By Ronn Blitzer
Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Thursday that they have reached a cease-fire agreement between Turkey and Kurds, following a meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.
The deal is for a 120-hour cease-fire, during which time the Kurdish-led forces could pull back. All Turkish military operations under the recent offensive known as Operation Peace Spring will pause during that time, and the operation itself will come to an end upon the completion of the Kurdish withdrawal, under the terms of the deal. Pence said a safe zone between the two sides will be established.
“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 during a press conference while in Turkey.
It remains to be seen whether the Kurds will agree to the terms.
The Turkish offensive began after President Trump announced the withdrawal of American troops from northern Syria. Trump was heavily criticized for the move by lawmakers from both parties.
Last week, Trump sent a letter to Erdogan encouraging him to “work out a good deal,” threatening to “destroy” the Turkish economy if Erdogan continued his aggression against the Kurds.
“Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!” Trump said, before stating that he would call Erdogan.
It was reported by the BBC Thursday that Erdogan “thoroughly rejected” the letter and threw it “in the bin,” but hours later Pence announced the potential cease fire.
Trump teased the news before the formal announcement.
“Great news out of Turkey. News conference with @VP and @SecPompeo. Thank you to @RTErdogan,” Trump tweeted. “Millions of lives will be saved!”
“We think the agreement today first ends the violence, which is what President Trump sent us here to do,” Pence said. “We achieved that.”
Pence said that the U.S. did not approve of Turkey’s military operation, but under the terms of the deal will lift sanctions against Turkey upon the fulfillment of the agreement from both sides.