Europe is braced for an escalation of violence in Syria as Turkey promised not to bow to US threats over its planned invasion after the Americans pull out troops.

President Donald Trump has said the US will step aside for an expected Turkish attack on Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.

Turkish vice president Fuat Oktay said his country would not bow to threats over its Syria plans, an apparent response to Mr Trump’s warning to Ankara about the scope of its planned military incursion into north-eastern Syria.
Mr Trump’s statements have reverberated on all sides of the divide in Syria and the Middle East and also UK would be “complicit in the US President’s decision to stab our Kurdish allies in the back”amid fears that Turkish troops will move into northern Syria. where Turkey is viewed as an ally.

In Ankara, Turkish vice president Fuat Oktay said Turkey was intent on combatting Syrian Kurdish fighters across its border in Syria and on creating a zone that would allow Turkey to resettle Syrian refugees there.

Mr Oktay said: “Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits.” 

Labour former minister Kevin Brennan said Donald Trump’s plans for US troops to step aside for an expected attack on the Syrian Kurds are a “moral betrayal” and a “strategic error”, with MPs hearing it could set back the fight against terror group Islamic State.

Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have been allies in the fight against IS, warned that Washington’s abrupt decision to stand aside - announced by the White House late on Sunday - will overturn years of achievements in the battle against IS militants.

In the UK, MPs have hit out at the decision and called for a tougher stance from the Government, with some fearing UK-made weapons could be used against the Kurds.

The Government insists it opposes any incursion from Turkey, and that they will use “leverage” as an ally to oppose this.

Speaking in the Commons, Tory MP Julian Lewis (New Forest East) said: “Saying ‘Oh well, it’s only a withdrawal of 50 people’ is like saying it’s only the withdrawal of HMS Endurance before the invasion of the Falkland Islands.”

He added: “If the green light is given to Turkey, under its Islamist regime, to attack our allies, it will be an act of treachery and betrayal not dissimilar to what happened in 1944 when Stalin basically gave the green light to Hitler to crush the Warsaw uprising.”

Foreign Office Minister Andrew Murrison replied: “We would oppose any incursion by our good friend and Nato ally Turkey into Syria.”

Mr Brennan said: “Essentially, we will be complicit in the US President’s decision to stab our Kurdish allies in the back. It’s not just a moral betrayal, it’s a strategic error.”

Dr Murrison said: “We are not complicit with any action the US may or may not take. This is a matter for the US. We have made our position absolutely clear.”
He added: “We are shoulder to shoulder with the SDF and our coalition partners in the battle against Daesh.”

Tory chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Tugendhat said: “Here we’ve found ourselves surprised by the actions of our most important ally and our allies on the ground surprised at the possibility they may find their homes under very serious threat from one of our other more important military allies in Turkey.

“Will the minister please assure me that our other allies in the region are being assured that the UK will not make a pattern of being fair-weather friends but will actually commit to our allies seriously and properly?”

Labour MP Luke Pollard (Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport) asked whether British-built weapons would be used in any invasion.

Dr Murrison said a “great deal of heart-searching” is going on to make sure “what we have done in the past is correct, and is correct going forwards”.

He said he is “confident” the right processes have been followed.

Tory former leader Iain Duncan Smith said: “Can we make it very clear publicly, not just to the Americans, that we disapprove of this, but more importantly to the Turks that, if they do carry out their threat, that we will consider this to be an aggressive act against ourselves as much as we would against the Kurds?”
SNP Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman Stephen Gethins branded Mr Trump’s policy “ill thought- out” and a “blatant betrayal”.

Tory former Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell said: “Britain must take responsibility for its own nationals and not use some device to evade that responsibility.

“Nor must we leave them swilling around in ungoverned space where they could do ill in countries less well governed than this one, but where they are also a danger to the people in this country.”

Calling for a change of policy, he added: “We may well be talking about approximately 40 people here, of whom maybe as many as 30 are children.”

Dr Murrison replied: “Minors need to be handled properly and humanely and that will be our intent.”

Labour’s Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) said: “I’m afraid the Kurds are being stabbed in the back once again, as they have so many times in the past, and we do have a responsibility and we should stand up to it.”

Meanwhile, in the Syrian capital of Damascus, deputy foreign minister Faisal Mekdad called on the country’s Kurds to rejoin the government side after apparently being abandoned by their US allies.

Mr Mekdad’s comments were the first Syrian reaction since Mr Trump’s announcement on Sunday and as north-eastern Syria braces for an imminent Turkish attack on Syrian Kurdish militias.

Mr Trump’s statement has infuriated the Kurds, who stand to lose the autonomy they gained from Damascus during Syria’s civil war, now in its ninth year.

“The homeland welcomes all its sons and Damascus will solve all Syrian problems in a positive way, away from violence,” Mr Mekdad claimed in an interview with the pro-government daily Al-Watan.

President Bashar Assad’s government abandoned the predominantly Kurdish area in northern Syria at the height of Syria’s civil war to focus on more key areas where the military was being challenged by the rebels.

The US began working with the Syrian Kurdish fighters after the emergence of the so-called Islamic State group.

The Syrian government “will defend all Syrian territory and will not accept any occupation of any land or iota of the Syrian soil,” Mr Mekdad said about the expected Turkish incursion.

The Syrian Kurdish force has pledged to fight back, raising the potential for an eruption of new warfare in Syria.

“We will not hesitate for a moment in defending our people” against Turkish troops, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said in a statement, adding that it has lost 11,000 fighters in the war against the Islamic State group in Syria.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the US-backed predominantly Kurdish force that fought IS invited Mr Trump to come see the progress the force and the US made in north-eastern Syria.

“We have more work to do to keep ISIS from coming back & make our accomplishments permanent. If America leaves, all will be erased,” he tweeted, referring to the IS group by an alternative acronym.

Turkey, which considers Kurdish fighters in Syria terrorists and links them to a decades-old insurgency in Turkey, has already launched two major incursions into northern Syria over the past years.

The first was in 2016, when Turkey and Syrian opposition fighters it backs attacked areas held by the IS group west of the Euphrates River.

Last year Turkey launched an attack on the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin, leading to the displacement of some 300,000 people.

A day after threatening Turkey with economic ruin if it goes too far in invading northern Syria, Mr Trump said that he and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet at the White House next month.

On Tuesday, Mr Trump sent a series of tweets that stirred confusion about the US-Turkey relationship.

He sent tweets defending Ankara as a big trading partner of the US, supplier of steel for F-35 fighter jets.

“We may be in the process of leaving Syria, but in no way have we Abandoned the Kurds, who are special people and wonderful fighters,” Mr Trump said.

“Likewise our relationship with Turkey, a NATO and Trading partner, has been very good.

“Turkey already has a large Kurdish population and fully understands that while we only had 50 soldiers remaining in that section of Syria, and they have been removed, any unforced or unnecessary fighting by Turkey will be devastating to their economy and to their very fragile currency. We are helping the Kurds financially/weapons!”

Mr Trump said he would welcome Mr Erdogan to the White House on November 13.