After a Monday phone call wherein President Trump pressed Turkey’s Erdogan to immediately halt the ongoing military offensive in Syria, Erdogan has been relatively quiet up till now regarding US pressures and the newly authorized US sanctions. In terms of ‘Operation Peace Spring’ he’s acted unfazed, only vowing to push further even if all international powers disagree.
Following the call Trump said Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would travel to Ankara on Wednesday to work out a cease-fire agreement with Turkey’s president directly.
However, on Wednesday Erdogan finally let his feelings be known regarding the call, telling a reporter that he refuses to speak to Vice President Pence on the issue, but will only talk to Trump.
Apparently now feeling slighted by not being in the ‘big boys’ club, Erdogan told Sky News, “I’m not going to talk to them. They will be talking to their counterparts. When Trump comes here, I’ll be talking.” National security advisor Robert O’Brien and the special representative for Syria, James Jeffrey, are also slated to be on the trip.
Erdogan doesn’t appear to have changed his tune from Tuesday, when he had told reporters following the White House authorizing sanctions: “They say ‘declare a ceasefire’. We will never declare a ceasefire,” according to NBC.
“They are pressuring us to stop the operation. They are announcing sanctions. Our goal is clear. We are not worried about any sanctions,” he added.
Following Erdogan’s latest comments Pence’s office said his travel plans remain unchanged. The meeting with Turkey’s president, assuming it actually happens, is planned for Thursday.
A day ago Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden, “We’ll be having very strong talks with a lot of people,” but added that when it comes to rapid developing events in Syria, the US was “not a police force.”
Crucially, Erdogan and Trump are to meet directly in D.C. next month, but according to Reuters the Turkish president has expressed doubts even about that, as he feels the “arguments, debates, conversations being held in Congress regarding my person, my family and my minister friends are a very big disrespect.”