Pence: Turkey agrees to five-day cease-fire to withdraw Kurdish fighters

Pence: Turkey agrees to five-day cease-fire to withdraw Kurdish fighters

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Turkey has agreed to a five-day ceasefire in Syria that allows the U.S. to help Kurdish fighters get out of a 20-mile buffer zone along the border.

“I know it’s already underway as we speak,” Mr. Pence said.

Mr. Pence said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to stop his assault on the Kurds altogether, once they’ve left the strip.

Mr. Erdogan also agreed not to attack Kobani, a key city in the area, and will cooperate with international partners in setting up a “safe zone” between Turkey and Syria. Both countries will work to make sure Islamic State prisoners do not escape and cause havoc.

The U.S. agreed to withdraw the sanctions Mr. Trump imposed on Turkey this week.

“Great news out of Turkey,” President Trump tweeted. “Thank you to [Mr. Erdogan]. Millions of lives will be saved!”

Mr. Trump this week said the unfolding fight between Turkey and Syria is “not our problem,” though he dispatched Mr. Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to push for a ceasefire in the wake of his decision to pull dozens of U.S. troops from the buffer zone with Syria.

Lawmakers from both parties in Washington are fuming over the decision, saying it gave Mr. Erdogan the green light to attack U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters.

The president denies the charge, though even his GOP allies fear Mr. Trump blundered and left a vacuum in the Middle East for Russia and Iran to fill.

U.S. lawmakers fear a lot of damage has already been done and that it will be difficult to regain American credibility in the region.

Earlier Thursday, video released by Turkish media showed Mr. Pence and Mr. Erdogan looking stiff and stern-faced before their meeting.

“Thank you for seeing me,” an unsmiling Mr. Pence said to Mr. Erdogan in a handshake greeting.

A second Turkey flag was placed behind Mr. Pence’s chair — instead of an American one — during the bilateral, which lasted well over an hour.

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