Published: Mon, January 14, 2019

Trump threatens to devastate Turkey's economy if it attacks Kurds

Trump threatens to devastate Turkey's economy if it attacks Kurds

The SDF, a coalition of militias led by the Kurdish YPG, have driven IS from a swathe of northern and eastern Syria with the help of the US-led coalition over the past four years.

The president announced the move in December, prompting concerns that Syrian Kurds, who had helped the USA fight Islamic State, would be left at the mercy of neighbouring Turkey, which views some of them as terrorists.

The announcement of a pullout is fueling concern about how quickly the US will abandon its Kurdish allies, amid contradictory statements recently by Trump administration officials on an exit timetable. Previously Washington said that it would not disclose a timeline for the withdrawal of its troops, and pledging that the US-led global coalition's fight against terrorism would continue.

The US president also warned that it "will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds".

DAMASCUS, Jan 13 - The Syrian government hopes dialog with Syrian Kurdish groups will intensify, a minister said on Sunday, signaling support for talks the Kurds hope will lead to a political deal between two of the main players in the multi-sided war. He proposed creating a 20-mile safe zone to protect the Kurds.

Relations between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies have been strained over United States backing for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) waging a decades-long insurgency on Turkish soil.

"They are living the final moments and realize that this battle is the battle to eliminate them", said Mustafa Bali, SDF media office head.

In a Sunday evening tweet, the president wrote that he is "Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions". "Will attack [ISIS] again from existing nearby base if it reforms".

Mr Trump also said that Russia, Iran and Syria had been the biggest beneficiaries of USA action in Syria and it was time to bring American soldiers home.

But, he added, "we also know that those are fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well".

Rami Abdel Rahman from the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said several dozen jihadist fighters were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-Arab alliance.

The United Nations said on Friday 25,000 people had fled the violence over the past six months as jihadists defend their dwindling bastions.

Around 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the area around the town of Hajin.

A spokesman for the US -led coalition said the SDF were making "great progress ... but the fight continues".

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