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Feb 07 2019

Trump ruined plan to sabotage U.S.-Turkish relations, Erdoğan says

Turkey’s relations with the United States have been saved thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of north Syria, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said at a meeting with Turkish and U.S. businesspeople at the presidential compound in Ankara on Thursday.

The Turkish president has in recent years aimed harsh criticism at the United States, which he has frequently accused of collaborating with enemies of Ankara. U.S. forces are currently deployed in north Syria alongside the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia Turkey views as a terrorist organisation.

Last year, as the Turkish lira plummeted in part due to a feud with the United States over a detained U.S. pastor, Erdoğan said his NATO ally was waging “economic war” on Turkey.

However, the Turkish president appeared to be satisfied that those issues were in the past as he hosted businesspeople from the American-Turkish Council (ATC) and U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday.

“The latest initiative by Trump in particular to withdraw from north Syria has ruined the plans of those who had been working to sabotage U.S.-Turkish relations,” Erdoğan said.

The U.S. troops had been deployed in support of the YPG, which took a leading role in the U.S.-backed coalition against the Islamic State.

Trump has said that, with the Islamic State largely defeated, he intends to pull out of the region and hand over the fight against the Islamic State to Turkey.

“Turkey is ready to take over the fight against terror in the areas the United States withdraws from,” Erdoğan said.

However, U.S. lawmakers have expressed concern this will mean an invasion of northern Syria primarily aimed at expelling the YPG. The plans for the U.S. withdrawal remain unclear as a result, with no timeline announced as of Feb. 7.

Erdoğan was keen at the meeting to stress that his administration did not target Kurds as a people, but the YPG as an organisation.

He added that the United States had supplied arms and financial support to this organisation, saying this amounted to providing aid to terrorists.

“A true friend will tell the truth even if it is bitter,” Erdoğan said. “I ask my American friends to relay these facts to the (U.S.) people.”