Oct 17 2019

Turkey to pause incursion in Syria to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw - Pence

Turkey and the United States have agreed on a 120-hour suspension of Ankara's military offensive in northeast Syria, allowing time for Kurdish forces to withdraw, and in return the United States will remove economic sanctions on Turkey, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said on Thursday.

“Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria,” Pence, who led talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, told reporters during a press conference in Ankara.

The United States has already been in contact with the Kurdish forces and have begun to facilitate their "orderly" withdrawal from the 30-kilometre safe zone south of the Turkish border in Syria, he said.

Turkey will entirely stop all its military offensive in northeast Syria with the completion of the withdrawal, according to Pence. And, The United States will not impose further sanctions against Turkey and the existing ones will be dropped after Ankara ends its incursion entirely, according to U.S. Vice President.

However, Pence said there would be no concession on the prosecution of Turkish state-run Halkbank over breaking sanctions on Iran, for which Turkey has long been pressuring U.S. authorities to drop charges.

The prosecution of Halkbank was delayed until this week, when Manhattan prosecutors declared a case had been opened in an undated indictment.

"We informed them that was a matter for the Southern District of New York," Pence told Turkish officials who brought up the issue once the ceasefire talks ended.

Joint Turkish-US statement that followed Pence-Erdogan meeting

(Shared by Turkish foreign ministry sources)

1. The US and Turkey reaffirm their relationship as fellow members of NATO. The US understands Turkey's legitimate security concerns on Turkey's southern border.

2. Turkey and the US agree that the conditions on the ground, northeast Syria in particular, necessitate closer coordination on the basis of common interests.

3. Turkey and the US remain committed to protecting NATO territories and NATO populations against all threats with the solid understanding of "one for all and all for one".

4. The two countries reiterate their pledge to uphold human life, human rights, and the protection of religious and ethnic communities.

5. Turkey and the US are committed to D-ISIS/DAESH activities in northeast Syria. This will include coordination on detention facilities and internally displaced persons from formerly ISIS/DAESH-controlled areas, as appropriate.

6. Turkey and the US agree that counter-terrorism operations must target only terrorists and their hideouts, shelters, emplacements, weapons, vehicles and equipment.

7. The Turkish side expressed its commitment to ensure safety and well-being of residents of all population centers in the safe zone controlled by the Turkish Forces (safe zone) and reiterated that maximum care will be exercised in order not to cause harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.

8. Both countries reiterate their commitment to the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and UN-led political process, which aims at ending the Syrian conflict in accordance with UNSCR 2254.

9. The two sides agreed on the continued importance and functionality of a safe zone in order to address the national security concerns of Turkey, to include the re-collection of YPG heavy weapons and the disablement of their fortifications and all other fighting positions.

10. The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces and the two sides will increase their cooperation in all dimensions of its implementation.

11. The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow the withdrawal of YPG from the safe zone within 120 hours. Operation Peace Spring will be halted upon completion of this withdrawal.

12. Once Operation Peace Spring is paused, the US agrees not to pursue further imposition of sanctions under the Executive Order of October 14, 2019, Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Syria, and will work and consult with Congress, as appropriate, to underline the progress being undertaken to achieve peace and security in Syria, in accordance with UNSCR 2254. Once Operation Peace Spring is halted as per paragraph 11 the current sanctions under the aforementioned Executive Order shall be lifted.

13. Both parties are committed to work together to implement all the goals outlined in this Statement.