Initially, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had apparently refused to meet with US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on their visit to Ankara on Thursday. I will only speak when Trump arrives, "Erdogan told Sky News on Wednesday afternoon.
Now his spokesman Fahrettin Altun corrects via Twitter: "He intends to hit the US delegation led by the vice-president - as he says in this statement Turkish journalist."
Earlier today, the President told @SkyNews that he will not receive a US delegation that is visiting Ankara today.
He does plan to meet the US delegation led by @ VP tomorrow - as confirmed in the below statement to the Turkish press. pic.twitter.com/vlqgzqnvEk
Pence and Pompeo want to campaign in Ankara for a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurdish People's Defense Units (YPG) in northern Syria. Erdogan has already rejected a ceasefire as long as the Kurdish militia is present in Turkey's planned "security zone" along the Turkish border. In the speech before the parliament he rejected any mediation, as his country would not sit down with a "terrorist organization" at a table.
Shortly before the planned visit to Ankara, Pence posted photos of himself and US pastor Andrew Brunson on Twitter on Tuesday. Brunson was imprisoned for almost two years in Turkey. The case had caused a crisis between the countries last year. Only after Washington had put Ankara under pressure with sanctions, Brunson was allowed to leave Turkey in the fall of 2018. The tweet could now be interpreted as a message to Ankara.
Great pastor Brunson at the @WhiteHouse as he releases his new book, God's Hostage where he tells his story of imprisonment & freedom in Turkey. Pastor Brunson & his wife talking about eroding religious liberties around the world. God bless you both! pic.twitter.com/8vocrvcn7U- Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) October 15, 2019
The US had called for an immediate halt to the military operation following the Turkish invasion of northern Syria. President Donald Trump spoke with Erdogan demanding a ceasefire, Pence said Monday. In addition, the Trump government is trying to put pressure on the government in Ankara with punitive tariffs and sanctions.
Erdogan excludes negotiations with YPG
According to the White House, a bilateral meeting between Pence and Erdogan had been planned so far. What the statement of the Turkish president meant for mediation efforts was initially unclear. However, Erdogan had previously made it clear that he was barring negotiations with the Kurdish YPG.
Turkey had launched an offensive in northern Syria last Wednesday. The military operation is aimed at the YPG. Ankara sees the Kurdish militia as an offshoot of the banned Kurdish Workers' Party PKK and thus as a terrorist organization.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also invited Erdogan for talks because of the offensive. According to Russian sources, both should meet in the coming days. The two politicians had agreed on this in a telephone call, informed Putin's office late Tuesday evening.