More than a week after Turkey began its invasion of northern Syria, which President Donald Trump effectively green-lit, Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday announced that a vague temporary ceasefire had been brokered.
Though Pence referred to the agreement as a ceasefire, the Turkish foreign minister declined to use that term to describe the arrangement.
Trump has faced bipartisan outrage over what was essentially his endorsement of the Turkish operation, in the form of an announcement three days earlier that U.S. forces would leave the area.
Beginning on Oct. 9, the Turks invaded Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria, where there had once been a U.S. military presence deterring Turkey.
“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” Pence said Thursday, referring to the Syrian Kurdish group that served as the United States’ primary partner in the fight against the Islamic State.
“This is a situation where everybody is happy,” Trump remarked later of the announcement, speaking in Fort Worth.
The “safe zone area,” Pence said, will be 20 miles wide but will exclude Kobani, a village in northern Syria under Kurdish control. The Turks have long sought a 20-mile “safe zone” free from what they view as the threat posed by Kurds.
“This also includes an agreement by Turkey to engage in no military action against the community of Kobani,” Pence said,
However, the Turkish foreign minister appeared to contradict that statement soon after Pence’s remarks.
Turkey did not make any guarantees to the US on Kurdish town of Kobani, Cavusoglu says. In his comments, Pence had said Turkey promised not to attack the Kurdish stronghold on its border
— Ayla Jean Yackley (@aylajean) October 17, 2019
Once the Kurds get out of the safe zone, Pence said, the ceasefire would be permanent.
Pence said he’d spoken Trump, and that the President was “very grateful for President Erdogan’s willingness to step forward to enact this cease fire.” On his own behalf, Pence said he was “grateful for the President’s leadership.”
A day earlier, Trump’s leadership on the Turkish crisis came into fuller view.
Three days after announcing that U.S. forces would not hamper the invasion, the President sent a frantic, unhinged letter to Erdogan. It was revealed publicly Wednesday.
“Let’s work out a deal!” Trump wrote to Erdogan. “Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” It reportedly went unanswered.
“Where there are differences between friends, it’s important that friends let their feelings be known,” Pence remarked Thursday. “President Trump did that in this case.”