Vice President Mike Pence has announced that Turkey has agreed to a cease-fire in northern Syria between Turkish military and Kurdish-led forces, although Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it is a “pause in Turkey’s operation” and “not a cease-fire.”
“Turkey and the United States agree on the priority of respecting vulnerable human life, human rights, and particularly the protection of religious and ethnic communities in the region,” Pence said at a news conference.
“It will be a pause in military operation for 120 hours, while the United States facilitates the withdrawal of YPG (the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units) from the affected areas in the safe zone,” he explained. “And once that is completed, Turkey has agreed to a permanent cease-fire and the United States of America will work with Turkey—will work with nations around the world—to make sure peace and stability are the order of the day in this safe zone.
“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.”
President Trump on Monday ordered new sanctions on Turkey amid sustained criticism from Democratic and Republican lawmakers over his decision to withdraw 1,000 U.S. security forces from Syria, effectively making way for the Turkish operation. For years, the United States considered the Kurds its closest ally in the region, working closely alongside them in the fight to eradicate ISIS.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had repeatedly rejected the idea of negotiating with the Kurds, saying his government would not make a deal with what it considers a terrorist organization.
On Tuesday, Franklin Graham requested prayer for Pence, posting on Facebook: “Turkey’s deadly invasion into Syria is costing lives, causing a humanitarian crisis, and further destabilizing the region. Reports from on the ground say that well over 200,000 people—mostly Kurds and Christians—have fled for their lives. Pray for the Vice President’s safety as he travels, for him and President Trump to have wisdom and favor in these delicate negotiations, and that this conflict will be halted before more blood is shed.”
Pence flew on Wednesday to Turkey, where he met Erdogan in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, for an hour and 20 minutes in hopes of facilitating a deal.
U.S. special envoy for Syria Jim Jeffrey joined Pence and Erdogan during the meeting, serving as their translator. Jeffrey is a veteran diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Turkey.
Following the meeting, Pence said that under the cease-fire agreement, the U.S. will not impose additional sanctions, and added that once the cease-fire becomes permanent, all sanctions will be lifted.