Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are heading to Turkey today as the Turkish offensive into Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria continues. The ground offensive began after President Trump withdrew U.S. troops stationed in the area, clearing the way for the assault, after speaking to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the telephone. Now Pence and Pompeo are hoping to meet with Erdogan to persuade him to stop the military campaign. This morning, Erdogan vowed he would not declare a ceasefire and that he would probably not meet with Pence and Pompeo. He’s headed to Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the coming days. The Committee to Protect Journalists reports a second reporter has died covering the conflict. Syrian Kurdish reporter Mohammed Hussein Rasho died from injuries sustained in a Turkish airstrike on a civilian convoy, which also killed another journalist, Syrian Kurdish reporter Saad Ahmed. Humanitarian aid organizations, including Doctors Without Borders, say they are being forced to suspend their operations in northern Syria amid the ongoing fighting, which has already forced more than 100,000 people to flee the area, including Heevin Mohammed.
Heevin Mohammed: “We are coming here, but our families and relatives have not come yet, and their conditions are very bad. Some of them are sick, and some others are elderly people. We call upon President Assad to open the crossing border so that the patients can come.”
The U.S. Justice Department filed fraud and money-laundering charges against Turkey’s second-largest state-owned bank, accusing Halkbank of helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions. The indictment comes after the U.S. also announced sanctions against Turkey over its offensive in Syria.