Pompeo discusses United States drawdown in Syria with Turkish counterpart

Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media caption Syria war On the frontline with US troops fighting IS

US President Donald Trump has threatened to "devastate Turkey economically" if it attacks Kurdish forces in Syria following a planned pullout of US troops.

"Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds", Trump tweeted, while pushing for the creation of a 20-mile "safe zone".

Seeking to quell concern about the USA troop withdrawal from Syria, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday described the American exit as a "tactical change" in military strategy that wouldn't deter efforts to defeat ISIS or hurt US interests in the region.

Turkey, however, regards the People's Protection Units (YPG) as terrorists.

The pullout was reportedly sparked after a phone conversation between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is also expected to travel to Saudi Arabia.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called his Turkish counterpart Saturday to discuss Syria, a conversation that comes at a time of increased tensions between the two North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies over the planned US withdrawal from that country.

What did Mr Trump say?

The US military, Trump promised, will still use an "existing nearby base", apparently in Iraq, to attack the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants if the terrorist organization re-emerges in Syria.

Turkey says the weapons are ultimately transferred to the PKK - designated as a terror group by the U.S., Turkey and the European Union - and used against Turkey. "Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey", he said in a second tweet.

President Trump shocked allies and faced strong criticism at home last month when he ordered United States forces to immediately begin withdrawing from the approximately 30% of Syria controlled by the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) alliance.

After speaking with his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, Pompeo had said he was "optimistic that we can achieve a good outcome", though details were being worked out.

On Saturday, more than 600 people were evacuated from the remaining Isis holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said, as US-backed fighters prepared for a final assault on the area.

But, he added, "we also know that those fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well".

Mr Pompeo said the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria was a "tactical change" but the mission to destroy Islamic State and counter Iran's influence remained the same.

After media reports suggesting the departure of United States forces had begun, the Pentagon later said no troops had yet withdrawn and stressed that the battle against ISIS was continuing as US-backed forces try to capture the group's last remaining pockets of territory in Syria.

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