Trump, Erdogan discuss secure zone in Syria as Turkey vows to continue fight against Kurdish militia

In a tweet, Trump also warned the Kurdish forces not to “provoke Turkey.” (File/AFP)
Updated 14 January 2019
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Trump, Erdogan discuss secure zone in Syria as Turkey vows to continue fight against Kurdish militia

  • Donald Trump tweeted earlier that it “Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds”
  • Turkey responded to the tweet saying “it is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG”

ISTANBUL/WASHINGTON: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and US President Donald Trump on Monday discussed the establishment of a secure zone in northern Syria cleared of militia groups, the Turkish presidency said in a statement.

Speaking by phone, the two emphasised the need to complete a roadmap regarding Syria's border town of Manbij, as well to avoid giving any opportunity to elements seeking to block the planned withdrawal of US forces from Syria, it said.

Earlier, Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if it attacked a US-allied Kurdish militia in Syria, and proposed the creation of a safe zone.

But Turkey vowed to continue fighting the militia  which it views as a terrorist group.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter that there was "no difference" between the Daesh group and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. "We will continue to fight against them all."

“Mr @realDonaldTrump It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG,” Kalin also wrote on Twitter in response to Trump’s tweet. 

Trump’s decision to pull American troops out of Syria has left the United States’ Kurdish allies vulnerable to an attack from Turkey. Ankara views the Kurdish forces as terrorists aligned with insurgents inside Turkey.

In a tweet, Trump also warned the Kurdish forces not to “provoke Turkey.”

The US withdrawal has begun with shipments of military equipment, US defense officials said. But in coming weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 troops is expected to depart even as the White House says it will keep pressure on Daesh.

Once the troops are gone, the US will have ended three years of organizing, arming, advising and providing air cover for Syrian, Kurdish and Arab fighters in an open-ended campaign devised by the Obama administration to deal the militants, also known as Daesh, a lasting defeat.

“Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining Daesh territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions,” Trump tweeted. “Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”

Trump’s decision to leave Syria, which he initially said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked US allies and angered the Kurds in Syria. It also prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and drew criticism in Congress. Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, called the decision a “betrayal of our Kurdish partners.”


Iraqi forces clear farmland near Baghdad of Daesh militants

Updated 10 min 15 sec ago
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Iraqi forces clear farmland near Baghdad of Daesh militants

  • A military helicopter flew over army units in the area as troops on the ground searched for weapon caches and bombs

TARAMIYAH: Iraqi security forces are sweeping villages and farmland north of Baghdad as part of an operation aimed at clearing remaining militants belonging to the Daesh group from around the country’s capital.
A military helicopter flew over army units in the area as troops on the ground searched for weapon caches and bombs in farmland in Taramiyah on Tuesday. The area is about 50 kilometers, or 31 miles, north of Baghdad.
The dragnet is part of the operation dubbed “Will to Victory,” which started two weeks ago along the border with Syria and was extended last week to areas north of Baghdad and in the Diyala, Salahuddin and Anbar provinces.
Although Iraq declared victory against IS in July 2017, the extremists continue to carry out attacks around the country.