President Donald Trump on Wednesday released a copy of a letter he sent last week to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, urging him to avoid bloodshed with the Kurds.
While Trump has faced criticism that his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria would risk abandoning U.S.-allied Kurds ahead of a Turkish military offensive, Trump said during a Wednesday press conference that he had never given Erdogan a “green light” to attack the Kurds. An Oct. 9 letter to Erdogan from Trump was provided to Fox News, confirming Trump’s calls on Erdogan to negotiate with Kurdish leaders.
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a copy of @realDonaldTrump’s letter to #Erdogan. @POTUS warns him to not “be a tough guy! Don’t be a fool!” Says he could destroy Turkey’s economy if #Syria is not resolved in a humane way. Details tonight at 8pm #TrishRegan #FoxBusiness pic.twitter.com/9BoSGlbRyt
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) October 16, 2019
“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,” Trump said, threatening U.S. economic sanctions on Turkey if Erdogan persisted towards bloodshed with the Kurds.
Trump alluded to previous U.S. sanctions against Turkey to pressure the release of detained U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson.
Prior to the letter, Trump reportedly spoke with Erdogan by phone on Oct. 6. The Turkish government pushed for months to negotiate a buffer zone along the Turkish-Syrian border. Before the U.S. troop withdrawal, U.S. and Turkish forces had conducted joint air reconnaissance and ground patrols to lay out an example for how the buffer zone would be enforced.
The Turkish proposal for a buffer zone turned to a demand in mid-September as Turkey posted a two-week deadline for U.S. forces to establish the secure region of northern Syria or make way for the Turkish military. Trump’s early October decision to withdraw U.S. forces appeared to confirm with Turkey’s timeline.
Trump’s letter appeared to show almost immediate concerns about the Turkish military offensive despite moving forward with the withdrawal of U.S. troops. Turkey has indeed had a contentious relationship with various Kurdish forces despite ostensibly sharing an ally in the U.S.
Turkey has labeled certain Kurdish militias as terrorist groups.
Along with enforcing a buffer zone, the Turkish offensive was also launched to “neutralize terror threats,” according to Fox News.
“You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you,” Trump’s letter said, suggesting Turkey negotiate with the Kurdish forces, instead of fighting.
Trump attached a letter he received from Mazloum, purporting to reinforce the willingness of Kurdish forces to make concessions with the Turkish government.
“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you as the forever as the devil if good things don’t happen,” Trump said before ending with a call to Erdogan, “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”
Trump claimed the letter was proof that he never gave a “green light” for Turkish attacks on the Kurds, before offering to share that letter with reporters.
Trump has indeed followed through with his promised sanctions against Turkey.
Despite further defending his decision to withdraw troops on Wednesday in an effort to stop “endless wars,” Trump has dispatched Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence to Turkey to negotiate a ceasefire with the Turkish government.
Erdogan has not yet appeared to respond favorably to U.S. sanctions or Trump’s demanding letter. According to separate Fox News reporting, Erdogan simply threw Trump’s letter in the trash.