President Donald Trump and Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the situation in northern Syria just one day after Trump threatened to “devastate Turkey economically” if the NATO-allied country attacks Kurds in the region.
In a statement, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan told Trump he had no problem with Kurds in Syria and that Ankara is only seeking to fight armed groups in the war-ravaged country which threaten its national security.
The two leaders also “discussed the idea of creating a security zone cleared of terrorism in the north of the country”, the statement added.
For her part, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement: “The President expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS,” referring to another acronym of ISIL terror group.
Sanders noted that Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford will meet with his Turkish counterpart on Tuesday “to continue consultations” on Syria.
“Gen. Dunford is scheduled to meet with his Turkish counterpart this week on the sidelines of the NATO Military Committee in Chiefs of Defense Session, which will be held Jan. 15-16 at the NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium,” Col. Patrick Ryder, a spokesperson for Dunford told CNN.
Later Monday, Trump confirmed the phone call in a tweet.
“Spoke w/ President Erdogan of Turkey to advise where we stand on all matters including our last two weeks of success in fighting the remnants of ISIS, and 20 mile safe zone. Also spoke about economic development between the U.S. & Turkey – great potential to substantially expand!” he wrote.
The conversation on Monday came a day after Trump threatened on Twitter that he would “devastate” Turkey’s economy if its forces attacked the US-backed Kurdish militants.