- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2019

High-stakes talks between a major U.S. delegation and Turkey dragged into the evening Thursday in Ankara, where Vice President Mike Pence is pushing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stop the bloodshed in Syria.

President Trump this week said the unfolding fight between Turkey and Syria is “not our problem,” though he dispatched Mr. Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to push for a cease-fire in the wake of his decision to pull dozens of U.S. troops from a key buffer zone in northeastern Syria.

Video released by Turkish media showed the leaders looking stiff and stern-faced.

“Thank you for seeing me,” an unsmiling Mr. Pence said to Mr. Erdogan in a handshake greeting.

A second Turkey flag was placed behind Mr. Pence’s chair — instead of an American one — during the bilateral, which lasted well over an hour. There was a tiny U.S. flag next to a Turkish one on the table between the leaders.

American media were allowed to snap photos of the twin delegations, seated at a long table, after the one-on-one between Mr. Pence and Mr. Erdogan. The leaders did not say anything.

The expanded bilateral passed the two-hour mark just after 7 p.m., local time, suggesting the leaders had plenty to hash out. Reporters traveling with Mr. Pence said Mr. Erdogan even ordered them food, given the long wait.

Lawmakers from both parties in Washington are fuming over Mr. Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from the Turkey-Syria border, saying it gave Mr. Erdogan the green light to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

The president denies the charge, though even his GOP allies fear Mr. Trump blundered and left a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia and Iran to fill.

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