US President Donald Trump has called on his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop the operation in northern Syria and has directed US Vice President Mike Pence to head to Turkey for negotiations, Pence told reporters.
Trump had a phone conversation with Erdogan, urging him to implement an immediate ceasefire, Pence said on Monday, as cited by Fox News.
The US Vice President added that Trump directed him and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien to lead a delegation to Turkey to begin negotiations immediately.
Later, a White House official told reporters that Washington sees a possibility of a ceasefire in northern Syria, where Turkey launched a military operation earlier this month; and senior US officials will visit Ankara in the near future for talks.
“We do remain committed to pursuing a negotiated resolution to the situation which is why the president directed a senior-level delegation to depart for Ankara as quickly as possible to see if we can achieve a deal. The president is deeply committed to ending the unnecessary violence and loss of life in the northeast,” a senior US administration official said on Monday.
“What we’re trying to do know is first of all, restore the situation as best we can via ceasefire, via reconciliation of the various interests that are in play at this time in the northeast and ensuring that the various forces, which involve not only … the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces], our own troops that are still on the ground, the Turkish military … as well as Russian and Syrian forces, to get them all to hold in place and to then come forward with a set of plans,” the US official explained.
Asked about the exact time when the US delegation is expected to arrive in Turkey, the official declined to comment, explaining that Washington did not think the ceasefire negotiations were possible earlier in the day, “but now we do.”
“I think the President would not be willing to send a high-level delegation on short notice like this unless he was pretty confident there was at least a chance at getting to a ceasefire,” the White House official said.
US media reported on Monday, citing Pence, that Trump had also held phone talks with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and has received guarantees from Turkey that the city of Kobani (Ayn al-Arab) would not be attacked.
Meanwhile, Erdogan’s administration said that Turkish President talked about the goals of his offensive in northern Syria, in a phone call on Monday with his French counterpart.
“President Tayyip Erdogan talked with French President Emmanuel Macron over the phone. Our president set out objectives of Operation Peace Spring, pointing to the threat to Turkey’s security and Syria’s territorial integrity from PKK-YPG and IS* terrorists,” the press release read.
Earlier, Trump said in a statement on his Twitter page that he was issuing an executive order against current and former officials of Turkish government as well as any persons “contributing to Turkey’s destabilizing actions in northeast Syria”.
US President also said on Monday that he hoped that Syrian President Bashar Assad would do a great job protecting Syrian Kurds from Turkey after most of US troops were withdrawn.
On October 9, Turkey started “Operation Peace Spring” claiming to target terrorists in northern Syria east of the Euphrates. Among the groups designated as terrorist by Turkey are mostly Kurdish forces, which as Ankara insists, are linked to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), also deemed a terrorist outfit by Turkey