Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, October 16 firmly ruled out any negotiations with the Syrian Democratic Forces in Syria, saying their only option was to lay down arms and retreat.
He dismissed calls from foreign powers, including the United States, who have demanded a ceasefire in Turkey’s week-old operation in northern Syria.
“There are some leaders who are trying to mediate … There has never been any such thing in the history of the Turkish republic as the state sitting at the same table with a terror organization,” Erdogan said in a speech to parliament.
“Our proposal is that right now, tonight, all the terrorists lay down their arms, their equipment and everything, destroy all their traps and get out of the safe zone that we have designated,” he said.
This was “the quickest way of solving the problem in Syria,” he added.
The Turkish leader told Sky News that he would not meet the U.S. delegation led by Vice President Mike Pence that is set to arrive in Turkey later on Wednesday. The White House said Tuesday that Pence, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien and special envoy for Syria James Jeffrey would travel to Turkey with the aim of securing a ceasefire.
Shortly afterwards, Erdogan’s communications director Fahrettin Altun clarified that the president would indeed meet the delegation.
“Earlier today, the President told @SkyNews that he won’t receive a U.S. delegation that is visiting Ankara today. He does plan to meet the U.S. delegation led by @VP tomorrow,” Altun tweeted.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on October 9 with the aim of establishing a buffer zone across northern Syria, which would push back Kurdish fighters from the Syria-Turkey border and allow for the repatriation of Syrian refugees.
Erdogan said that once the zone was established, “stretching from Manbij to the Iraqi border,” then the operation would have “ended on its own.”
Ankara considers the multi-ethnic SDF and its predominately-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency inside Turkey since 1984.
Operation Peace Spring began two days after U.S. President Donald Trump said he would pull back American forces from the Syria-Turkey border, where they were acting as a deterrent to the Turkish incursion. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said earlier this week that all 1,000 U.S. troops would be withdrawn from northeast Syria, leaving about 150 in the country at the southern base at al-Tanf.
With reporting from AFP. This post was updated on October 16.