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Photo: Murat Kaynak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told Sky News Wednesday that he will not meet with Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading a delegation with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Turkey to discuss a ceasefire in northern Syria.

Later, however, Erdogan's communications director walked that refusal back, tweeting that the president "does plan to meet the U.S. delegation led by [Pence] tomorrow."

Sky News' original video:

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

The tweet from Erdogan's communications director:

A tweet previously embedded here has been deleted or was tweeted from an account that has been suspended or deleted.

Worth noting: Erdogan originally told Sky News that he would only meet with President Trump.

  • He is facing increasing international pressure over his decision to launch an offensive strike against U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.
  • Pence's official schedule still shows that he will depart at 6:00 p.m. ET for Ankara.

Our thought bubble: While Erdogan may be facing international pressure, the offensive and his defiance of the U.S. is clearly playing well domestically right now.

  • Trump administration officials tell Axios they are banking that his position will change if and when Turkey’s economy starts suffering the way it did last time Trump hit the country with sanctions to secure the release of American pastor Andrew Brunson.

Behind the scenes: Trump has gloated to advisers that he broke Erdogan during the Brunson negotiations — that he hit Turkey "so hard" with sanctions and drove its economy down.

  • He told advisers Erdogan initially told him he couldn’t do anything because it was being handled by the Turkish justice system. Trump said he told Erdogan back then, "Bullshit, a justice system. You own the justice system."
  • This time it's harder for Trump, though, because his initial statement effectively cleared the way for Erdogan's invasion.
  • And Trump has doubled down and defended his decision to withdraw the U.S. from northern Syria on the grounds of ending "endless wars." In other words, he’s trying to sanction the cat after he let it out of the bag.

The state of play: Erdogan says he will only agree to a ceasefire when the Kurdish militia, whom he views as a terrorist group, surrenders and leaves the Turkish controlled areas in Syria, reports the Wall Street Journal.

What's next: Erdogan and Trump are set to meet in D.C. next month, but Erdogan told reporters that he is still weighing the visit because he feels the "arguments, debates, conversations being held in Congress regarding my person, my family and my minister friends are a very big disrespect," per Reuters.

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has also extended an invitation to Erdogan to visit in the next few days, reports Reuters.

Go deeper: Pelosi and Graham team up to oppose Trump's Syria decision

Editor's note: This story and headline have been updated to include the tweet from Erdogan's communications director.

Go deeper

Updated 4 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker
31 mins ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Tax season nightmare ahead for understaffed IRS

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The IRS will start accepting 2021 tax returns in less than a week, and the filing delays and administrative headaches to come might eclipse last year — which was “one of the worst filing seasons," according to an independent advocacy agency within the IRS.

Why it matters: For taxpayers, especially with complex or paper filings, this means headaches, delayed refunds, and mistakes.