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Pompeo and Pence to meet Erdogan in bid to stop Turkish assault

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US Secretary of State, Vice-President to meet Turkish leader over Syrian assault

WASHINGTON : US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo yesterday said he and Vice-President Mike Pence aimed to stop Turkey from pressing on with its assaults in Syria when the US delegation meets with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan this week.

Mr Pompeo, in an interview on Fox Business Network, said the US delegation's goal was to find a resolution to the situation in Syria, not break the US-Turkey relationship.

"We have every expectation that we will meet with President Erdogan," Mr Pompeo told the network, adding it was important that top officials from the Trump administration have direct, "face-to-face" talks.

Mr Pompeo said: "He needs to stop the incursion into Syria. We need them to stand down.

"We need a ceasefire at which point we can begin to put this all back together again."

Asked if he held Mr Erdogan personally responsible for the situation in Syria, Mr Pompeo said: "We have to remember this is a complex situation."

The US delegation was scheduled to depart Washington yesterday evening, according to the White House.

Russian forces have crossed the Euphrates River in northern Syria and reached the outskirts of the city of Kobani, pushing eastward with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said yesterday.

The troop movement comes days after the SDF cut a deal with the Syrian government for army troops to deploy at the Turkey-Syria border following a Turkish invasion of north-east Syria last week.

"Russian forces reached an area outside of Kobani, about 4km to 5km outside the city, after crossing the Euphrates," said Mr Rami Abdulrahman, the director of the Syrian Observatorys, a UK-based war monitor.

Asked about the report, an SDF official said he had not yet received information about such a Russian advance.


Meanwhile, Turkey's Halkbank said yesterday that US charges against it amount to an escalation of Washington's sanctions on Ankara over its military incursion in Syria, while Mr Erdogan called them an "unlawful, ugly" step.

US prosecutors on Tuesday charged the state-owned lender with taking part in a multi-billion-dollar scheme to evade US sanctions on Iran.

The indictment came a day after the US imposed sanctions against Turkey.

The indictment in a US district court in New York, which further strains ties between the Nato allies, alleges Turkey's second-largest state bank conducted fraud, money laundering, and other sanctions offences.

While the US prosecutor did not tie the charges to sanctions over Syria, Halkbank did.

"These were filed as part of the sanctions introduced against our country by the US government in response to Operation Peace Spring, heroically launched by the Turkish army to secure our borders and establish peace in the region," the bank said of the incursion, now in its eighth day.

Mr Erdogan told reporters in Ankara that the Halkbank issue was "supposedly closed. But now they have taken an unlawful, ugly step with the southern New York prosecutors opening it again".

"We will see the decision they will take, and we will (respond) accordingly," he added. - REUTERS