The United States of America is being “very tough” on Turkey and has imposed the strongest sanctions, President Donald Trump said, as a delegation headed by Vice President Mike Pence prepares to leave for Ankara on Wednesday to press the Turks to stop their military offensive in northern Syria.
Also read: India slams Turkey for Syria action
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, Mr. Trump also reiterated that his administration wants to bring U.S. soldiers back home.
Members of the high-power delegation, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor Robert O’ Brien, are slated to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 17.
The Turkish offensive, which began last week after the U.S. decided to withdraw troops from Syria, aims to push the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) from the border region. Turkey considers the biggest militia in the SDF a terrorist organisation.
The Turkish government wants to create a “safe zone” in the area, where it can resettle up to two million Syrian refugees currently in Turkey.
“Mike (Pence) is getting ready to make a big trip. He will be leaving tomorrow (Wednesday). We have a delegation leaving today and Mike is setting it up with Secretary Pompeo. They will be leaving tomorrow and we are having very strong talks with a lot of people,” Mr. Trump said.
The ongoing violence in the region, severely undermines the Defeat-ISIS campaign, endangers civilians and religious minorities and threatens the security of the entire region, the White House said.
The administration is resolved to maintain security in the region, the safety of civilians and the continued detention of ISIS fighters, it added.
On pulling out troops from Syria, a move he has been criticised for, Mr. Trump said, “We want to bring our soldiers back home after so many years and they are the greatest warriors in the world.”
“They are policing, they are not a police force. They are a different kind of a force. We want to bring our soldiers back home and we are being very tough on Turkey and a lot of others, he said.
In Ankara, Mr. Pence will reiterate Mr. Trump’s commitment to maintain punishing economic sanctions on Turkey until a resolution is reached, the White House said.
“They have to maintain their own properties now, they have to maintain peace and safety and we will see what happens to the delegation. We are asking for a ceasefire,” he said.
“We put the strongest sanctions that you can imagine but they get a lot, we have a lot in store if they don’t have an impact including massive tariffs on steel. They ship a lot of steel to the United States. They make a lot of money shipping steel. They won’t be making so much money,” Mr. Trump said.
He has imposed sanctions on Turkish ministries and senior officials, proposed to raise steel tariffs and end negotiations on a $100 billion trade deal.
Congress opposes decision on Syria
Meanwhile a bicameral, bipartisan resolution was introduced in the Congress opposing Mr. Trump’s decision in Syria.
“The chaos and insecurity unleashed in Syria by President Trump’s disastrous decision to precipitously withdraw from northern Syria require strong, smart leadership from Congress,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer said in a joint statement.
“Since President Trump gave Turkey the green light to attack our Kurdish partners, Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate have been united in our swift and serious condemnation of this reckless action, which threatens countless lives, endangers our Kurdish partners and undermines our credibility in the world,” according to the statement.
The Kurdish administration in northern Syria has announced a deal with the Damascus government on Syrian troop deployment near the border to fend of the Turkish offensive.