JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seems to have bowed to the US pressure to halt his offensive against Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria.
Erdogan, who had initially refused to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, held talks with both leaders on Thursday and then agreed to a five-day cease-fire in the attacks on Kurdish fighters to allow the Kurds to withdraw to roughly 20 miles away from the Turkish border.
After more than four hours of negotiations with Erdogan, Pence said the purpose of his high-level mission was to end the bloodshed caused by Turkey’s invasion of Syria.
“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” Pence told a news conference. “All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal.”
Welcoming it, President Donald Trump tweeted: This deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago. There needed to be some “tough” love in order to get it done. Great for everybody. Proud of all!
It followed an extraordinary letter from Trump in which he warned Erdogan: “Don’t be a fool!” Sent the day Turkey launched its incursion, Trump said history risked branding him a “devil.”
“You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people, and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will,” he wrote.
Earlier, Saudi political analyst and international relations expert Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News: “Trump’s letter stated clearly that Erdogan’s acts are savage and meant to kill the Kurds. The letter also blamed Erdogan for attempting to invade Syria.”
He added: “Erdogan’s racial tendency against the Kurds is behind all that. He does not care about Syrians at all. He wants to force the displaced back to Syria where they will be between the hammer of the regime and the anvil of Daesh.”
Saudi Prince Abdulrahman bin Musa’ad tweeted: “Couldn’t find an authentic translation for the letter. Anyways, the ‘Don’t be a fool’ part is enough.”
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who had criticized Trump for the withdrawal, said it was a “good letter” and had urged him to release it.
Earlier, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte urged Erdogan to freeze the offensive. “I reiterated Italy’s firm call to suspend this military initiative. I have asked (Erdogan) to withdraw troops to Turkish territory,” Conte said.
“This initiative risks further destabilizing a territory and a community that have already been hugely affected (by the war).”
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov said that even though Turkey was a formal candidate to join the EU and was hosting some 3.6 million Syrian refugees on its soil, he could not back the military action.
“We have supported them in everything else, because we are partners in NATO, we are neighbors and they protect us from migrant inflows. But for the war, they cannot expect our support,” he told reporters gathered for the summit.
David Sassoli, the president of the European Parliament, called for the EU agreement on suspending arms sales to Turkey to go further and include the cancellation of existing contracts.