Erdogan vows to 'crush the heads' of Kurdish forces if no pullout

ISTANBUL, Turkey (UPDATED) – President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, October 19, warned that Turkey would "crush the heads" of Kurdish forces if they did not withdraw from a proposed safe zone along the border under a US-brokered deal.

If the pullout does not happen by Tuesday, October 22 evening, "we will start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists' heads," Erdogan said in a televised speech in the central Anatolian city of Kayseri.

Turkey has agreed to suspend its Syria offensive for 5 days and to end the assault if Kurdish-led forces withdraw from the proposed safe zone away from the border, after talks with US Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara.

Erdogan also provided some details from his talks with the Americans, adding that Ankara agreed to the 120-hour time deadline after its initial demand of "one night" for the withdrawal.

"If the promises given to our country are not kept, as we did in the past we will not wait and restart the operation as soon as the time we have given ends," he said.

The Turkish leader said he also informed US President Donald Trump of Ankara's position during a phone call late Friday, October 18.

Erdogan is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next Tuesday, which overlaps with the end of the 120-hour deadline.

Ankara considers Syrian Kurdish YPG militants to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) – a group that has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for 35 years.

'No intention to stay'

While US President Donald Trump appeared to initially greenlight the offensive, he made repeated threats against Turkey, often in tweets, following international outrage.

He then sent Pence and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with other US officials to Ankara to thrash out a deal, which was announced on Thursday after hours of talks.

Erdogan said the proposed "safe zone" would be 32 kilometers (20 miles) deep, and 444 kilometers in length, and patrolled by Turkey.

He added that the region between the border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain had been cleared, "but this is not over. The process is ongoing".

Pointing to a map, he said 12 observation posts would be set up to monitor the zone.

But, he said, "We have no intention to stay there. This is out of the question."

Just hours before the US-Turkey talks, a letter seen by many as bizarre appeared in the US media from Trump to Erdogan, in which the US leader urged Erdogan not to be a "fool" and warned his Turkish counterpart that history risked branding him a "devil."

Erdogan said Friday the letter was not in line with "political and diplomatic courtesy... but our mutual love and respect does not allow us to keep it on the agenda." (READ: Turkey-led strikes kill 14 civilians in northeast Syria)

He also said he hoped the deal would become a "milestone" and "new beginning" in Turkish-US relations fraught by a series of issues including American support for the Kurdish militants in Syria. – Rappler.com