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Trump Threatens Turkey With 'Economic Devastation' If Kurds Are Attacked
ISTANBUL/RIYADH (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump threatened Turkey with economic devastation if it attacks a U.S.-allied Kurdish militia in Syria, drawing a sharp rebuke from Ankara on Monday and reviving fears of another downturn in ties between the NATO allies.
Relations between the United States and Turkey have long been strained by Washington's support for the Kurdish YPG, which Turkey views as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) that is waging a decades-long insurgency in Turkey.
Speaking in Riyadh, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he did not think the threat would change plans to withdraw troops from Syria. Asked what Trump meant by economic devastation, he said: "You'll have to ask the president."
"We have applied economic sanctions in many places, I assume he is speaking about those kinds of things, Pompeo said, adding he had not spoken with Ankara since Trump's comment.
Trump said on Sunday the United States was starting the military pull-out from Syria that he announced in December but that it would continue to hit Islamic State fighters there.
"Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone...Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey," Trump wrote on Twitter.
Ankara is well aware of the cost of strained ties with the United States. A diplomatic crisis last year, when Trump imposed sanctions on two of President Tayyip Erdogan's ministers and raised tariffs on Turkish metal exports, helped push the Turkish lira to a record low in August.
The lira <TRYTOM=D3> slid as much as 1.6 percent to 5.5450 against the dollar and stood at 5.52 at 1122 GMT on Monday.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Trump should respect Washington's alliance with Ankara.
"Mr @realDonaldTrump It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the US terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG," spokesman Ibrahim Kalin wrote on Twitter.
"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," he said on Monday.
SAFE ZONE PROPOSAL
Trump gave no details about the safe zone proposal, but Pompeo said Washington wanted to provide security for those who have fought against Islamic State and to prevent any attack on Turkey from Syria.
"If we can get the space and the security arrangements right it would be a good thing for everyone in the region," Pompeo added said.
Trump announced last month he would withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, declaring they had succeeded in their mission to defeat the Islamic State group and were no longer needed.
However, U.S. officials have given mixed messages since then. The U.S.-led coalition said on Friday it had started the pullout but officials said later it involved only equipment, not troops.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara was not against the idea of a secure zone along the border, but said strategic partners and allies should not communicate over social media.
"Nothing can be achieved by threatening Turkey economically. We need to look at how we can coordinate together and how we can solve this," he said in a news conference with Luxembourg's foreign minister.
The Kurdish YPG has been a U.S. ally in the fight against the jihadists and it controls swaths of northern Syria. Erdogan has vowed to crush it in the wake of Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of the region.
Erdogan's communications director Fahrettin Altun said: "Turkey will continue its anti-terror fight decisively" and that it was a protector of the Kurds, not their enemy.
"Terror is terror and it must be eradicated at its source. This is exactly what Turkey is doing in Syria," he wrote on Twitter.
Turkey has swept YPG fighters from Syria's Afrin region and other areas west of the Euphrates river in military campaigns over the past two years. It is now threatening to strike east of the river, which it has avoided until now - partly to avoid direct confrontation with U.S. forces.
An official from the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a coalition of militias led by the YPG, said on Sunday Islamic State militants were "living their final moments" in the last enclave they hold near the Iraqi border.
(Additional reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen, Tulay Karadeniz in Ankara, Stephen Kalin in Riyadh; Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Angus MacSwan)
WATCH: Turkey Welcomes The F-35
Police arrest suspected terrorist for 1985 hijacking in which Navy diver Robert D. Stethem was murdered
ATHENS (Reuters) - Greek police have arrested a 65-year-old Lebanese man suspected of involvement in the 1985 hijacking of a Trans World Airlines (TWA) plane in which a U.S. navy diver was killed.
A Greek police official said on Saturday the suspect had disembarked from a cruise ship on the island of Mykonos on Thursday and that his name came up as being wanted by German authorities.
The last time the world saw Marine veteran Austin Tice, he had been taken prisoner by armed men. It was unclear whether his captors were jihadists or allies of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad who were disguised as Islamic radicals.
Blindfolded and nearly out of breath, Tice spoke in Arabic before breaking into English:"Oh Jesus. Oh Jesus."
That was from a video posted on YouTube on Sept. 26, 2012, several weeks after Tice went missing near Damascus, Syria, while working as a freelance journalist for McClatchy and the Washington Post.
Now that Tice has been held in captivity for more than seven years, reporters who have regular access to President Donald Trump need to start asking him how he is going to bring Tice home.
SAN DIEGO — John Timothy Earnest didn't hide his smirks as he sat in a San Diego courtroom on Thursday, watching surveillance video of Lori Gilbert-Kaye being shot down inside the lobby of a Poway synagogue.
Earnest also smiled as a synagogue congregant testified about running toward the shooter, screaming "I'm going to kill you!" and seeing the gunman "with a look of astonishment or fear" turn and run.
Earnest, 20, is facing one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder in the shootings at Chabad of Poway on April 27. He also faces an arson charge related to an Escondido mosque fire in March, when several people who were sleeping inside escaped unharmed.
Sometimes a joke just doesn't work.
For example, the Defense Visual Information Distribution Service tweeted and subsequently deleted a Gilbert Gottfried-esque misfire about the "Storm Area 51" movement.
On Friday DVIDSHUB tweeted a picture of a B-2 bomber on the flight line with a formation of airmen in front of it along with the caption: "The last thing #Millenials will see if they attempt the #area51raid today."
ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey is ready to act on its southern border with Syria, President Tayyip Erdogan said, after warning that it could take unilateral steps if the U.S. does not establish a "safe zone" in northeast Syria this month.
"Our preparations along our borders are complete," Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul on Saturday before departing to attend a U.N. General Assembly meeting.