US President Donald Trump has warned Turkey that it faces economic devastation if it attacks Kurds after US troops leave Syria.
Mr Trump said on Twitter: “Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS [Islamic State] territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions.
“Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. A few minutes later he added: “Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. “Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term US policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies.
“We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!”
The US has begun withdrawing military equipment from Syria, but in coming weeks, the contingent of about 2,000 troops is expected to depart.
The president announced the move in December, prompting concerns that Syrian Kurds, who had helped the US fight Islamic State, would be left at the mercy of neighbouring Turkey, which views some of them as terrorists.
Ibrahim Kalin, Turkey’s presidential spokesman, replied, also on Twitter, with a warning for Mr Trump.
He said: “Terrorists can’t be your partners and allies. “Turkey expects the US to honour our strategic partnership and doesn’t want it to be shadowed by terrorist propaganda.
“There is no difference between DAESH [Islamic State], PKK, PYD and YPG. We will continue to fight against them all.”
The PKK is the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PYD is Democratic Union Party established in Syria, and the YPG are the People’s Protection Units – a mainly-Kurdish militia also in Syria.
Efforts to destroy IS in Syria have been dominated by the Syrian Democratic Forces, whose members are mostly Kurds.
But Turkey says the backbone of that alliance – the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) is linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is sees as a terrorist group.
Mr Kalin also said: “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. “Turkey fights against terrorists, not Kurds. “We will protect Kurds and other Syrians against all terrorist threats.”
Meanwhile, the United Nations said that around 25,000 people had fled the violence over the last six months as IS’s last fighters in the country battled to defend their dwindling territory.
Around 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the area around the town of Hajin.