Riyadh: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that President Donald Trump’s threat to devastate NATO ally Turkey’s economy if it attacks US-backed Kurdish fighters in Syria underscores America’s commitment to its partners.
Pompeo said he had yet to speak with Turkish officials or Trump about the president’s tweeted threat and that he assumed Trump was referring to the imposition of sanctions should Turkey take military action against the Kurds in Syria, US allies in the fight against Daesh.
Pompeo said Trump’s call for a 20-mile safe zone between Turkish forces and the Kurds was consistent with what the US is trying to achieve in talks with the Turks. But, he said it remained it work in progress.
“We want to make sure that the folks who fought with us to take down the caliphate and Daesh have security and also that terrorists ... (in) Syria aren’t able to attack Turkey, those are our twin aims,” he told reporters in Riyadh after talks with Saudi officials.
“If we can get a space, call it a buffer zone ... if we can get the space and the security arrangements right, this will be a good thing for everyone in the region,” Pompeo added.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the US will “attack again from existing nearby base if it (Daesh) reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”
Trump’s decision to leave Syria, which he initially said would be rapid but later slowed down, shocked US allies and angered the Kurds in Syria.
Pompeo said he had not spoken with his Turkish counterpart since the president’s tweet, but said the US message on the Kurds has been straightforward and unchanged since Trump made the decision to withdraw US troops from Syria last month.
“The administration has been very consistent with respect to our requirement that the Turks not go after the Kurds in ways that are inappropriate,” Pompeo said.
“If they are terrorists, we’re all about taking down extremists wherever we find them. I think the president’s comments this morning are consistent with that.”
Asked specifically about what Trump meant by devastating Turkey’s economy, Pompeo replied: “We apply sanctions in many places around the world. I assume he’s speaking about those kinds of things but you would have to ask him.”