Erdogan tells Trump that Turkey will ‘never declare ceasefire’ in northern Syria despite sanctions

Turkish president rejects calls to halt northeastern Syria offensive as Donald Trump pulls troops out of region

Chris Riotta
New York
Wednesday 16 October 2019 00:02 BST
Smoke rises from Ain Issa camp in Syria as clashes continue

Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan told Donald Trump he would “never declare a ceasefire” in northeastern Syria and was not afraid of sanctions levelled against his government after launching a major offensive against US allied forces in the region.

The president rejected international calls from world leaders for a ceasefire while speaking to reporters on a flight, saying: “They say ‘declare a ceasefire’. We could never declare a ceasefire.”

Turkey’s leader also told the group of journalists he was not concerned about the presence of Syrian government troops moving into the city of Manbij, but does not want Syrian Kurdish fighters to remain.

Turkey launched its military offensive a week ago to clear a border region from Syrian Kurdish forces linked to outlawed Kurdish militants in Turkey.

Mr Erdogan said: “We cannot declare a ceasefire until we clear this region”.

His comments came during a flight back from Azerbaijan and were reported by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

Meanwhile, Russia said president Vladimir Putin had discussed the situation in northern Syria with Mr Erdogan and that in their talk, the leaders “noted the need to prevent conflicts between Turkish army units and Syrian government forces” and also confirmed their “adherence to Syria’s territorial integrity”.

The Syrian army has moved north under a deal with the Kurds, who have sought protection from the Turkish offensive that followed the withdrawal of US troops from the area.

The Russian military has moved in to act as a buffer between the Syrian and Turkish armies.

The Kremlin says Mr Putin warned that the Islamic State militants in Kurdish custody mustn’t be allowed to flee. It also said Mr Erdogan accepted an invitation to visit Russia “in the nearest days”.

Nato envoys were set to hold talks on Wednesday on the impact of Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria after several allies raised concerns about the actions of the Turkish armed forces.

Nato secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday that “many Nato allies have expressed strong criticism” of Turkey, which has the second biggest army in the 29-country alliance after the US.

Apart from Wednesday’s discussion among Nato ambassadors in Brussels, Mr Stoltenberg also said the issue will be tackled at a meeting of defence ministers at the alliance’s headquarters there next week.

Nato has a system for allies to officially request consultations when they feel their territories may be endangered by the actions of another member.

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Many European allies are concerned that imprisoned fighters from the so-called Islamic State group have fled jails during the invasion and could pose a security risk if they return home to Europe.

Additional reporting by AP

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