Donald Trump launched a new defense of his pullout of American forces from northern Syria Wednesday, saying the situation is 'strategically brilliant for the U.S.' and dismissing the Kurds as 'no angels.'
Speaking in the Oval Office, he said the invasion of northern Syria by Turkey's military was 'not our problem.'
Despite sending his vice president Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Ankara to hold urgent talks with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on a ceasefire, Trump dismissed the fighting in northern Syria as 'not our problem.'
'If Turkey goes into Syria it is between Turkey and Syria. It's not our problem,' he said.
'All American soldiers are away from the site.
'I view the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be, for the United States, strategically brilliant.
'Our soldiers are out of there, they're totally safe. They've got to work it out. Maybe they can do it without fighting.
'Syria and Turkey can fight. They've got a lot of sand over there. There's a lot of sand that they can play with.'
'If Turkey goes into Syria it is between Turkey and Syria. It's not our problem,' Trump said in the Oval Office
The Syrian town of Ras al-Ain was seen being bombarded on the eighth day of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish forces
Russia has so far proved the most effective peacekeeper in Syria, after brokering a deal between the Kurds and Syrian government forces that has seen Assad's troops move to the front line (red arrows). Putin has also positioned his troops between Turkey and government forces around Manbij, stopping an anticipated attack
He spoke as the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain was seen coming being bombarded on the eighth day of Turkey's military operation against Kurdish forces - and as Erdogan scoffed about the U.S. peace delegation saying he had no intention of implementing a ceasefire.
Intense fighting continued Wednesday around the border towns of Tel Abaid and Ras al-Ain, while Russian and Syrian government troops - which took control of Manbij on Tuesday - moved up to the outskirts of Kobane, another key crossing point.
Erdogan, speaking to reporters in the Turkish parliament earlier on Wednesday, said he was reevaluating his planned visit to Washington in November - where Trump had invited him to the White House but may visit Russia.
At the White House, Trump's latest public pronouncement only added to confusion over Pence and Pompeo's mission in Turkey.
Pence said he was seeking a ceasefire on Trump's orders, but by describing it as 'not our problem,' Trump appeared to publicly countermand that.
And Erdogan said Wednesday that he will refuse to meet with U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien and his delegation when he arrives later in the day to discuss his country's invasion of Syria.
'I am not going to talk to them. They will be talking to their counterparts. When Trump comes here I will be talking to him,' Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters at the Turkish parliament.
O'Brien flew to Ankara as an emergency measure to try to stave off an escalation of Turkey's attacks on Syrian Kurds.
Pence and Pompeo are due to arrive Thursday. Initial media reports described Erdogan saying he would refuse to meet with them. Those turned out to be incorrect, according to a transcript released by Turkey's presidential communications office.
Pompeo said Wednesday during a Fox Business Network interview that he has 'every expectation' he and Pence will meet with Erdogan.
Erdogan did say, however, that he may re-evaluate whether to visit the White House on November 13.
Trump extended the invitation this month, but the Turkish leader complained Wednesday that 'arguments, debates, conversations being held in Congress regarding my person, my family and my minister friends are a very big disrespect.'