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US-Turkey relations under threat


Photo courtesy Mikhail Palinchak via Wikicommons

by Megan Leeming

The United States have recently faced intense international criticism after announcing the withdrawal of their forces from the Syrian border with Turkey. The move has been argued to signal American support of the Turkish attack on Kurdish led forces in Syria’s North-East border region.  


President Trump justified the withdrawal in an announcement on Wednesday: “They have a problem at a border. It's not our border. We shouldn't be losing lives over it." He even went as far as to suggest that the impending conflict would serve to benefit America, later stating that some troops will stay behind to protect the oilfields. He rejected the narrative that he supports Turkey’s aggressive actions and countered that he wrote a ‘very powerful letter’ after having a call with the Turkish President that discouraged any conflict.


This letter itself has been the cause of further diplomatic dispute as the language Trump used has been deemed inappropriate for the international stage. Dated October 9th, President Trump threatened to ruin the Turkish economy and told Mr Erdogan: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool”. Turkish presidential sources reported that Erdogan screwed up the letter and threw it in the bin and launched the operation into Syria on the same day, further discrediting the argument that Turkey had American support. 


Last week, Turkey declared a 5-day ceasefire to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from the region and Trump announced on the 24th that it was expected to hold indefinitely. America has lifted the economic sanctions that were put in place on 14th October, which included the reimposition of a 50% tariff on Turkish steel.


The matter, while deemed a ‘big success’ by Trump is by no means settled. American special envoy for Syria, James Jeffery has reported that he has witnessed several war crimes committed against the Kurds by Turkey, raising worrying moral questions. Furthermore, Turkish officials have threatened that the conflict will resume unless America and Russia can guarantee the complete withdrawal of Kurdish forces from the agreed area. 


With at least 120 Syrian deaths, 20 Turkish civilian deaths and over 176,000 people fleeing the violence, many are hoping that Erdogan’s visit to the White House in a month’s time will lead to a continuation of the ceasefire and an improvement of the relations at the border.

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