Turkey not deterred by threats, says foreign minister

Mevlut Cavusoglu says economic threats will avail nothing, following Donald Trump saying he would 'devastate' Turkey

Turkey not deterred by threats, says foreign minister

Ankara will not shrink from threats by U.S. President Donald Trump, said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday.

"We have repeatedly said that we are never afraid of threats. Threatening Turkey economically will get you nowhere," Cavusoglu told a news conference with his Luxembourg counterpart Jean Asselborn in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Cavusoglu's remarks came in response to Trump's threat to attack Turkey's economy if Ankara hits the terror group PKK/YPG during the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria.

"Strategic partners" should not communicate through social media, Cavusoglu added, in clear reference to the perennially tweeting U.S. leader.

"[The US] Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds," Trump tweeted on Sunday, conflating “Kurds” with the terrorist PKK/YPG, a confusion that Turkey has repeatedly criticized.

Cavusoglu said Turkey is not the enemy of the Kurdish people, adding that Kurds should not be equated with terrorist organizations. 

He added there is serious pressure on Trump not to withdraw from Syria.

Following the surprise announcement in December that U.S. forces would leave Syria, U.S. officials said withdrawal was conditional on the U.S. not attacking the "Kurds," meaning the terrorist PKK/YPG.

Turkish officials attacked the U.S. conflation of "Kurds" with the terror group, saying a forthcoming Turkish operation in Syria targets a terrorist group which threatens Arabs, Turkmens, and Kurds alike in Syria.

In its 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK has taken some 40,000 lives. The YPG/PYD is its Syrian branch.

Border safe zone, Idlib

Cavusoglu said Ankara is not opposed to a 30-kilometer safe zone inside Syria near Turkey’s border.

"We’re not against this idea. What is our problem? There is a terror corridor beyond our border. There is a terrorist organization that wants to divide Syria. This terrorist organization poses a threat to us. We are targeting this terrorist organization," he added.

About Idlib, Syria, Cavusoglu said that if it becomes a "terrorist nest," the Bashar al-Assad regime and the countries that support it are responsible.

He added that the Idlib deal reached between Turkey and Russia last September, calling for the “stabilization” of Idlib's de-escalation zone, in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited, has been "successfully" implemented despite difficult conditions.

Under the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas where they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will conduct joint patrols in the area with a view to preventing renewed fighting.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.​