U.S. officials said Thursday Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has agreed to stop its offensive in Syria, signaling an end to a military campaign that has so far killed dozens of Kurdish fighters and drawn international condemnation.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence announced the agreement for a five-day cease-fire after hours of bilateral meetings in Ankara among U.S. and Turkish officials — which included Erdogan and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The situation will be re-evaluated at the end of the five-day deal.
Erdogan’s forces began Operation Peace Spring a week ago in northeast Syria, to clear border territories of Kurdish fighters so Ankara can send back Syrian refugees who fled to Turkey. The Turkish leader has previously insisted he would accept no cease-fire.
“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 defines this border region with Syria,” Pence said.
Erdogan’s offensive was designed to create a “safe zone” for the return of thousands of Syrian refugees who’d fled to Turkey. It targeted Kurdish fighters in the border region, whom Ankara considers terrorist, to make way for the refugees’ repatriation. Turkish officials have said hundreds of Kurdish fighters have been “neutralized” since the incursion began a week ago.
U.S. President Donald Trump applauded the resolution, saying “millions of lives will be saved.” Earlier, he’d said the Turkish invasion is “not our problem.”
“I am the only person who can fight for the safety of our troops & bring them home from the ridiculous and costly endless wars, and be scorned[?]” he tweeted previously. “Democrats always liked that position, until I took it. Democrats always liked walls, until I built them. Do you see what’s happening here?”
Erdogan initially refused to meet with Pence and Pompeo Thursday, saying he would only deal diplomatically with Trump. He relented late Wednesday.
The House had also passed a resolution Wednesday condemning Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria. The measure passed with bipartisan support, including backing from Trump supporter Sen. Lindsey Graham.
“I don’t agree with his construct that Turkey’s invasion of Syria is of no concern,” the South Carolina senator said.
“You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people” the letter said. “And I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy — and I will.
“History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!”
The report said Erdogan “thoroughly rejected” the letter at the time and “put it in the [trash] bin.”