Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart, Donald Trump, have discussed the situation in northern Syria over the phone amid rising tensions over the fate of Kurdish fighters in the war-torn country.
The conversation on Monday came a day after Trump threatened on Twitter that he would “devastate” Turkey’s economy if its forces attacked the US-backed Kurdish fighters, who helped Washington in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group.
The war of words between the two NATO allies is the latest consequence of Trump’s surprising decision last month to withdraw US troops from northern Syria, potentially leaving the Kurdish militia under threat as Ankara weighs a new offensive there.
In a statement, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan told Trump he had no problem with Kurds in Syria and that Ankara is only seeking to fight armed groups in the war-ravaged country which threaten its national security.
The two leaders also “discussed the idea of creating a security zone cleared of terrorism in the north of the country”, the statement added.
Trump confirmed this in a tweet later, but referred to the proposed area as a “safe zone”.
He did not gave any details about the safe zone proposal, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington wanted to provide security for those who have fought ISIL and to prevent any attack on Turkey from Syria.