Pence leads U.S. delegation to demand Turkish ceasefire – live blog

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U.S. Vice President Mike Pence will demand Turkey halts its Syrian military offensive during a visit to Turkey on Thursday.

But the trip has been overshadowed by the release of a letter U.S. President Donald Trump sent to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urging him “don’t be a tough guy, don’t be a fool” and to negotiate with the Syrian Kurds. Erdoğan launched the Turkish cross-border operation shortly afterwards.

The Turkish offensive against Kurdish-led groups has brought U.S.-Turkish relations to breaking point and led to chaotic scenes in northeast Syria as competing factions scramble to fill the vacuum left by departing U.S. troops.

Hundreds of fighters and civilians have been killed and tens of thousands of residents forced to flee.

U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday passed a bipartisan resolution condemning Trump’s withdrawal and called on Turkey to halt its offensive. Several bills containing powerful sanctions on Turkey have bipartisan support and are making their way through Congress.

Erdoğan has ruled out a ceasefire unless the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) disarms along the length of the border east of the River Euphrates to a depth of 30 km inside Syria to create what Turkey calls a safe zone.

But with the U.S. withdrawal, Syrian government forces have rushed to key border towns after agreeing with the SDF to head off the Turkish offensive.

Moscow, a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad, has sent its military police to areas where Turkish-backed rebels face Syrian government forces.

Erdoğan will visit Russian President Vladimir Putin on Oct. 22, weeks before his scheduled Nov. 13 trip to Washington.

11:30 U.S. destroys ammunition, equipment in northern Syria after pulling out troops

The United States carried out a pre-planned air strike in northern Syria on Wednesday to destroy an ammunition cache and military equipment that were left behind as U.S. personnel prepare for a withdrawal from northeast Syria, Reuters reported citing U.S. officials.

Colonel Myles Caggins, an Iraq-based spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State (ISIS), said the strike involved two F-15e fighter jets, which fired on the Lafarge Cement Factory after all coalition forces had left the facility.

The Turkish government has repeatedly said the Lafarge Cement Factory, located between Manbij and Raqqa, was used by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) to build underground tunnels. Foreign Policy on Tuesday reported that tunnels had been used by the YPG to fight against Turkey’s ongoing offensive in Syria.

11:10 Germany will not deliver any weapons to Turkey under current circumstances – Merkel

Germany will not deliver any weapons to Turkey under current circumstances, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Thursday.

“In recent days I have strongly urged Turkey … to end its military operation against the Kurdish military and I’m stressing that again now,” the Jerusalem Post quoted Merkel as saying in Germany’s lower house of parliament.

“It’s a humanitarian drama with huge geopolitical effects so Germany will not deliver any weapons to Turkey under the current conditions,” she said.

 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel presents a government declaration on the forthcoming European Council during the plenary session of the German Bundestag. Photo: Bernd von Jutrczenka/dpa

11:00 Turkey charges 31 people over social media posts since the start of Syria offensive

Turkish courts have charged 31 people with making terrorism propaganda for criticising Turkey’s military offensive into Syria since it began on Oct. 9.

Some 200 people have been detained by the police and 839 social media accounts have been investigated, leftist opposition daily Evrensel reported.

10:30 Turkish government threw Trump’s letter in the bin – CNN Turk

The Turkish government threw in the bin a letter sent by U.S. President Donald Trump on Oct. 9 to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan urging him “don’t be a fool” and not to launch a cross-border offensive into Syria, CNN Türk reported on Thursday citing diplomatic sources.

They told the news channel the letter lacked customary diplomatic politeness and that the clearest answer to it was the start of the Turkish offensive later the same day.

10:15 Egypt welcomes U.S. sanctions on Turkey

Egypt said on Thursday it welcomed sanctions imposed on Turkey by U.S. President Donald Trump over Turkey’s military offensive in Syria, Al Arabiya reported.

“Egypt expresses its satisfaction with and welcomes U.S. President Donald Trump’s position on those developments, represented in the clear American rejection of the ongoing Turkish attacks on Syrian lands and the imposition of preliminary sanctions on the Turkish regime,” the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

10:00 At least 185 SDF fighters killed since the start of Turkish offensive – monitor

At least 185 members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been killed since the start of Turkey’s military operation in Syria on Oct. 9, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Wednesday.

The observatory said 164 members of the Turkey-backed Syrian National Army have been killed. Nine Turkish soldiers have been killed.

09:30 Erdoğan and Pence to meet on Thursday

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is expected to meet U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. local time.

Pence arrived in Turkey with a high-level U.S. delegation including the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

08:55 Turkey says 673 terrorists have been neutralised since the start of its Syria offensive

Turkish Defence Ministry said on Thursday that a total of 673 had been neutralised since the start of an incursion into Syria on Oct. 9.

Turkish authorities use the word neutralised to mean those killed or captured.

07:00 Erdoğan and Putin to meet next week

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will meet in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi on Oct. 22 to discuss Syria. The meeting will take place before Erdoğan’s expected visit to the United States to meet U.S. President Donald Trump scheduled for Nov. 13.

23:45 – “Don’t be a fool,” Trump tells Erdoğan in a letter on first day of Turkey’s Syria operation

American journalist Trish Regan shared October 9th dated letter over social media from President Trump to President Erdogan, on the first day of Turkey’s Syria operation.

“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” U.S. President Donald Trump urges Erdoğan in a letter informing the Turkish president that SDF leader Mazloum Kobane is “willing to negotiate”.

Trump appears to have also threatened to destroy Turkish economy if Erdogan does not accept the call and go ahead with the operation.

22:10 – U.S. House passes resolution calling for Turkey to halt Syria offensive

The U.S. House has voted to condemn a decision by President Donald Trump to withdraw U.S. troops from northeast Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The resolution, which passed by a 354-to-60 margin, has bipartisan support and calls for Turkey to halt its ongoing offensive in Syria targeting Kurdish forces.

The withdrawal of U.S. troops in the region, where Turkey-backed forces are now battling Kurdish fighters, has spared concerns among U.S. lawmakers about the resurgence of the Islamic State (ISIS) in the region.

21:30 – Republican Sen. Graham blasts Trump for downplaying Turkey offensive 

U.S. Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has blasted U.S. President Donald Trump over his comments on Wednesday downplaying Turkey’s ongoing offensive in northeast Syria.

“The statements by President Trump about Turkey’s invasion being of no concern to us also completely undercut Vice President Pence and Sec. Pompeo’s ability to end the conflict,’’ Graham said on Twitter.

“All American soldiers are away from the site. Syria and Turkey can fight… They’ve got a lot of sand over there… There’s a lot of sand that they can play with,” the U.S. president said at the White House on Wednesday.

21:41 – Syrian Kurdish force announces ‘freeze’ of anti-ISIS operations

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have announced a freeze to their operations against the Islamic State (ISIS) in northern Syria, AFP reported.

The target of Turkey’s military offensive since Oct. 9, the SDF has for years spearheaded the U.S.-led war on ISIS in the region.

20:55 – Coalition forces leave Syria’s Raqqa, Tabqah

The U.S.-led coalition forces have left the Syrian cities of Tabqah and Raqqa, as well as a Lafarge cement factory as they continue to withdraw from northeast Syria on day eight of a Turkish offensive in the region, Reuters reported. 

“Coalition forces continue a deliberate withdrawal from northeast Syria. On Oct. 16, we vacated the Lafarge Cement Factory, Raqqa, and Tabqah,” coalition spokesman Colonel Myles B. Caggins said on Twitter.

20:35 – Turkey to face ‘devastating’ sanctions if Pence, Erdoğan meeting unsuccessful

If the upcoming meeting in Ankara between U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the ongoing Turkish offensive fails to yield success, Turkey will be faced with devastating sanctions, Arab News quoted U.S. President Donald Trump as saying on Wednesday.

Pence, set to arrive in Turkey late on Wednesday for talks on Syria, will try to persuade Turkey to stop its cross-border operation in northeast Syria, which Ankara has stressed it will continue to pursue at full speed.

20:30 – Trump’s UN ambassador calls on Turkey to end offensive

The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, has called on Turkey to end its offensive in northeast Syria.

Turkey must “cease undermining the campaign to defeat ISIS, cease endangering civilians, cease threatening peace, security and stability in the region, cease its offensive and declare a ceasefire immediately,” Craft said following a UN Security Council meeting.

20:20 – Syrian gov’t forces enter Kurdish-held Kobani – observatory

Syrian government troops alongside ally Russian forces have entered Syria’s Kurdish-controlled northeastern city of Kobani, the Syrian Observatory reported on Wednesday.

The report follows a deal between Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and Damascus to deploy the Syrian army to border areas to help stem a Turkish operation, which is in its eighth day.

Ahval

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