Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was defiant in a call with President Trump on Tuesday, vowing that U.S. sanctions on the country would not force Turkey to declare a ceasefire in northern Syria, according to a Turkish broadcaster.NTV reported that Erdoğan told reporters on a flight back from Baku, in Azerbaijan, that he told Trump that Turkey would “not negotiate with a terrorist organization,” referring to U.S.-backed Kurdish militant groups operating in northern Syria, according to Reuters.
Turkey’s military campaign in northern Syria targeting U.S.-backed Kurdish militia groups that the NATO member considers to be terrorist organizations has caused widespread condemnations from U.S. lawmakers and foreign leaders, though Erdoğan has shown no signs of backing down from the campaign.
Hundreds of members of the ISIS have reportedly escaped from detention facilities in the region as the two U.S. allies battle for control of towns in the area, a situation which military leaders have warned in recent days could lead to a major resurgence of the terrorist group.
The Trump administration has faced widespread criticism over its decision to withdraw U.S. forces from the area ahead of Turkey’s invasion. Republicans and Democrats alike have accused the president of abandoning a key ally, the Kurds, who were instrumental in fighting against ISIS in Syria.
Trump has defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops by minimizing Kurdish contributions to U.S. military efforts, including by telling reporters that Kurdish forces did not assist the U.S. during World War II.
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Trump’s sudden abandonment of the U.S.’s most regional reliable allies raised questions about his potential conflicts of interests in Turkey, specifically Trump Towers in Istanbul.
Photos have recently emerged showing Ivanka Trump with President Donald Trump in Istanbul in 2012 to celebrate the opening of the Trump Towers building in the city, as the president tries to force Turkey to end its invasion into Kurdish-held territory in northeastern Syria.
Erdogan has used the building to apply pressure on the US president. Responding to Trump’s proposed Muslim travel ban in 2016, for example, Erdogan called for the president’s name to be taken off Trump Towers. This pressure eased after Trump expressed support for Erdogan’s wide-ranging crackdown against political opponents followed a failed coup in 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported.