US President Donald Trump has claimed that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ready to make a deal with Kurdish groups in Syria, in a confusing television exchange on the coronavirus yesterday.
When Trump was asked about the issue of social distancing – a practice used and enforced around the world in a bid to prevent infections of the virus – he used the conflict and dealings between Turkey and the Syrian Kurdish militias as an example.
In an interview with the US news channel Fox News yesterday, he said that “With Turkey – I give this as an example – and Syria, I said ‘sign a deal with the Kurds, make peace.’ Erdogan, he didn’t want to – he’s a man who loves Turkey, and I have a very good relation – I said ‘sign a deal.’ He didn’t really want to, the Kurds didn’t really want to. And it went on, you know, the so-called safe zone… All of a sudden they start fighting…and it was vicious and other countries got involved. Now I say: ‘let’s sign a deal,’ and they said ‘OK, we’ll sign a deal.’”
Trump bizarrely compares his decision to recommend social distancing guidelines to Erdogan signing a deal with the Kurds, as both leaders didn't want to do it but felt obligated to pic.twitter.com/2yenI3B5l8
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) March 24, 2020
The incident Trump mentioned was the lead-up to and commencement of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring in north-east Syria. This third military incursion by Turkey into Syria – launched on October 9 and aimed to both push back the US-backed Kurdish militias such as the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the Turkish-Syrian border and establish a 32 kilometre-deep safe zone to house around two million Syrian refugees – was the issue that Trump attempted to explain.
Apart from having little or nothing to do with the US’ handling of the spread of coronavirus, Trump also claimed that Turkey struck a deal with the Kurdish militias in Syria as the operation ended, but there was, in fact, no such deal between them but only a deal between Turkey and Russia. Trump’s comments sparked confusion between journalists regarding the comparison and caused speculation on whether he is fit for office as US president.
Some of his other bizarre comments in the interview included his plan to have the strict preventative measures implemented in the US lifted by Easter on 12 April – less than three weeks away – and to have “packed churches all over our country.”
This is despite top health officials, the World Health Organisation, and his closest advisors warning against such a move at an early stage, predicting that the outbreak and spread of the virus would not be curbed by then.