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Trump appears to confuse the Kurds of Syria and Iraq in a meeting with the president of Iraqi Kurdistan

President Trump and Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, hold bilateral talks Wednesday at the 50th World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
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President Trump met with Nechirvan Barzani, president of Iraqi Kurdistan, on Wednesday on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

During their encounter, Trump focused on praising the Kurds of Syria.

“As you know, we left Syria from the standpoint of the border,” said Trump, seated beside Barzani. “And that’s worked out great with Turkey. It’s worked out far better than anyone thought possible. They have the so-called safe zone, and I appreciate everything you’ve done to keep it as safe as possible.”

Barzani’s Iraqi Kurdish regional government has not been involved in plans for a safe zone along the Syria-Turkey border in areas claimed by Syria’s Kurds. The Kurds of Syria are geographically and politically distinct from the Kurds of Iraq. Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria are all home to Kurdish populations.

Who are the Kurds, and why is Turkey attacking them?

Trump’s also appeared to refer to his decision to pull U.S. troops from northeastern Syria in October, a move that paved the way for a Turkish invasion of the area and threatened Syria’s Kurds, who were key U.S. partners in the fight against the Islamic State.

In his brief remarks, Trump thanked the Kurds for holding thousands of Islamic State prisoners and fighting in the coalition that ousted the extremist group from its strongholds in Iraq and Syria. While Kurds in both countries were instrumental in those efforts, Syria’s Kurds have borne the brunt of securing tens of thousands of captured alleged fighters and their families.

Inside Syria’s teeming ISIS prisons: Broken men, child inmates and orders to break free

Trump has come under fire before for his characterizations of the Kurds. During a news conference in 2018, he referred to Kurdish journalist Rahim Rashidi as “Mr. Kurd.”

Rashidi at the time said he actually appreciated the nickname because it asserted his Kurdish identity. A year later, however, after the U.S. troop withdrawal from northeastern Syria, he told the Associated Press that Trump had abandoned his people.

‘Hello, this is Mr. Kurd’: Reporter wears Trump’s moniker proudly

Earlier Wednesday, the White House’s official YouTube channel initially listed Trump as having met with the president of Iran at Davos, when in fact it was Iraqi President Barham Salih. The caption has since been corrected.

The United States and Iran almost went to war this month after Washington killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who was viewed by Washington as a terrorist and was held responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers. The two countries have no formal diplomatic relations.

Read more:

Fact-checking Trump on the Kurds: Yes, they are more unsafe now. No, they aren’t more threatening than ISIS.

Trump keeps dismissing Syria as just ‘sand.’ Experts say that’s wrong — ‘and just sad.’

A brief history of the Syrian Democratic Forces, the Kurdish-led alliance that helped the U.S. defeat the Islamic State

Actually, President Trump, some Kurds did fight in World War II