The United States and Turkey have agreed to a temporary cease fire to allow Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a safe zone that Turkey is establishing along its border with Syria, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Thursday.
During the 120-hour cease fire, the United States will help fighters with the YPG, or People's Protection Units, leave the safe zone, Pence said at a press conference in Ankara. For their part, the Turks will take no military action in Kobane.
“Our team is already working with YPG personnel in the safe zone for an orderly withdrawal outside the 20-mile mark,” Pence said following negotiating with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his team for more than five hours. “We're going to go forward together to bring peace and security to this region. I'm very confident of that.”
Once all YPG fighters have retreated from the safe zone, the cease fire will become permanent President Donald Trump will rescind sanctions imposed on Turkey after it launched its invasion of Kurdish-held northeast Syria, Pence said.
Pence did not say exactly where Kurdish forces will go after withdrawing from Syrian/Turkish border.
“The United States will always be grateful for our partnership with SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] in defeating ISIS but we recognize the importance and the value of a safe zone to create a buffer between Syria proper and the Kurdish population and the Turkish border, and we're going to be working very closely,” Pence said.
Separately, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Thursday that the agreement with the United States called for a pause in military operations, not a cease fire.
“Turkey will end the operation in northern Syria only after YPG/PKK terrorists leave ,” Turkey's Anadolu Agency quoted Cavusoglu as saying. “”We [Turkey and the U.S.] agreed on collecting heavy weapons of YPG, destructing their positions and fortifications.”
Both the United States and Turkey also renewed an agreement “to coordinate efforts on detention facilities and internally displaced persons in formerly ISIS controlled areas,” Pence said.
About 850 women and children affiliated with ISIS are believed to have fled a camp in Ayn Issa and another five ISIS detainees may have escaped from a prison at Qamishli, said Brandon Wallace, a counterterrorism analyst with the Institute for the Study of War think tank in Washington, D.C.
Prior to the cease fire announcement, Trump tweeted on Thursday that “millions of lives will be saved” as a result of the agreement that Pence and other top U.S. officials had struck with Turkey.
“This deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago,” the president tweeted. “There needed to be some 'tough' love in order to get it done. Great for everybody. Proud of all!”