Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has dismissed President Donald Trump’s threats of crippling sanctions against his country over its invasion of northeastern Syria, suggesting that the president’s erratic policy is symptomatic of a confused and directionless administration.
Speaking with Zeinab Badawi onBBC’sHARDtalkshow on Friday, Cavusoglu once again rejected all criticism of Turkey’s military operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces—a coalition of militias led by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) which Turkey regards as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which it considers a terrorist group.
Hundreds have been killed and hundreds of thousands of people forced from their homes in the past week, as Turkish forces and their proxy fighters invaded the Turkish-Syrian border region seeking to establish a “safe zone” there.
Trump’s withdrawal of the U.S. forces protecting the Kurds allowed Erdogan to launch the operation, but the White House has since condemned the operation and threatened crippling sanctions against Turkey if it does not halt the invasion.
Cavusoglu said such erratic decision making and confused messaging is not helping the situation. Laughing, the foreign minister said that in the space of “five minutes” Trump sends multiple tweets on various issues—including Turkey.
Cavusoglu added that there are multiple different messages coming out of Washington. “Different voices, different positions are coming from the United States, because of the differences between the administration, the State Department, Pentagon, and this and that.”
Regardless, Cavusoglu said his country never requested any green light for the Syria operation. Rather, he told Badawi, Turkey had attempted to work with the U.S. to create a safe zone in the border region. He claimed that because the U.S. and the Kurds did not “honor their commitments,” Ankara had no choice but to launch its operation.
As for the sanctions, which Trump has claimed could “swiftly destroy” Turkey’s economy, Cavusoglu said he was not concerned. “Even after those statements, it has been very stable. We have taken enough measures,” he said.
“Our national security concern is above everything,” Cavusoglu added. He suggested Turkey’s security concerns in the region were entirely legitimate and that the government expectedits alliesto recognize this.
“If they prefer to continue this language of threatening, frankly speaking we are not afraid of this,” Cavusoglu continued. “We are not afraid of the sanctions.”
Cavusoglu did note that any sanctions on Erdogan or his family would scupper the president’s planned visit to Washington, D.C., which Trump has said is planned for November.