Turkey Rejects Trump’s Threats Amid Conflicting U.S. Signals Over Syria Offensive

A graffiti of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk is seen on the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019. Turkey’s vice president Fuat Oktay says his country won’t bow to threats in an apparent response to U.S. President Donald Trump’s warning to Ankara about the scope of its planned military incursion into Syria.(AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

Turkey’s vice president said Tuesday that his country would “not react to threats,” as it prepared to mount a military offensive against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria, a day after President Donald Trump warned that he would destroy Turkey’s economy if the offensive did not meet with his approval.

“When it comes to the security of Turkey, as always, our president emphasized Turkey will determine its own path,” the vice president, Fuat Oktay, said in a speech at a university in Ankara, the Turkish capital. He referred to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has vowed to create a “safe zone” in a lengthy swath of Syrian territory along Turkey’s border.

Erdogan and other Turkish officials have suggested for days that the military operation could begin at any moment. Turkish troop convoys have headed to the border, and local media outlets have published details of what they say is the battle plan. Turkey’s Defense Ministry wrote Tuesday on Twitter that all its preparations for the operation were complete.

But there was no sign yet that Turkish troops were moving forward, as the United Nations and aid agencies warned of potentially catastrophic humanitarian consequences, and as the Trump administration delivered confusing signals about how it views Turkey’s plans to attack a Syrian-Kurdish force that partnered with the U.S. military to fight the Islamic State militant group.

In a White House statement on Sunday and tweets on Monday, Trump suggested that U.S. troops would step aside as Turkey conducted its military operation.