U.S. President Donald Trump has said that his decision to recommend social distancing to Americans could be compared to that of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan “signing a deal” with the Kurdish Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), as both leaders did not want to do it but felt obligated to.
Trump said on March 24 during a Fox News interview that he wants the country’s economy re-opened in weeks amid questions over how long people should stay home and businesses should remain closed to slow the spread of coronavirus.
He said that although he was not “happy about it,” he previously felt obliged to issue coronavirus-related restrictions amid the rising death toll stemming from the virus, and he compared Turkey’s military operation in Syria and its agreeing to a ceasefire with the Kurds to his encouragement of social distancing. He said that he had no other option but urge the nation to follow social distancing guidelines, as Turkey had no other option, but to agree to a ceasefire with the YPG.
Turkey has never signed a deal with the YPG, but agreed in two separate accords signed with the U.S. and Russia in October to suspend its operation on the Kurdish-led forces.
“I was not happy about it [about issuing coronavirus restrictions]. Also I knew that I had to do it. Look. With Turkey, I give this as an example, in Syria. I said [to Turkey] ‘Sign a deal with Kurds, make peace.’ Erdoğan did not want to. He is a man who loves Turkey. I have a good relation [with him]. I said [to him] ‘Sign a deal.’ He really didn’t want to. The Kurds did not really want to. And it [fighting] went on…All of a sudden they started fighting, fighting, fighting, fighting. And it was vicious. Other countries got involved. Now I say ‘Let’s sign a deal.’ They said ‘Ok, we’ll sign a deal.’ We needed a period,” Trump said.
Turkey launched a military operation into northern Syria on Oct. 9, 2019, aiming to clear the region of the YPG, a group Ankara considers as “a terrorist group” due to it links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey never signed a direct ceasefire deal with the YPG, but on Oct. 17, 2019, it agreed to pause its assault at the request of the U.S. to facilitate the withdrawal of YPG forces from the Turkish-controlled safe zone. Later on Oct. 22, 2019, it struck a deal with Russia, which expanded on the U.S.-brokered truce.