Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday that the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria, and that Turkey will pause all military operations for 120 hours to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a “safe zone” along the Turkey-Syria border. “Once that is completed, Turkey has agreed to a permanent cease-fire,” Pence added.
The announcement came shortly after Pence met privately with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who was part of an American delegation that negotiated with Turkey for five hours on Thursday, was at his side as he relayed the news to reporters in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara.
Pence credited Trump for the agreement. “Make no mistake about it — President Trump was very clear with our ally, Turkey, about American opposition to Turkish military forces entering Syria,” he said. “The president made that very clear in his discussions and his correspondence with President Erdoğan, and I believe that the candor and frankness President Trump applied to this, and the strength of his relationship with President Erdoğan both contributed to the ability for this agreement to come about.”
(The White House statement announcing the withdrawal of troops from northern Syria earlier this month made clear the administration expected Turkey to invade the region.)
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) October 17, 2019
The agreement comes as a surprise considering the visible tension between Pence and Erdoğan when they first met earlier on Thursday, as well as the fact that Erdoğan said on Wednesday that he “will never declare a ceasefire,” citing his belief that the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the target of Turkey’s invasion, are a “terrorist organization.”
Earlier this month, President Trump abruptly announced he was pulling American troops out of northern Syria, clearing the way for Turkey to invade the region and attack the Kurds, with whom the U.S. had been allied for years in fighting ISIS. After Turkey carried out the invasion, Trump alternately dismissed and decried the violence, threatening to impose economic sanctions on Turkey if the nation did not pull back militarily. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump wrote Erdoğan in a bizarre letter made public Wednesday. Pence said on Thursday that Erdoğan agreed to the ceasefire in exchange for relief from sanctions Trump imposed on Turkey last week, as well as a promise not to impose any additional economic sanctions.
The agreement on Thursday calls for all SDF forces to withdraw from northern Syria, which was Turkey’s aim in the first place. “This is what Turkey wanted and what POTUS green lighted,” a U.S. official told CNN. “I do think one reason Turkey agreed to it is because of the Kurds have put up more of a resistance and they could not advance south any further as a result. If we don’t impose sanctions then Turkey wins big time.” The official added that the agreement was “essentially validating” Turkey’s invasion.
President Trump was pleased with the ceasefire, writing on Twitter that “million of lives will be saved!” and that the deal could have never happened without “some ‘tough’ love” from the United States.
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!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
“This is a great day for civilization,” he added. “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. Millions of lives will be saved. Congratulations to ALL!”