Erdogan to Kurds: Put down your weapons and leave the border area and I’ll stop the military operation
By Anindita Ramaswamy and Ergin Hava
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey’s military operation in Syria will end only if Syrian Kurdish fighters lay down their weapons and leave the border area.
The offensive can only cease if “all terrorists drop their weapons … and leave the safe zone which we have determined as soon as tonight,” Erdogan told members of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliament.
He was referring to a 275-mile-long buffer zone along Turkey’s border with Syria up to Iraq, and 20 miles deep into Syrian territory.
“No power can stop us until we realize this goal,” Erdogan said as he lashed out at his NATO allies, despite US threats of crippling sanctions, European arms embargoes and ceasefire demands.
“Come and side with Turkey in this struggle, not against it. At least do not meddle with it,” he told Turkey’s Western allies, which have condemned the incursion.
“To those who threaten us with economic sanctions over Syria: Every wound you inflict on our economy will trigger a bigger wound on your economy,” Erdogan said to applause and cheers in parliament, about the US warning of further economic sanctions.
President Donald Trump’s decision to pull back U.S. troops from north-eastern Syria and abandon its partners, Syrian Kurdish militias, paved the way for Turkey’s “Operation Peace Spring” on Oct. 9.
Erdogan rejected any attempt to broker a truce as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to Ankara in the hope of negotiating a ceasefire.
Erdogan said any call or visit to Turkey from foreign leaders regarding Syria will be a “waste of time and energy” unless Turkey’s “unequivocal and reasonable” stance is taken into account.
After conflicting messages on whether or not Erdogan would meet the US delegation, his communications director Fahrettin Altun clarified that the two would meet on Thursday.
This is Pence’s first visit to Turkey and his delegation includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien.
Erdogan said he will only decide on visiting Washington after the U.S. delegation talks. Trump has invited Erdogan to the White House on Nov. 13.
Discussions in the U.S. about him, his family and his ministers were “a big disrespect to the republic of Turkey,” Erdogan added.
Meanwhile, a meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan could take place in October in Russia, Putin’s spokesman said on Wednesday.
Dmitry Peskov denied speculation that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would join them for trilateral talks. Russia is al-Assad’s main military backer.
During a phone call with Erdogan, Putin “noted the deterioration of the humanitarian situation along the Syrian-Turkish border,” the Kremlin said.
Putin said “terrorists, including those from ISIS (Islamic State), who are being protected by armed Kurdish groups, must not be allowed to take advantage of this situation,” according to the Kremlin.
Erdogan made clear in parliament that Turkey would not negotiate with Syrian Kurdish militias: “Turkey will not sit at the same table with the terrorist group.”
He said the offensive will continue “until the last breath.”
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