Donald Trump pens letter to Turkey's Erdogan, but is rejected

Letter released as US House of Representatives rejected Trump’s withdrawal from Syria

U.S. President Donald Trump holds a joint news conference with Italy's President Sergio Mattarella in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., October 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan threw away a letter from US President Donald Trump urging negotiations on Ankara’s invasion of north-east Syria.

The letter, dated October 9 – the day Turkish troops entered Syria and a day after Mr Trump said he was pulling American soldiers back – urged the Turkish president: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool.”

But reports from the BBC say Mr Erdogan received the letter, thoroughly rejected it and put it in a bin.

In the letter, the president appealed to him to halt the offensive and warned of dire consequences if he did not.

"Let's work out a good deal," Mr Trump wrote. "You don't want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people and I don't want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy – and I will.

"History will look upon you favourably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don't happen."

A large bipartisan majority in the US House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to oppose US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from Syria and to prevent Turkish military operations against the Kurdish forces.

The statement, issued by the House as a rebuke of Mr Trump’s approach since Turkey announced its military incursion into Syria, was supported by 354 members and opposed by 60.

The resolution also called on Turkey to halt its military incursion into Syria.

The large bipartisan support behind the resolution is an indication that it will pass the Senate next.

Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer repudiated Mr Trump’s approach.

“We are witnessing the collapse of years of American foreign policy in the Middle East,” Mr Schumer said.

But Mr Trump appeared defiant on Wednesday, praising his strategy and defending his decision to withdraw US troops.

He also made an eyebrow-raising accusation against the Kurdistan’s Workers Party, claiming it was “more of a terrorist threat” than ISIS.

Mr Trump also hinted that Turkey is not opposed to ISIS as much as the US and the Syrian regime.

“Russia, Iran, Syria and to maybe a slightly lesser extent Turkey, they all hate ISIS as much as we do,” he said.

The statements could undermine talks in Turkey led by US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as they try to pressure Mr Erdogan to declare a ceasefire.

But in comments published in the Turkish press on Wednesday, Mr Erdogan said that is something he would never do.

The US Congress was increasing pressure on Turkey with another sanctions bill to be introduced later on Wednesday.

Congresswoman Liz Cheney announced her bill that would target arms sales to Ankara.

The bill would also sanction Mr Erdogan, Vice President Fuat Oktay and prominent ministers, and it calls for a report from Mr Trump revealing the Turkish leader’s net worth.

It targets "each official of the government of Turkey and any foreign person that the president determines knowingly sells or provides financial, material or technological support to, or knowingly conducts a transaction with, the Turkish Armed Forces", the bill read.

But Mr Trump has the power to override these sanctions, which exclude intelligence activities.