Trump warns Turkey against attacking Kurds

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US President Donald Trump has threatened to "devastate Turkey economically" if it attacks Kurdish forces in Syria following a planned pullout of US troops. "Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms", the President tweeted on Sunday.

"Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds", Trump said on Twitter, suggesting that there would be a 20-mile safe zone around the group after United States forces leave.

Mr Trump gave no details as to who would create, enforce or pay for this safe zone.

"Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey", the president wrote.

"Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long-term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies".

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

"Stop the ENDLESS WARS!" he added.

But a US defense official has denied that it was withdrawing any troops from Syria, telling VOA the initial stages of the pull-out involve "equipment, not troops".

The delay has restricted Turkey's ability to launch an offensive against the YPG, a group of Kurdish fighters it considers terrorists, but who served as allies to the USA coalition to defeat Islamic State. Washington and Ankara also sparred over the fate of American Presbyterian minister Andrew Brunson, who was convicted in Turkey of aiding terrorism, and who Ankara was forced to extradite after Trump exerted unprecedented economic pressure.

On December 19, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders announced that the USA started to pull out its troops from Syria.

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"There is no difference between DAESH [Islamic State], PKK, PYD and YPG". "They understand that there are squabbles in Washington, but their mission remains, their duties continue and they're executing them".

Islamic State militants are "living their final moments" in the last enclave they hold near the Iraqi border, where US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces are attacking them, an SDF official says.

Turkey views the US-backed YPG Syrian Kurdish militia as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has waged a 34-year insurgency in Turkey for Kurdish political and cultural rights, mostly in southeastern areas near Syria.

Mr @realDonaldTrump It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the USA terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG.

Turkey, however, remains firmly committed to removing what they call a Kurdish "terrorist" threat coming from the Euphrates River valley, and is actively preparing for a possible cross-border operation.

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