Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 November 2019

Turkey’s Erdogan ‘won’t forget’ Trump letter about Syria offensive

The US President said history would look upon his Turkish counterpart as “the devil” if he invaded Syria

A handout photo released by the Turkish President's press office shows Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaking to journalists in Istanbul. AFP
A handout photo released by the Turkish President's press office shows Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaking to journalists in Istanbul. AFP

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he won’t forget a letter sent by his US counterpart Donald Trump telling him not to be a “fool” and start a military operation in northern Syria.

The letter, sent on October 9, was leaked to the press the day before Washington and Ankara reached an agreement on Thursday to suspend the Turkish offensive for five days while Kurdish fighters withdraw from the area.

In one paragraph, Mr Trump tells Mr Erdogan that history will look upon him as “the devil” if he invaded Syria, finishing with: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”

Mr Erdogan’s comments on Friday are his first public reaction to the letter.

Speaking to foreign reporters, he said Turkey would “do what’s necessary” about the letter “when the time comes” but did not elaborate further.

He added: “President Trump’s letter, which did not go hand in hand with political and diplomatic courtesy, has appeared in the media. Of course, we haven’t forgotten it. It would not be right for us to forget it.”

The Turkish president threatened to restart the military operation if the Kurdish fighters refused to withdraw from the “safe zone”, areas at least 32 kilometres away from the Turkish border in north-east Syria.

"If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved. If it fails, the operation... will start the minute 120 hours are over," Mr Erdogan said.

He said Turkish armed forces would remain in the region "because the security there requires this", adding that there had been no issues so far.

But a British-based war monitor said on Friday there were Turkish air strikes on the village of Bab Al Kheir, east of Ras al-Ain on the border. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 14 civilians were killed.

Mr Trump spoke to Mr Erdogan over the phone on Friday, tweeting afterwards that the Turkish president "very much wants" the ceasefire to work.

Updated: October 18, 2019 07:49 PM

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