Trump says he prevented Erdoğan wipe out Kurds in Syria

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Saturday that his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had wanted to wipe out Kurds in Syria, who helped United States’ fight against the Islamic State (ISIS), but had given up the idea after Trump had told the Turkish president he could not do it.

“He has a problem with Kurds and everybody knows it,” Trump said about Erdoğan in a press conference in Osaka where the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G-20 summit. “And he had 65,000 men, army, on the border and he was going to wipe out Kurds,” he said.

Referring to Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), Trump said Kurds helped United States to fight against ISIS.

“And I called him, and asked him not to do it. I guess, they (Kurds) are natural enemies of his, or Turkey’s, and he has not done it,” the U.S. president said. “Then I said he (Erdoğan) can not do it”.

Trump announced the withdrawal of U.S. troops in Syria, after Erdoğan said in November that Turkey would launch a military operation against Kurdish forces in Syria on the east of Euphrates River. Washington later said it would only withdraw half of some 2.000 troops in Syria.

Washington and Ankara has been negotiating for months the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria along the Turkish border.

Trump said the two NATO allies are also working together on Idlib province, the last major rebel-held enclave in Syria.

Turkey and Russia in September agreed on a deal on Idlib. Turkey assumed the responsibility to create a demilitarised buffer zone and remove extremist fighters such as those belonging to Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), one of the most powerful opposition groups remaining in the province.

Syria and ally Russia intensified air raids and artillery fire in late April against HTS and other jihadist groups in Idlib, which is home to around three million internally displaced people according to UN figures. 

“We are working on Idlib province. Because he (Erdoğan) did not want to see three million people killed, neither do I, in Syria,” Trump said. 

Trump said he had talked also with the Russian President Vladimir Putin about the situation in Idlib. “They have 30,000 terrorists in Idlib province. Getting terrorists is ok. But you cannot kill three million people to get terrorists,” he said.