U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will ask Turkey on Thursday to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, a day after President Trump threatened heavy penalties over the operation.
Turkey’s week-long strike has turned into a new humanitarian crisis in Syria, with 160,000 civilians retreating, a security alert over thousands of Islamic State fighters deserted in Kurdish jails, and a political storm at home for Trump.
Trump has been accused of leaving Kurdish fighters, who were Washington’s foremost partners in the fight to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing soldiers from the border as Turkey started its attack on Oct. 9.
After a phone call with Erdogan, who has declined calls for a ceasefire or agreement, Trump dispatched top aides along with Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara for emergency talks about attempting to persuade Turkey to halt the assault.
Pence will meet Erdogan around 1130 GMT, while Pompeo and several other officials are expected to meet counterparts. A top aide to Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, met National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien Wednesday and mentioned he conveyed Turkey’s position.
On Wednesday, Trump stated he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a “profitable meeting”, however, warned of penalties and tariffs that “will jeopardize Turkey’s economy”. Kalin stated that Turkey’s foreign department was preparing to retaliate against the U.S. sanctions.
Trump’s critics say the U.S. sanctions to this point, along with a hike to metal tariffs, a pause in trade discussions, and sanctions on the defense and power departments had been too slow.