U.S. President Donald Trump praised Turkey as a trading and NATO partner a day after threatening to destroy its economy if it went too far in a military incursion in Syria.
“So many people conveniently forget that Turkey is a big trading partner of the U.S., in fact they make the structural steel frame for our F-35 Fighter Jet,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday.
In fact, the U.S. suspended Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet programme in reaction to Ankara purchasing Russia’s S-400s missile defence system.
Trump also announced Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the U.S. on Nov. 13.
On Sunday, the White House said Turkey “will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” in an abrupt reversal of U.S. policy on Syria, following a phone call between Trump and Erdogan.
Some 50 U.S. troops were being moved away from the border with Turkey.
But faced with a backlash in the U.S. Congress, Trump took an about turn on Monday and next threatened to “totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey,” if it took steps that are “off limits” in its planned incursion into Syria.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which have been the main partner allied with the U.S. in defeating Islamic State, dominate areas in north-eastern Syria and were stunned by the U.S. decision.
“We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters,” Trump tweeted.
“Likewise our relationship with Turkey, a NATO and Trading partner, has been very good,” he continued, but added that “any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will be devastating to their economy and to their very fragile currency.”
Earlier on Tuesday in his first official response to Trump’s tweets, Turkish Vice President Fuat Oktay said: “Our message to the international community is clear. Turkey is not a country that will be moved by threats.”
Turkey was also reinforcing its military posts along the Syrian border, state news agency Anadolu reported, adding that tanks, troops and armoured vehicles have reached the frontier cities of Sanliurfa, Kilis and Gaziantep.
Anadolu said Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have mobilized with several armoured cars and fighters towards the town of Manbij, controlled by U.S.-backed Kurdish militia to the east of the Euphrates River.
The Defence Ministry in Ankara tweeted that “all preparations for the operation have been completed,” adding it is “essential” to create a “Safe Zone/Peace Corridor.”
It was not immediately clear how and when a Turkish military operation in north-eastern Syria would take place. But Erdogan has said the offensive will come “both from land and from air.”
Erdogan has long threatened an invasion, with the aim of pushing back Syrian Kurdish fighters, whom Ankara deems “terrorists,” and relocating millions of Syrian refugees.
Turkey considers the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which lead the SDF, an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Ankara has accused the PKK waging an insurgency within Turkey.
After hours of mixed messaging in Washington, the Pentagon clarified on Monday that the U.S. is not endorsing a Turkish invasion, and an official confirmed that the military had effectively closed off air space in north-eastern Syria to Turkey. (dpa/NAN)