U.S. and Turkey agreed to a ceasefire in Syria, says Pence

Pompeo to meet Netanyahu in Jerusalem Friday

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to reporters at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, October 17, 2019. (photo credit: HUSEYIN ALDEMIR/REUTERS)
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaks to reporters at a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara, Turkey, October 17, 2019.
The US has reached a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a ceasefire in northern Syria to end an eight-day Turkish offensive against Kurdish-led forces, US Vice President Mike Pence told reporters in Ankara on Thursday evening.
A jubilant US President Donald Trump immediately tweeted from Washington: “Millions of lives will be saved!
“This deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago. There needed to be some ‘tough’ love in order to get it done. Great for everybody. Proud of all!
“This is a great day for civilization. I am proud of the United States for sticking by me in following a necessary, but somewhat unconventional, path. People have been trying to make this ‘Deal’ for many years,” Trump continued.
Pence set out the steps that would occur over the first five days, before the permanent ceasefire set in.
“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of [Kurdish] YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” said Pence. “All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal. Our administration has already been in contact with Syrian defense forces, and we have already begun to facilitate their safe withdrawal from the nearly 20-mile [32-km.] wide safe zone area south of the Turkish border in Syria.”
News of a ceasefire came as it appeared that US credibility in the region was at an all-time low. It had seemed as if Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with Erdogan in Ankara had almost no chance of success.
Pompeo is scheduled to fly from Ankara to Israel, where he is slated to update Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday morning in Jerusalem before heading to Brussels to meet with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
In Ankara, Pence explained that with the implementation of the ceasefire, the United States will not impose any further sanctions on Turkey, “and once a permanent ceasefire is in effect, the president has agreed to withdraw the economic sanctions that were imposed this last Monday.”
He set out the steps that would occur over the first five days, before the permanent cease fire set in.

As part of the understanding between the countries, Turkey would not take any military action against Kurds in Kobani, Pence said.
“The United States and Turkey have both mutually committed to a peaceful resolution and future for the safe zone, working on an international basis to ensure that peace and security define this border region of Syria,” the vice president explained.
He said the two countries are “committed to defeat ISIS activities in northeast Syria,” and that the sides decided to renew an agreement to coordinate efforts on detention facilities and internally displaced persons in formerly ISIS-controlled areas.
“Turkey and the United States agreed on the priority of respecting vulnerable human life, human rights and, particularly, the protection of religious and ethnic communities in the region,” Pence continued. “I spoke to President Trump just a few moments ago, and I know the president is very grateful for President Erdogan’s willingness to step forward, to enact this ceasefire and to give an opportunity for a peaceful solution of this conflict that commenced one week ago.”
The vice president said US forces in the region had already begun to facilitate a safe disengagement of YPG units.
“Turkey’s had a great concern about their border,” the vice president added. “And while the United States of America did not approve of their military crossing into Syria, we have always endorsed a safe zone, and it was a matter of discussion and negotiations. We believe that the Kurdish population in Syria, with which we have a strong relationship, will continue to endure. The United States will always be grateful for our partnership with SDF in defeating ISIS, but we recognize the importance and the value of a safe zone to create a buffer between Syria proper and the Kurdish population and the Turkish border.”
He said Trump was against the Turkish military operation.
“Make no mistake about it. President Trump was very clear with our ally Turkey about American opposition to Turkish military forces entering Syria. The president made that clear in his discussions and his correspondence with President Erdogan. Our team is already working with YPG personnel in the safe zone for an orderly withdrawal outside the 20-mile mark.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara had gotten what it wanted.
“We will pause Operation Peace Spring for PKK/YPG to leave the safe zone. This is not a ceasefire – ceasefires can only happen between two legitimate sides,” he told a news conference.
“When the terrorist elements completely leave the safe zone, we can stop the operation.”
Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization with links to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in Turkey. YPG was a main US ally in the fight against Islamic State.
Cavusoglu said the two sides had agreed for heavy arms to be taken from the YPG and for their positions to be destroyed – fulfilling a long-held request by Ankara.
Contradicting Pence, Cavusoglu also said Turkey had given no guarantees regarding the Syrian border town of Kobani. He said Turkey would discuss the town of Manbij and other regions with Russia, which, along with the Syrian government forces, have deployed in several positions vacated by the United States.
After Pence and Erdogan met at the presidential palace, talks between Turkish and U.S. delegations continued for over four hours - well past their expected duration.
Pence's mission was to persuade Erdogan to halt the internationally condemned offensive, but Turkish officials had said before the meeting began that the action would continue regardless.
The Turkish assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 200,000 civilians being uprooted, over thousands of Islamic State fighters being abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.
Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish-led fighters, Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria.
Trump had defended his move on Wednesday as “strategically brilliant.” He said he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a successful meeting, but warned of sanctions and tariffs that would “be devastating to Turkey’s economy” otherwise.