U.S. President Donald Trump has said that he ordered sanctions on Turkey lifted, as he commented on a deal to pause Turkish offensive in northern Syria.
Simultaneously, a statement was released on the U.S. Treasury website, which announced that the sanctions imposed on Turkish ministers and senior officials were removed.
“I have, therefore, instructed the Secretary of the Treasury to lift all sanctions imposed October 14th in response to Turkey’s original offensive moves against the Kurds,” Trump said on Oct. 23, referring to the incursion that Turkey launched to clear its border from Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
“So the sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we’re not happy with,” Trump also said, adding that Turkey has said it is stopping combat and making a ceasefire in northern Syria permanent.
Turkey launched its offensive called Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 following Trump’s decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the region.
Trump became under bipartisan fire following his decision, with U.S. officials saying that the pullout has left Washington’s main ally in the fight against ISIS vulnerable.
The leading group in the SDF is the People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is the Syrian affiliate of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) – a group that’s designated as a terrorist organization by Ankara, Washington and the European Union.
Relations between two NATO allies rapidly deteriorated following Turkey’s military operation, which prompted Trump to send a delegation to Ankara.
During their visit, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan agreed on a pause of operations for 120 hours while the YPG withdrew from the area.
Turkey then struck a deal with Russia concerning northern Syria, hours before the 120-hour period ended.
In his speech, Trump said that “permanent” was “somewhat questionable” in the region.
“Early this morning, the government of Turkey informed my administration that they would be stopping combat and their offensive in Syria, and making the ceasefire permanent,” he said.
“However, you would also define the word permanent in that part of the world as somewhat questionable. We all understand that.”
The statement released from the U.S. Treasury, meanwhile, said that sanctions imposed on Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu were lifted.
In his speech, Trump praised Erdoğan as “a man who loves his country.”
“I want to again thank everyone on the American team who helped achieve the ceasefire in Syria, saved so many lives. Along with president Erdoğan of Turkey, a man I’ve gotten to know very well and a man who loves his country,” Trump said.
“And in his mind, he’s doing the right thing for his country,” he also said, adding that the leaders of both countries may meet “in the very near future.”
The U.S. President also thanked SDF commander Mazloum Abdi, who simultaneously praised Trump’s “great” and “tireless” efforts on the ceasefire deal.
A short while after his speech, Trump thanked Abdi once again from Twitter, as he also retweeted Abdi’s remarks.
In his speech, the U.S. President reiterated his earlier comments on getting U.S. out of the Middle East.
“Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand,” he said.
“How many Americans must die in the Middle East in the midst of these ancient sectarian and tribal conflicts? I am committed to pursuing a different course, one that leads to victory for America.”
Trump said “thousands and thousands” have been killed in the area, adding that a “small number” of U.S. troops will stay in Syria to protect the oil in the region.
“We have secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of U.S. Troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,” he also said.
Earlier, Trump sent a tweet on the current situation in northern Syria, a day after Moscow and Ankara agreed on a memorandum concerning the area.
“Big success on the Turkey/Syria Border. Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended. Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us. Captured ISIS prisoners secured,” Trump said, referring to ISIS militants held by the SDF.
According to the deal reached between Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian military police and Syrian border guards are set to enter the Syrian side of the Turkish-Syrian border, outside the area of Operation Peace Spring, to “facilitate the removal” of YPG elements and their weapons to the depth of 30 kilometers from the Turkish-Syrian border, which should be finalized in 150 hours starting from 12 p.m. of Oct. 23.
Following the end of the aforementioned 150 hours, joint Russian-Turkish patrols will start in the west and the east of the area of Operation Peace Spring with a depth of 10 kilometers, except Qamishli city.
The memorandum also said that all YPG elements and their weapons “will be removed” from Manbij and Tal Rifat.