RIYADH, SAUDI ARABIA—U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Monday that President Donald Trump’s threat to devastate NATO ally Turkey’s economy if it attacks U.S.-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, U.S. allies in the fight against the Daesh group.
On Sunday, Trump tweeted that the U.S. will “attack again from existing nearby base if it (IS) 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 U.S. allies and angered the Syrian Kurds.
Pompeo said the U.S. message on the Kurds has been straightforward and unchanged since Trump made the decision to withdraw U.S. 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.”
Trump’s tweet drew a sharp response from Ankara and the Turkish lira lost some 0.84 per cent of its value against the dollar on Monday following the U.S. president’s threat.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman responded to Trump on Twitter by saying that Turkey “fights against terrorists, not Kurds” as a people. “Terrorists can’t be your partners & allies,” the spokesman, Ibrahim Kalin, said.