Turkey agrees with U.S. to pause Syria assault

After hours of negotiations with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced what they called a ceasefire in northeast Syria to allow for withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

Pence had flown to Turkey to call for a halt in Turkey's cross-border military operation, called Operation Peace Spring, under which Turkey has aimed to clear US-allied Kurdish fighters from a 20 mile area along the border.


"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…All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal."

But Turkey's Foreign Minster said Turkey's military was only "pausing" operations so that the Kurdish YPG forces could leave the zone, and wouldn't call it a ceasefire.

Pence said that an end to Turkey's aggressions - should it hold - would lead to the White House lifting economic sanctions imposed in recent days.

Thursday's announcement came amid increasing bipartisan pressure in Capitol Hill to remedy the unfolding disaster created after President Trump moved U.S. troops out of northeast Syria, clearing the way for Erdogan to move in.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, normally a staunch Trump ally, had threatened earlier on Thursday to enact harsher sanctions on Turkey through Congress than what the White House had imposed.


"Congress is going to speak with a very firm, singular voice, that we will impose sanctions in the strongest measure possible against this Turkish outrage."

Turkey's attack in Syria has created a humanitarian crisis, with 200,000 civilians fleeing.

It's also created the potential for thousands of Islamic State fighters to break free from jails.

And the abrupt pull out left US-allied Kurdish fighters to turn to Russia for help against the Turks.

Trump claimed that the chaos and bloodshed of the past week helped make a deal.


"But without that gunfire going back and forth, without those rockets going in both directions, without other countries moving in and potentially moving in, and potentially creating virtually a world war, without all of that happening, you would have never been able to make this deal…As a group, I want to thank the Kurds…The Kurds were great. It's a great day for the Kurds, it's really a great day for civilization."

A stark contrast from Trump's comments the day before.. when he said the fight in Syria had nothing to do with the US, and described the Kurds as undeserving of U.S. support.

SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) US PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, SAYING: "The Kurds know how to fight, and as I said they are not angels. They're not angels, if you take a look. You have to go back and take a look."

Despite the temporary ceasefire agreement, Senators Graham and Chris Van Hollen said they will move forward with their plans to impose stiff sanctions on Turkey