The Trump administration intensified its damage control efforts over the ongoing Turkish assault against Kurds who once fought for and alongside the US, announcing on Tuesday the imminent departure of a delegation to Ankara.
In a diplomatic show of force, President Donald Trump is dispatching Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser Robert O’Brien as part of the delegation, meant to broker a deal to stop the Turkish military operation in Syria.
The visit could become a diplomatic embarrassment, as Russia announced that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would be coming for a “working visit” in the next few days and Erdogan told the Turkish press he’ll never agree to a ceasefire.
A senior administration official said the US was “very concerned” that even if a deal were reached, the Turkish government might renege on its obligations.
“We are very aware that the Turks entered into an agreement with us and they then decided that they would pull out of that agreement, and we’re very concerned about that happening again,” they told reporters Tuesday.
The official said Trump had tasked his administration with trying to broker a ceasefire with Turkish officials, but clarified that “by a ceasefire, what I mean is forces on the ground stop moving on the ground.”
’Hoping … they’ll take us more seriously’
The delegation will be departing for Ankara in the next 24 hours, the official said. They declined to discuss scheduled meetings for the trip. The delegation’s departure comes after Trump announced sanctions against Turkey and threatened to “destroy” the country’s economy if it does not halt its incursion.
The senior administration official suggested that Turkey might be more inclined to honor a deal because of the sanctions.
“I’m hoping that under those conditions they’ll take us more seriously this time and realize that if they want to break out of the next agreement with us, they’re simply going to see these rolling sanctions continue and be far worse than the ones they saw last year,” the official said.
However, the Turkish position on a potential mediation is that their government does not negotiate with “terrorists,” which they consider the Kurdish forces to be.
Sen. John Cornyn said Tuesday that he was “skeptical sanctions will change Erdogan’s mind.”
“He has a blood feud with the Kurds. He considers them a terrorist organization,” the Texas Republican said.
Moreover, analysts have noted that the sanctions Trump put in place Monday lack any real bite and aren’t likely to deter Ankara.
“So far, we really haven’t seen any punishment” for Turkey’s transgressions, said Aykan Erdemir, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
On Tuesday, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said he and other lawmakers would be unveiling their own sanctions Thursday.