The Oct. 9 letter was released by the White House on Wednesday as Trump battled to control the political damage following his decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, clearing the way for the Turkish incursion against America’s Kurdish allies.
The letter tried to persuade Erdogan to reverse a decision to invade Syria that Erdogan told Trump about in an Oct 6 phone call.
“Let’s work out a good deal!” Trump said. “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.”
Trump had the letter released to bolster his view that he did not give Turkey a green light to invade Syria. Many lawmakers have been sharply critical of his decision to remove American forces from the conflict zone.
“I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal,” said Trump in the letter.
The president wrote that the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, General Mazloum Kobani Abdi, was willing to negotiate and to make some concessions.
He said he had confidentially enclosed to Erdogan a copy of a letter Mazloum had sent him.
“History will look upon you favorably 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. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” said Trump.
He added: “I will call you later.”
There are some reports that Erdogan threw Trump’s letter in the trash after receiving it.
Asked about the letter, a Turkish official told Reuters: “The letter Trump sent did not have the impact he expected in Turkey because it had nothing to take seriously.
“What is clear is that Turkey does not want a terrorist organisation on its border and the operation will not stop because of the reaction that has been coming.”
The letter’s release comes as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence meet with Erdogan in Turkey on Thursday as part of a mission to persuade him to halt an offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria.
Turkish officials have said the action would continue regardless.
Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish-led fighters, Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Ankara launched its offensive on Oct. 9.
Trump defended his move as “strategically brilliant.” He said he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a successful meeting, but warned of sanctions and tariffs that “will be devastating to Turkey’s economy” otherwise.
A top aide to Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, said Turkey’s foreign ministry was preparing to retaliate for the sanctions by its NATO ally.