Turkey’s military operation in Syria: All the latest updates Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says all threats and sanctions against Turkey over Syrian offensive are unacceptable.

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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.

Wednesday, October 16

Pence will go to Ankara despite Erdogan refusing to meet him

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Turkey as scheduled even though President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will not meet with him, a spokeswoman for Pence said.

“The vice president is traveling to Turkey today,” spokeswoman Katie Waldman said.

The White House had hoped Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would meet with Erdogan Thursday to demand a ceasefire in Turkey’s assault on Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria.

Turkey says it will retaliate against US sanctions

Turkey will retaliate against US sanctions over Ankara’s military operation into northeast Syria, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, adding that all threats and sanctions against Turkey were unacceptable.

Speaking in parliament, Cavusoglu also said Turkey expected the US Congress to turn back from its “damaging approach”, and added that ties between Ankara and Washington were at a critical juncture.

He said he would convey this to a US delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence coming to Ankara.

Turkey's Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu speaks to the media during a joint news conference with Algeria's Foreign Minister Sabri Boukadoum, in Algiers, Algeria, Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019. Cavusoglu s
Mevlut Cavusoglu said he expected US Congress to ‘turn back from its harmful approach’ [Turkish Foreign Ministry/AP]

US charges against Turkey’s Halkbank ‘unlawful, ugly’: Erdogan

Erdogan described a US indictment against Turkey’s state-run Halkbank as “unlawful” and “ugly”.

“This is just another sign of how emotional these issues have become. One would think that this business was over. Now they have taken an unlawful, ugly step by reopening this (case),” Erdogan told reporters in parliament, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The indictment raises tensions between the NATO allies after Washington already said it would impose some sanctions on Ankara over its incursion in Syria.

Erdogan says won’t meet Pence, Pompeo on Ankara visit

Erdogan said he would not meet with US Vice President Mike Pence during his visit to Ankara to discuss Turkey’s military operation in Syria.

“I am standing tall. I will not meet with them,” he told Sky News, referring to Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

“They will meet with their counterparts. I will speak when Trump comes,” he said.

Turkey’s mission will end once Kurdish forces leave: Erdogan

Erdogan said Turkey’s operation will end when Ankara completes its goal to form a “safe zone” from Syria’s Manbij to the border with Iraq.

“We informed the US, EU and Russia before the operation began that … we want this terrorist organisation to be removed from our borders,” he said at a weekly meeting of his ruling AK Party, referring to the YPG.

“When the zone from Manbij to Iraq [is cleared] when we could establish a safe zone, this operation will be over. But until that point, no power can stop us.”

ANKARA, TURKEY - OCTOBER 16: President of Turkey and leader of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses the party members during his party's parliamentary grou
Erdogan urged Syrian Kurdish fighters to lay down arms and withdraw [Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu Agency]

Erdogan ‘does not mind’ Syrian troop presence in Manbij 

Erdogan said he told US President Donald Trump Turkey would never declare a ceasefire in northeastern Syria, Turkish broadcaster NTV reported.

Speaking to reporters on a flight back from Baku, Erdogan said talks with Washington and Moscow on Syria’s Kobane and Manbij towns continued, stressing that Turkey did “not mind” Syrian troops being deployed in the area as long as Kurdish fighters leave.

“The regime entering Manjib is not very negative for me. Why? It’s their lands after all. But, what is important to me is that the terrorist organisation does not remain there,” Erdogan said, referring to the YPG.

“I told this to Mr Putin as well. If you are clearing Manbij of terrorist organisations, then go ahead, you or the regime can provide all the logistics. But if you are not going to do this, the people there are telling us to save them,” he added.

He also said he had told the US president that Turkey would “not negotiate with a terrorist organisation” in response to Trump’s mediation offer.

Separately, the Turkish presidency said Erdogan had told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that Turkey’s operation in northeastern Syria would contribute to counter-terrorism efforts, Syria’s territorial integrity and a political solution to the conflict.

Turkish foreign minister, US national security adviser to meet in Ankara

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will meet with the US national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, Turkey’s foreign ministry said.

O’Brien will be visiting Ankara as part of a delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who will hold talks with President Tayyip Erdogan about Turkey’s military operation in northeastern Syria on Thursday

France’s Le Drian to visit Iraq to discuss trials, transfer of armed fighters

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said he would soon go to Iraq to discuss a judicial framework to enable jihadists being held in Syria to face trial.

Le Drian also told French broadcaster BFM TV that nine French women had escaped from a Kurdish-controlled camp following Turkey’s military incursion into northern Syria.

Erdogan may visit Russia by end of October

Erdogan may visit Russia for talks by the end of October, the RIA news agency reported, citing Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

On Tuesday, Erdogan spoke over the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Russia, a close ally of Damascus, is a leading power broker in Syria.

Putin’s office said in a statement the two leaders emphasised “the need to prevent confrontations between units of the Turkish army and Syrian armed forces”. Putin also raised concerns in the call about “terrorists attempting to break free and infiltrate neighbouring countries” amid Ankara’s ongoing offensive.

Tuesday, October 15

US senator to introduce Turkey sanctions bill

Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham said he would introduce a bill on Thursday sanctioning Turkey for its offensive.

“I will be introducing sanctions against Turkey Thursday and I do appreciate what the (Trump) administration has done against Turkey through executive action but more to follow,” the Reuters news agency quoted Graham as telling reporters.

US carries out ‘show of force’ to Turkish-backed fighters: Report

US military aircraft carried out a “show of force” in Syria after Turkish-backed fighters came in close proximity to the country’s forces, a US official told Reuters.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said US military aircraft were flown over the area after troops in northeastern Syria felt the Turkish-backed fighters were too close. The Turkish-backed fighters dispersed after the show of force, the official said.

The Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters reported.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks to journalists in Istanbul, Turkey, October 13, 2019
Erdogan has repeatedly vowed Turkey will press ahead with its offensive despite widespread international criticism of the operation [Presidential Press Office handout via Reuters]