Heavy fighting continues as Turkey presses on with its military operation, now in its eighth day, against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the military action aims to remove the Kurdish-led forces from the border area and create a “safe zone” to which millions of Syrian refugees can be returned.
The move came after the United States announced it was withdrawing its troops from the area, leaving the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), its main ally in the battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) armed group, without US military support.
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Here are the latest updates:
Thursday, October 17
Erdogan to meet US delegation in Ankara
Turkish President Erdogan is expected to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara to discuss the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria.
“At this point, the vice president and I are planning to take off later this afternoon,” Pompeo told US media on Wednesday. “And we have every expectation that we will meet with President Erdogan.”
Erdogan told Sky News earlier on Wednesday that he would not meet with the US delegation led by Pence before reversing his position in comments to the Turkish press.
Wednesday, October 16
Trump sent threatening letter to Erdogan
On the day Turkey launched its offensive in northeast Syria, Trump wrote to Erdogan saying the Turkish president would be remembered as a “devil” if he moved ahead with the military action.
Trump started his October 9 letter suggesting they could “work out a good deal”.
“You don’t want to be responsible for the slaughtering of thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy,” he wrote.
“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way,” Trump continued. “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!” he said, adding that the SDF’s commander was willing to negotiate.
The authenticity of the letter was confirmed by the White House.
EXCLUSIVE: I have obtained a copy of @realDonaldTrump’s letter to #Erdogan. @POTUS warns him to not “be a tough guy! Don’t be a fool!” Says he could destroy Turkey’s economy if #Syria is not resolved in a humane way. Details tonight at 8pm #TrishRegan #FoxBusiness pic.twitter.com/9BoSGlbRyt
— Trish Regan (@trish_regan) October 16, 2019
Pompeo to visit Jerusalem and Brussels after Turkey
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Jerusalem and Brussels after his visit to Turkey on Thursday with Vice President Mike Pence, the State Department said on Wednesday.
Pompeo will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Friday and then travel later that day to Brussels for a meeting with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, the statement said.
Pence and Pompeo are going to Turkey’s capital Ankara to urge Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to stop his invasion of Syria.
Democrats walk out of briefing with Trump on Turkey
Trump met members of Congress at the White House on Wednesday to discuss Turkey and Syria.
Democrats say Trump insulted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, calling her a “third-rate politician.” Democratic leaders left shortly afterwards.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is trying to pin the blame on Pelosi, saying she stormed out of the meeting.
Read more here
Senate Republicans defend US alliance with Syrian Kurds
Senate Republicans are sticking up for the US-allied Syrian Kurds after Trump defended his pullout of US troops on Wednesday.
GOP Leader Mitch McConnell called the partnership “a terrific alliance” that set the ISIL group back and says he is “sorry we are where we are”.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “has not been a reliable ally. The Kurds have been a reliable ally.”
Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa added: “We really have left behind and abandoned a strategic partner, the Kurds, who stood by our men and women in uniform in the fight” to defeat ISIL.