ANKARA: US President Donald Trump’s national security adviser flew to Turkey on Wednesday as part of an emergency delegation to try to persuade Ankara to halt an assault on northern Syria that has forced Washington into an abrupt retreat.
Robert O’Brien, who has been national security adviser for a month, was due to meet Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, ahead of talks the following day between Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
The Trump administration is trying to contain the fallout from Erdogan’s decision to send forces last week to attack Syrian Kurdish militia, Washington’s close allies. Erdogan repeated his insistence that there would be no ceasefire.
The Turkish assault, launched after a phone call between Erdogan and Trump, forced Washington to abandon a strategy in place for five years and pull its entire force out of northern Syria. Syrian government forces, backed by Washington’s adversaries Russia and Iran, have swiftly advanced into territory formerly patrolled by U.S. troops.
The Turkish assault has forced tens of thousands of civilians to flee, raised doubt about the fate of thousands of Islamic State fighters in Kurdish jails and angered some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, who accuse the president of abandoning loyal allies.
Washington announced a package of sanctions to punish Turkey on Monday, although Trump’s critics said the measures were too feeble to have an impact.
Twenty-four hours later U.S. prosecutors’ charges were unveiled against Turkey’s majority state-owned Halkbank for taking part in a multi-billion dollar scheme to evade Iran sanctions. Washington says the case is unrelated to politics. Halkbank called it part of the sanctions against Turkey.