Syria's Assad: U.S. will sell out those relying on it

BEIRUT, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Syrian President Bashar al-Assad warned on Sunday the United States would not protect those depending on it, in reference to Kurdish fighters who control much of the north.

"We say to those groups who are betting on the Americans, the Americans will not protect you," he said without naming them. "The Americans will put you in their pockets so you can be tools in the barter, and they have started with (it)."

U.S. President Donald Trump declared in December he would pull troops from Syria, raising more questions over the fate of Washington's Kurdish allies under the threat of Turkish attacks.

U.S. forces have long supplied arms and training to the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), led by the Kurdish YPG militia, the main U.S partner in the battle against Islamic State. The U.S. presence helped the SDF seize swathes of north and east Syria, and has also been widely seen as a deterrent against Turkey which has vowed to crush the YPG.

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People spray water on a woman suffering from heat as Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds rest after crossing the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds carry their belongings after crossing the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds gather after crossing the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
A man sprays water on a woman suffering from heat after crossing the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds carry their belongings after crossing the border between Syria andTurkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. Turkey on Friday reopened its border with Syria to Kurds fleeing Islamic State (IS) militants, saying a 'worst-case scenario' could drive as many as 100,000 more refugees into the country.AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds walk by Turkish soldiers after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY SERENE ASSIR A Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) fighters guards a post flying the PKK flag during the ongoing intensive security deployment against Islamic State (IS) militants in the town of Makhmur, southwest Arbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, on August 21, 2014. Kurdish groups from Iraq and three neighbouring countries are putting aside old rivalries to battle jihadist militants, but there are cracks in this newly-forged unity and it may not last. AFP/ PHOTO/AHMAD AL-RUBAYE (Photo credit should read AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds cross the border fence into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds cross the border fence into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds sit in the back of a car after after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds carry their belongings after crossing into Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
Syrian Kurds cross the border between Syria and Turkey near the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province, on September 19, 2014. Several thousand Syrian Kurds began crossing into Turkey on Friday fleeing Islamic State fighters who advanced into their villages, prompting warnings of massacres from Kurdish leaders. AFP PHOTO/ILYAS AKENGIN (Photo credit should read ILYAS AKENGIN/AFP/Getty Images)
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Ankara sees the YPG as a security threat and an extension of the Kurdish PKK movement that has waged an insurgency on Turkish soil for decades.

The U.S. move drove Syrian Kurdish leaders into fresh talks with Damascus and its key ally Moscow, hoping to agree a deal that could protect the SDF region and safeguard at least some of their gains.

"Nobody will protect you except your state," Assad said in a live televised speech on Sunday. "If you do not prepare yourselves to defend your country, you will be nothing but slaves to (Turkey)." (Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Mark Potter)

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