Morning Brief

Pence and Pompeo Meet Erdogan

The negotiations over Turkey’s incursion into Syria could be undermined by Trump’s recent comments.

Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on Oct. 7.
Turkey's president Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, on Oct. 7. OLIVER BUNIC/AFP via Getty Images

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: Pence and Pompeo arrive in Ankara amid tensions, the EU summit begins with a Brexit deal at the top of the agenda, and the United States resumes some aid to Central America.

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U.S. Vice President Arrives in Ankara to Meet Erdogan

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is expected to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara today to negotiate over Turkey’s ongoing offensive against Kurdish militia in northern Syria. Pence is traveling with a delegation that includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Ahead of the meeting, Erdogan has pledged that Turkey “will never declare a cease-fire.”

The U.S. negotiating position may be undermined by recent comments by U.S. President Donald Trump, who said that the conflict was “over land that has nothing to do with us” and that the Kurds—former U.S. allies—were “no angels.” On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted to condemn the withdrawal by a large margin of 354-60, including most House Republicans.

Trump has threatened to issue further sanctions and tariffs against Turkey if the meeting between Pence and Erdogan does not go well. On Wednesday he added to those threats in a bizarre letter to Erdogan in which he wrote: “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”

Rising tensions. Adding to the pressure on Turkey, U.S. federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment of the Turkish Halkbank for helping Iran evade U.S. sanctions between 2012 and 2016. The indictment was likely ready, but the Trump administration presented it when U.S. anger at Turkey pushed the bilateral relationship over the edge, FP’s Keith Johnson and Elias Groll explain.

Waning influence. Syrian and Russian troops entered the strategic city of Kobani on Wednesday, before Turkish forces could arrive. As the Russia-backed Syrian army advances into towns and bases once occupied the United States, it underscores the victory the U.S. withdrawal has given to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Washington Post reports. The power vacuum created by the U.S. abandonment of its Kurdish allies should also send chills down the spines of European leaders, argues Garvan Walshe in FP, because “if Europe doesn’t bolster its defenses, the Poles, Lithuanians, and Latvians could be next.”

What We’re Following Today

EU summit opens, with Brexit at the top of the agenda. The EU leaders’ two-day summit begins in Brussels today, with the focus on striking a last-minute Brexit deal with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Officials say the European Union and Britain are close to a deal. “The basic foundations of this agreement are ready and theoretically we could accept a deal,” the European Council President Donald Tusk said Wednesday.

But Johnson might not win the support he needs in the British Parliament to pass the deal—especially the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party, whose votes could be crucial. Another issue that will be high on the EU agenda is migration, as the Turkish incursion into Syria has raised concerns in Greece and in the rest of Europe about a new wave of asylum seekers.

U.S. aid restored to Central America. On Wednesday, the United States resumed some economic aid to El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, after cutting it off earlier this year over migration. The move comes as the Central American countries have each signed at least partial deals with the United States agreeing to implement a rule that requires asylum seekers to seek refuge in a third country rather than the United States. In recent years, record numbers of immigrants have come to the United States from the three countries.

Yemen’s government and southern separatists to sign deal. Today Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and southern separatists are expected to sign an agreement to end the fighting in the port of Aden that divided the Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthi rebels. Following attacks on Saudi Arabia by the Houthis, Riyadh has been trying to again focus the coalition’s attention on fighting the Houthis. The two sides could take a few days to announce a deal, an official told Reuters.

Keep an Eye On

Indonesia’s activists. Last month, thousands of Indonesian students and activists came together in cities across the country to protest new laws that weaken anti-corruption efforts. The demonstrations drew an unusually broad coalition that see themselves as the defenders of democracy. Now, they are demanding concrete change, Kate Walton writes for FP. 

Employment laws in Qatar. The International Labor Organization says that Qatar has pledged to end its so-called kafala system, in which migrant workers are unable to switch jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission. The system exists in other Gulf countries that rely heavily on foreign labor and has been widely criticized by rights groups.

Protesting Dutch farmers. Thousands of Dutch farmers took to the streets of the Hague on Wednesday in protest of government policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions, including by reducing the size of their herds. The agricultural lobby is powerful in the Netherlands, and it was their second major demonstration this month.

Ethiopia’s 2020 election. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office amid profound strife, and he won the Nobel Peace Prize just seven months before the country’s elections. The timing isn’t necessarily good. The Nobel Committee’s decision now seems extremely political—and it could aggravate the Ethiopia’s troubles, Bronwyn Bruton argues in FP.

Her Power—Women’s employment in U.S. foreign-policy agencies has decreased steadily since 2008. Original research by FP Analytics tracks the lack of progress toward gender equality through extensive data analysis, one-on-one interviews, and focus groups with current and former female U.S. government employees in foreign policy. 

Read the Her Power Index to see what we uncovered about the barriers women face entering the field and rising to leadership positions.

Odds and Ends

The first all-female spacewalk could take place today from the International Space Station, according to the U.S. space agency, NASA. Astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir will leave the station to replace a faulty battery. There have been more than 200 spacewalks from the space station, involving only 15 women. 

Vietnam has banned the animated film Abominable from cinemas because one scene shows a map with the so-called nine-dash line, depicting Chinese territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea. The movie is a co-production between the U.S. studio DreamWorks Animation and the Chinese Pearl Studio.

That’s it for today.

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Audrey Wilson is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @audreybwilson

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