News World Pence to urge Turkey to halt Syria offensive as threat of further...

Pence to urge Turkey to halt Syria offensive as threat of further sanctions loom

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will urge Turkey on Thursday to halt its offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria, a day after President Donald Trump threatened heavy sanctions over the operation.

Turkey’s week-long assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 160,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Islamic State fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.

Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish fighters, who were Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Turkey launched its offensive on Oct. 9.

Trump defended his move on Wednesday and called it “strategically brilliant”.

Following a phone call with Erdogan, who has rejected calls for ceasefire or mediation, Trump dispatched top aides including Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara for emergency talks to try to persuade Turkey to halt the offensive.

Pence will meet Erdogan around 1130 GMT, while Pompeo and other officials are expected to hold talks with counterparts. A top aide to Erdogan, Ibrahim Kalin, met National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien on Wednesday and said he conveyed Turkey’s position.

On Wednesday, Trump said he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a “successful meeting”, but warned of sanctions and tariffs that “will be devastating to Turkey’s economy” otherwise. Kalin said that Turkey’s foreign ministry was preparing to retaliate to the U.S. sanctions.

Trump’s critics say the U.S. sanctions so far, including a hike to steel tariffs, a pause in trade talks, and sanctions on the defence and energy ministries, were too soft.

On Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said they could be broadened, while Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives also indicated a sanctions legislation.

Erdogan has dismissed the sanctions and rejected a global chorus of calls to halt the offensive, which Turkey says will create a “safe zone” extending 20 miles (32 km) into northeast Syria to ensure the return of millions of Syrian refugees and clear the area of Kurdish fighters Ankara views as terrorists.

Erdogan said Turkey would end its operation when Kurdish forces withdraw from the “safe zone”, adding that “no power” can deter Ankara’s operation until it reaches its goals.

LAND-RUSH

Trump has defended his move to withdraw troops from Syria as part of a wider effort to bring U.S. soldiers home from “endless wars”, despite being excoriated by members of his own Republican Party. Trump’s decision to withhold protection from Syrian Kurds upended five years of U.S. policy.

It has also created a land-rush between Turkey and Russia – now the undisputed foreign powers in the area – to partition the Kurdish areas that were formerly under U.S protection.

Turkey’s operation has also allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to redeploy his forces to an area that had been beyond his control for years in the more than eight-year Syrian war. It also prompted the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), of which the Kurdish YPG is the main element, to strike a deal with Damascus.

SDF Commander Mazloum Kobani said on Wednesday Trump did not object to the deal cut between the Kurdish forces and Damascus.

Turkey views the U.S.-backed YPG as a terrorist organisation because of its link to Kurdish militants waging an insurgency inside Turkey, and has been infuriated with Washington’s support.

Russia, Assad’s most powerful ally, has called the offensive “unacceptable” and said it must be limited in time and scale. In a rare criticism of Turkish policy on Syria, Moscow said Turkish troops had the right to temporarily go up to a maximum of 10 km into Syria, under a 1998 agreement between Damascus and Ankara.

A Reuters cameraman along the Turkish border with Syria said clashes continued around the border town of Ras al Ain and that Turkish war planes were heard flying overhead after a lull in fighting overnight.

Ankara had previously said it has taken control of Ras al Ain and Tel Abyad, two key towns along the border.

Syrian troops, accompanied by Russian forces, have meanwhile entered Kobani, a strategic border city and a potential flashpoint for a wider conflict, said the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the war.

Lebanon’s al-Mayadeen TV reported that Russian-backed Syrian forces had also set up outposts in Raqqa, the one-time capital of Islamic State’s caliphate, which the Kurds captured in 2017 at the peak of their campaign with U.S. support.

The White House, fighting the domestic political damage and perhaps trying to demonstrate the president’s efforts to stop the offensive, released a Trump letter to Erdogan from Oct. 9 that said: “Don’t be a tough guy” and “Don’t be a fool!”

Turkish broadcaster CNN Turk, quoting sources, said Turkey had rejected Trump’s appeal to reach a deal to avoid conflict, saying the letter was “thrown in the trash”.

Erdogan, who has forged close ties with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin through defence and energy cooperation, as well as joint efforts for a political solution to the Syrian crisis, will travel to Sochi on Oct. 22 for emergency talks on Syria.

(Reuters)

Top Stories

Eight new coronavirus cases detected out of 2,893 tests

The Ministry of Health has announced that 8 new cases of the SARS-CoV-II virus were detected in Cyprus over the past 24 hours out...

Omonia: 60 people to self-isolate due to covid case

Omonia's delegation, that travelled to Athens for the first match with Olympiakos in Faliro in the context of the Champions League playoffs (0-2 defeat),...

Two journalists stabbed near Charlie Hebdo’s old offices – France opens anti-terror probe

France opened an anti-terror investigation after two journalists were stabbed in Paris on Friday near the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine...

UK’s Tesco blocks bulk-buying of toilet roll and flour

Britain's biggest supermarket Tesco will prevent customers from bulk-buying flour, pasta, toilet rolls and anti-bacterial wipes to prevent a re-run of the COVID-19 stockpiling...

COVID-19: Average age in Cyprus is 39 (tables)

Here are the infographics, by the Ministry of Health, with statistics on the course of the coronavirus until September 22nd. The average age in...

Taste

Sheftalies

Sheftalies, a very tasty dish from the charcoal grill, are minced meat shaped into small sausages and wrapped in “panna” (suet). Panna is a...

Spicy grilled soutzoukakia

Place all ingredients for soutzoukakia in a bowl and mix well, preferably using a food processor, until well combined. Using the mixture, form cigar-shaped...

Souvlakia

Pork souvlaki: Put the meat and all the other ingredients in a bowl (not metal) and mix well. Cover the bowl and keep in...

Pastelli (Carob Toffee)

The nutritional sweet of Pastelli is made with the syrup of carob pods, produced by boiling their pulp until it forms a thick, sticky...