Trump threatened sanctions on Turkey in the letter dated Oct. 9 and urged Erdoğan to come to the table so they could “work out a good deal.”
The letter was shared on Twitter by Fox Business host Trish Regan. A White House official confirmed its authenticity to The Hill.
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a copy of @realDonaldTrump’s letter to #Erdogan. @POTUS warns him to not “be a tough guy! Don’t be a fool!” Says he could destroy Turkey’s economy if #Syria is not resolved in a humane way. Details tonight at 8pm #TrishRegan #FoxBusiness pic.twitter.com/9BoSGlbRyt
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) October 16, 2019
The letter was sent shortly before Turkey began its invasion of territory in northern Syria held by U.S.-allied Kurdish forces last week. Trump has since imposed sanctions on Turkey over the military offensive.
“Let’s work out a good deal! 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 wrote.
The president said he had already given Turkey a “little sample,” referencing sanctions imposed on Ankara over the imprisonment of American pastor Andrew Brunson. Turkey eventually freed Brunson last October and the U.S. lifted the sanctions.
“I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal,” Trump wrote in the letter to Erdoğan.
Trump referenced conversations with Kurdish general Mazloum Kobani Abdi, who leads the Syrian Democratic Forces, saying he “is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past.”
“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,” Trump wrote, ending the letter with a promise to call Erdoğan “later.”
Trump referenced the letter at a press conference with the Italian president earlier Wednesday, while dismissing characterizations that he gave Turkey the “green light” to launch a military offensive by withdrawing U.S. troops from northern Syria. Trump also said he could release the letter, calling it “very powerful.”
“I didn’t give him a green light,” Trump told reporters in the East Room. “They’ve been wanting to do that for years and, frankly, they’ve been fighting for many, many years.”
Trump has faced mounting criticism of his decision to pull back U.S. forces in Syria, which was abruptly announced by the White House late on Sunday, Oct. 6, after he held a call with Erdoğan.
Critics, including several Republicans, have accused Trump of paving the way for the Turkish military operation against Syrian Kurds — who Ankara considers a terrorist group — and abandoning Kurdish forces, a key ally in the fight against ISIS.
Trump has robustly defended his move over the past week, and administration officials have worked to counter the narrative that the withdrawal served as a green light to Turkey.
Trump also announced sanctions on Turkey on Monday, and Vice President Pence is leading a U.S. delegation to Ankara to meet with Erdoğan about the prospect of a cease-fire.