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October 17, 2019

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Erdogan talks tough over US sanctions threat

Russia offered yesterday to mediate a resolution in northern Syria, ahead of a mission by US Vice President Mike Pence to press Turkey for a ceasefire in its attack on Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Ahead of talks with Pence, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defied US economic sanctions, saying the only way its military offensive would end was if Syrian Kurdish fighters leave a designated border area.

Erdogan also said he had “no problem” accepting an invitation from Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit Russia soon to discuss Syria.

But he threw into doubt a planned November 13 meeting with US President Donald Trump, citing anger over the sanctions that Washington imposed on Monday on the NATO ally.

Turkey will not be coerced

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow is committed to mediating between Syria and Turkey.

The American move effectively abandoned the Kurdish fighters allied with the US and cleared the way for Turkey’s invasion aimed at crushing them. After heavy criticism at home, Trump sought new leverage with Turkey by imposing the sanctions.

In an address to his ruling party legislators, Erdogan said Turkey would not be coerced into halting its offensive or accepting offers for mediation with the Kurdish fighters, which Turkey considers to be terrorists.

He vowed to press ahead with the incursion until Turkish troops reach 30-35 kilometers inside Syria to form a “safe zone” along the border area.

“Our proposal is for the terrorists to lay down their arms, leave their equipment, destroy the traps they have created and leave the safe zone we designated, as of tonight,” Erdogan said.

“If this is done, our Operation Peace Spring will end by itself.”

Erdogan’s office confirmed he would meet today with Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

But anger over the sanctions hung over the upcoming talks. Trump has taken a tough tone, warning that the US has “a lot in store” if Turkey doesn’t comply with ceasefire demands.

Pence said the US is “simply not going to tolerate Turkey’s invasion of Syria any longer.”

Erdogan said he was not concerned by the sanctions.

He said chances for his November trip to Washington are “something to be assessed” after the talks with the American delegation, adding the sanctions and criticisms in the US constituted “great disrespect toward the Turkish Republic.”

He ruled out direct or indirect talks with the Kurdish fighters, saying Turkey will not negotiate with “terrorists.”

“We are not looking for a peace mediator, nor do we need one.”

In a speech to Parliament, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey won’t be affected by “sanctions and threats.”

“No sanctions or threats are acceptable and will not affect our resolve,” he said.

America’s abrupt withdrawal of its troops pushed the Kurds to strike a deal with the Russia-backed government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

This allowed his forces to return to regions of northern Syria that they had abandoned at the height of the 8-year-old civil war.


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