Erdogan's spokesperson hits back at Trump threats on Twitter

Erdogan's spokesperson hits back at Trump threats on Twitter
Erdogan's spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin responded to a threat Trump made to Turkey on Twitter.
3 min read
14 January, 2019
Ibrahim Kalin responded to an inflammatory tweet by Trump [Getty]

Turkey on Monday vowed to continue fighting a US-backed Kurdish militia - which it views as a terrorist group - despite Donald Trump's warnings of economic devastation if Ankara attacks the US-backed groups.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Twitter that there was "no difference" between the Islamic State group and the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia. 

"We will continue to fight against them all."

It follows threats by Turkey to invade areas of northern Syria controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces - which YPG fighters are a part of - following a planned US withdrawal.

There has been a Turkish troop build-up in areas around the SDF territories, as Ankara waits for the American troops to withdraw.

A number of President Donald Trump's former allies resigned over the American leader's announcement last month that US troops would soon leave Syria.

Since then, Washington has backtracked on Trump's pledge, slowing the pace of the withdrawal, while also warning Ankara against heavy-handed tactics against the SDF - who are still engaged in a war against the Islamic State group.

Turkey's response came after Trump on Sunday warned on Twitter: "[The US] will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds."

Kalin fired back at the president with a tweet of his own.

"Mr @realDonaldTrump Terrorists can't be your partners & allies. Turkey expects the US to honor our strategic partnership and doesn't want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda."

Turkey views the YPG as a "terrorist offshoot" of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state since 1984.

The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist organisation by Ankara, the United States and the European Union.

But Washington has been working closely in recent years with the YPG, providing military support and training, in the fight against IS in Syria.

Kalin said that it was "a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK", saying that Turkey fought against terrorists not Syrian Kurds.

American support to the YPG has been one of the main sources of tension between Turkey and the US, but there appeared to be some improvement on the issue after Trump said last month 2,000 American troops would withdraw from Syria. 

Ankara welcomed the pullout decision after Erdogan told Trump in a phone call last month that Turkey could finish off the last remnants of IS.

However, there has been growing friction between Turkey and the US over the fate of the YPG, especially after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously said Washington would ensure Turkey would not "slaughter" Kurds.

And before a visit to Ankara last week, White House National Security adviser John Bolton said the US retreat was conditional on the safety of the Kurdish fighters, provoking angry retorts from Turkish officials.