Vice president of Turkey Fuat Oktay on Tuesday signaled Turkey’s unwillingness to heed American warnings not to encroach on Syrian territory.
“Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits,” Oktay said.
U.S. president Trump announced on Monday that American forces would pull back from the Turkish-Syrian border region in anticipation of a Turkish invasion of the area. Oktay said Turkey intends to take over territory within Syria in order to resettle millions of Syrian refugees who fled their country’s civil war and have since been living in limbo in Turkey.
Trump on Monday threatened to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy should the country do anything he considered to be “off limits,” in response to criticisms from domestic critics on both sides of the aisle who suggested the withdrawal of troops amounted to an American sanctioning of Turkish aggression.
Oktay, in his Tuesday comments, reiterated Turkey’s plans to combat Kurdish fighters in the region despite Trump’s warnings. The heavily Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces, which controls the region of northern Syria that Turkey pans to annex, fought in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, however Turkey considers the SDF a terrorist organization, citing the SDF’s ties to Kurdish militants within Turkey.
Trump has faced heavy criticism in Washington for essentially leaving the Kurds open to attack from Turkey by pulling U.S. troops out of the region, with much of that criticism coming from fellow Republicans.
“If I didn’t see Donald Trump’s name on the tweet, I thought it would be Obama’s rationale for getting out of Iraq,” said Senator Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) on Fox and Friends on Monday.
The SDF released its own statement saying, “We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against a Turkish invasion.