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Turkey agrees to 5-day ceasefire with Kurds after Pence, Pompeo meeting

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, Ambassador David M. Satterfield and Vice President Mike Pence prepare for meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Turkey, on October 17, 2019. (State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha)
October 17, 2019

United States Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday they’ve reached a cease-fire agreement between the Turkish government and Kurdish fighters threatened by a recent Turkish military offensive in northern Syria.

Pence and Pompeo were able to secure the commitment from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a visit this week to the Turkish capital of Ankara, according to ABC News. The ceasefire will include a 120-hour pause in Turkey’s military operations while the U.S. assists withdrawal of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) to an area outside of Turkey’s area of military operations in northern Syria.

Pence said Turkey will enact a permanent ceasefire once the Kurds have withdrawn.

“Turkey has agreed to a permanent ceasefire and the United States of America will work with Turkey,” Pence said.

The Turkish military operation is an effort to enforce a 300 mile long, 20-mile wide buffer zone on the Turkish-Syrian border.

“Our team is already working with YPG personnel in the safe zone for an orderly withdrawal outside the 20-mile mark and we’re going to go forward together to bring peace and security to this region, I’m very confident of that,” Pence continued.

Pence said in exchange for the Turkish concessions, the U.S. will not endorse Turkey’s military operations in northern Syria but the U.S. will retract economic sanctions placed against Ankara since the offensive began, according to Fox News.

“We think the agreement today first ends the violence, which is what President Trump sent us here to do,” Pence said. “We achieved that.”

It is still unclear if Kurdish forces will agree to the terms.

The latest development follows a Wednesday vote of 354-60 in the U.S. House of Representatives, condemning President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria, making room for the Turkish military offensive to create the buffer zone

Members of Congress and other U.S. officials warned of the potential fallout for U.S.-allied Kurds that Turkey has labeled as terrorists and targeted in the absence of a U.S. military presence.

The Wednesday House measure called on Turkey to suspend its military offensive targeting Kurdish fighters.

Trump defended his U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria on Wednesday, pointing out U.S. desire to get out of wars and Pompeo and Pence’s Wednesday departure for Ankara to negotiate the ceasefire with Turkey.

Trump faced strong bipartisan condemnation for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria.

Of Pence and Pompeo’s diplomatic mission, Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney said, “It’s too late for this kind of conversation.”

On Thursday, Trump touted the ceasefire as “Great news out of Turkey.”

Trump thanked Erdogan and said millions will be saved by the ceasefire agreement.