All eyes are on northeastern Syria right now as the Turkish military has invaded the neighboring war-torn nation ostensibly with the goal of creating a “safe zone” buffer along the border to reduce the potential for future conflict between Turkey and its Kurdish rivals. The invasion necessitated the withdrawal of a small number of U.S. military troops from the area who were in danger of being caught in the crossfire.
President Donald Trump has received bipartisan criticism for supposedly “allowing” the deadly conflict to occur, but now he has taken steps to bring the fighting to an end by authorizing severe economic sanctions against Turkey and dispatching a delegation headed by Vice President Mike Pence to try and achieve a peaceful solution.
Pence leading delegation to Turkey
The Washington Examiner reported that Pence spoke with the media outside of the White House on Monday and relayed what was discussed in a recent phone call between Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a call in which Trump demanded an “immediate end” to the Turkish invasion of Kurdish-controlled land in Syria.
Pence also shared how he and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien will travel to Turkey to directly engage with the Turks and other regional players to find a way to mediate an end to the brutal fighting between a NATO ally and others involved in helping destroy the Islamic State “caliphate.”
“President Erdogan reached out and requested the call, and President Trump communicated to him very clearly that the United States of America wants Turkey to stop the invasion, to implement an immediate ceasefire, and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence,” Pence said.
“President Trump reiterated his offer to mediate and arbitrate a negotiation between Syrian defense forces and the Turkish military,” he continued, “and the president has directed me and Robert O’Brien to lead a delegation to Turkey in the immediate future and to begin discussions and negotiations to bring the bloodshed to an end.”
Pence also noted that Erdogan had issued a “firm commitment” to refrain from launching any attacks targeting the Kurdish-held border city of Kobani, a city considered to be of great importance to the Kurdish people.
The vice president also shared that Trump met with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and signed an executive order authorizing tough economic sanctions against Turkey.
The White House posted a statement outlining the administration’s imminent response to the Turkish aggression in northeastern Syria, which included as-yet-unspecified economic sanctions, a doubling of the steel tariff to 50%, and an immediate halt to ongoing negotiations for a $100 billion trade deal between the U.S. and Turkey.
Those sanctions would be imposed on anyone in Turkey’s government “who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire, preventing displaced persons from returning home, forcibly repatriating refugees, or threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria.”
“The United States will aggressively use economic sanctions to target those who enable, facilitate, and finance these heinous acts in Syria,” the statement from Trump added. “I am fully prepared to swiftly destroy Turkey’s economy if Turkish leaders continue down this dangerous and destructive path.”
Pence and the delegation will reportedly depart for Turkey sometime on Wednesday, and it remains to be seen how the talks will go once they have arrived.