian Democratic Forces—which have proved to be the most effective force against ISIS in the country—are dominated by the Kurdish People’s’ Protection Units (YPG). Washington’s diplomatic, financial and military support of the SDF—and by extension the YPG—has strained ties between Washington and Ankara.
Turkey has already evicted Kurdish fighters from the northwest of the country with a military incursion and has threatened to do the same along the rest of the border area.
Trump’s recent announcement that he would withdraw U.S. forces embedded alongside the Kurds indicated Ankara had the green light to advance, and drew criticisms that the White House was betraying its staunchest local anti-ISIS ally.
But Trump’s announcement seems to have been premature. Though some U.S. equipment has been shipped out of Syria, officials have said the withdrawal will be gradual. As yet, no detailed timetable has been provided.
The apparent vacillation has irked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who last week warned his troops would launch an attack on northern Syria, even if Americans remain in the area.
On Sunday, Trump cautioned Ankara against rash action. He also suggested the establishment of a 20-mile “safe zone” to de-escalate tensions, though did not say where it would be, who would create it, how it would be paid for or how it would be enforced. Cavusoglu said Turkey would not be against such a proposal.
However, the foreign minister said Monday, “Strategic partners, allies, do not hold discussions via Twitter, via social media.”
Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for Erdogan, said Trump must make its relationship with Turkey a priority over the Kurds. “Terrorists can’t be your partners and allies,” he said. “Turkey expects the U.S. to honor our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda.”