Erdoğan adviser says Trump's letter 'not taken seriously at the time'

A senior adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday said President TrumpDonald John TrumpStates slashed 4,400 environmental agency jobs in past decade: study Biden hammers Trump over video of world leaders mocking him Iran building hidden arsenal of short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq: report MORE’s recently released letter to the NATO ally was “not taken seriously at the time” due to the way it was worded, calling it “absolutely irrelevant.”

The letter, dated Oct. 9 — days after the Trump administration announced the U.S. pullout from northeastern Syria — urged Erdoğan not to launch an offensive into the country against Kurdish forces that the U.S. had backed in the fight against ISIS.

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“It was a leaked old letter, which was not taken seriously at the time, especially given its lack of diplomatic finesse,” Gülnur Aybet told NPR's Steve Inskeep. “The response to that letter was the start of the operation.”

Trump warned Erdoğan in the letter not to be a “tough guy” or a “fool,” and threatened sanctions on the nation should it attack the Kurds. The president also urged Erdoğan to come to the table so they could “work out a good deal,” but Turkey ignored the request.

Asked whether the Turkish government didn’t take Trump seriously because the way his letter was worded, she replied, “Yeah.”

“The way the letter was worded and what it was expecting us to do, to actually take account of a terrorist leader, almost like an equal party to a NATO ally was ridiculous. ... You can see how irrelevant the letter is because we moved on so much from there,” she said.

She added that the U.S. delegation led by Vice President Pence and Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoUS, Sudan to exchange ambassadors for first time in decades Iran expert: Trump's foreign policy approach aimed at instigating 'unrest' Fox's Napolitano says obstruction 'easiest' impeachment offense for Democrats MORE that came to Ankara on Wednesday and engaged in extensive negotiations on Thursday “are addressing the situation one week after we started the operation so we’ve really moved on considerably since this letter was sent, it’s absolutely irrelevant.”

Aybet also said the Trump administration’s request for a cease-fire “is not realistic at this stage,” and denied Turkey started the offensive. She said her country had no choice as the Kurdish forces have been “launching terrorist attacks … for a very long time now.”

Trump’s letter was made public Wednesday afternoon ahead of the scheduled meeting in Ankara between Erdoğan and the U.S. delegation.

Trump — who has faced mounting criticism of his decision to pull back U.S. forces in Syria — has since imposed sanctions on Turkey over the military offensive.

But 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.