Update: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the reached agreement between the US and Turkey to suspend military operations in Syria is not a ceasefire.
“We will pause the operation for 120 hours in order for the terrorists to leave,” Cavusoglu said. “We will only stop the operation if our conditions are met.”
Cavusoglu said a “safe zone” would need to be established at roughly 20 miles east of the Euphrates river to the Iraqi border.
US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrived in Ankara on Thursday for difficult negotiations in their push for a ceasefire in north-eastern Syria.
Both of them will meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has so far rejected any attempts to broker a truce and has said that Turkey is not worried about sanctions.
Pence, on his first visit to Turkey as vice president, landed hours after President Donald Trump sought to distance himself from the conflict between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish militias saying it has “nothing to do with us.”
Trump also said the Kurdish fighters, Washington’s main ally in the battle against Islamic State, were “no angels,” and warned Ankara of further sanctions if there is no ceasefire.
Erdogan has made clear that Turkey would not negotiate with Syrian Kurdish militias.
If Thursday’s meetings between the delegations are unsuccessful then “the sanctions and tariffs and other things that we are doing, we will do and are doing to Turkey, will be devastating to Turkey’s economy,” Trump said.
Trump’s decision to pull back US troops from north-eastern Syria last week and abandon its Syrian Kurdish partners paved the way for Turkey’s incursion on October 9.
Under intense criticism at home over his decision, Trump on Wednesday referred to a letter he sent Erdogan as evidence of his tough line on Turkey, saying, “I gave it to him – President Erdogan.”
In that letter, leaked to US media on Wednesday and reportedly verified by the White House, Trump wrote: “History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen.”
“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” it continued, with a sign off: “I will call you later.”
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul, who was asked by reporters on Thursday for a response to the letter, first said there has been no official statement.
“There has been patronizing language against Turkey,” he added.
Trump’s letter is dated October 9, the day Turkey launched its incursion into Syria in an operation called “Peace Spring.”
Gul later added: “Our president and the republic of Turkey have given the necessary response to such language as of 4 pm on October 9,” referring to the time the offensive started.
The Turkish presidency office told dpa it had no comment on the letter.
Trump had earlier invited Erdogan to the White House on November 13. The Turkish leader has said he will only decide on visiting Washington after the US delegation talks.
Turkey’s presidency said Erdogan and Pence will meet at 2:30 pm (1130 GMT). Pence’s schedule referred to a restricted meeting with Erdogan at 3:15 pm, followed by an expanded bilateral 10 minutes later.
Pence is scheduled to leave Ankara at 7:20 pm (1620 GMT).
Pompeo will next travel to Jerusalem on Friday to discuss the developments in Syria and also Iran with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, before moving on to Brussels.
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