Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday said he returned U.S. President Donald Trump’s Oct. 9th letter back to the president in which Trump wrote to Erdogan “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool” to urge the Turkish president to halt Turkey’s cross-border offensive into northeast Syria.
The revelation was one of many bizarre moments from the highly anticipated and controversial visit of Turkey’s authoritarian leader.
In October, Trump threatened to “obliterate” Turkey’s economy, and Trump sent Erdogan a letter on the day the offensive started warning him he could be responsible for “slaughtering thousands of people”.
“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump wrote.
The letter was released as Trump battled to control political fallout after his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from northern Syria, clearing the way for Turkey’s operation against Washington’s Kurdish allies.
In another odd moment, Trump encouraged Erdogan to call on a Turkish journalist for a question. “Would you like to pick somebody?” Erdogan responded in Turkish, and Trump said: “A friendly person from Turkey, friendly. Only friendly reporters. We like to see, there aren’t too many of them around.”
The moment was noteworthy as Trump, who only took questions from right-wing news outlets OANN and Fox News, indirectly highlighted Erdogan’s crackdown on freedom of the press in Turkey.
Lindsey Graham reportedly joked to ABC’s Jonathan Karl during the press conference, “There aren’t any others left.”
Trump also sparked controversy when he said he believes Erdogan has “a great relationship with the Kurds.”
“Many Kurds live currently in Turkey, and they’re happy and taken care of,” Trump added, “including health care and education and other things.”
Trump’s eagerness to pull U.S. forces out of Syria also aligned with Erdogan’s plan to send troops across the border to drive back the Kurdish YPG. The U.S. has since signalled it has evidence of war crimes committed by Turkish-backed forces in Syria.
Erdogan has previously said he could no longer keep up with Trump’s blizzard of tweets.
Erdogan said Washington was not right to propose that Ankara get rid of the Russian S-400 missile defences it purchased, calling it an infringement of sovereign rights, according to Turkish media.
Trump urged Erdogan to abandon the S-400 systems that began arriving in Turkey in July despite threats of sanctions from Washington.
Asked after his meeting with Trump whether Turkey would consider not activating the S-400s, Erdogan told reporters Ankara cannot harm its relations with Russia. He also again held out the option of buying…
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