Donald Trump warns Recep Tayyip Erdogan in direct call against mistreating the Kurds

January 14, 2019 GMT

President Trump had a call Monday with Recep Tayyip Erdogan and warned the Turkish president against mistreating the Kurds.

The start Saturday of the U.S. military withdrawal from Syria raised concerns about an escalation of Turkey’s longtime hostility toward Kurds, who were key U.S. allies in the fight against Islamic State.

“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,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford will meet with Turkish counterparts to continue consultations about Syria, she said.

When the gradual U.S. pullout got underway, Mr. Trump warned in a tweet that the U.S. would “devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds.”

The first steps of the pullout included removing equipment but not troops. The administration has sent mixed signals about how fast the troops would come home.

In the call, Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan also discussed other bilateral issues, Mrs. Sanders said.