The Guardian reports

Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) fighters would pull back from Turkey’s proposed 20-mile (32km) deep “safe zone” on its border, Pence told reporters in Ankara on Thursday evening after hours of meetings with Turkish officials.

“It will be a pause for 120 hours while the US oversees the withdrawal of the YPG [a Kurdish unit within the SDF] … Once that is completed, Turkey has agreed to a permanent ceasefire,” Pence said, adding that preparations were already underway.

The arrangement, however, appeared to be a significant US embrace of Turkey’s position in the weeklong conflict, and did not publicly define the safe zone’s borders.


General Mazloum Kobane of the SDF confirmed the ceasefire deal in comments to local television on Thursday night, but said it only applied to the area between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, both of which have seen heavy fighting.

Erdoğan is due to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi on Tuesday, where it is expected more concrete talks on the size of Turkey’s planned buffer zone will take place.


A statement released after the meeting reiterated the US understanding of Turkey’s need for a safe zone which will be “primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces” after the Kurdish withdrawal, implying that Ankara still intends to occupy the 270m (440km) stretch of land, which includes several important Kurdish towns and parts of a major highway.

Likewise CBC says:

Analysts say Turkey is the clear winner here, essentially getting Trump's stamp of approval on what they sought from the beginning: a large swath of northern Syria serving as a buffer between Turkey and Kurdish-controlled territory.

Much of the outcome depends on whether Kurdish forces actually vacate a 30-kilometre-wide stretch from Manbij to the Iraqi border. But John Dunford, who works with the Institute for the Study of War, said for now Turkey gets what it wanted.

Likewise CNN (which has a video Pence's statement) comments

The deal appears to secure Turkey most of its military objectives, forcing America's one-time allies in the fight against ISIS -- Kurdish forces -- to cede a vast swath of territory, with one senior US official very familiar with operations in Syria telling CNN that the deal meant the US was "validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population."

The Turkish press certainly didn't report of it any other way:

Turkey's pro-government dominated media is hailing the U.S.-Turkish cease-fire deal in northeast Syria as a victory for Turkey's president.

Yeni Safak newspaper's banner headline on Friday hailed a "Great Victory." It wrote: "Turkey got everything it wanted."

Sabah newspaper's headline read: "We won both on the field and on the (negotiating) table."

The EU now seems to have taken a position (although it's unclear in what capacity Tusk was speaking):

EU Council President Donald Tusk says the “so-called” Syria cease-fire is “a demand of capitulation of the Kurds” and called on Turkey to immediately halt its operation in northern Syria.

So is there any other way to read this than the US agreeing with the Turkish demands? (But Turkey still has to get Putin's approval. The 120-hour ceasefire coincides to end with Erdogan's planned visit to Moscow next week.)

  • 4
    It's worth noting that the ceasefire has yet to materialize
    – Machavity
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 13:09
  • Pence is the Vice President of the US. Vice Presidents have no actual power; the most Pence could do is carry a message from the President.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 16:21
  • 2
    @jamesqf: apparently Pence was authorized to negotiate. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 16:52
  • We had about 200 troops in Syria, the Turks could have come anytime they wanted, except for one thing. They waited for the greenlight from the US, and I would say both before and after the US pullout
    – user9790
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 11:03

3 Answers 3


Pence and Pompeo haven’t achieved anything that wasn’t already in the making. Erdogan knew he had a limited number of days to complete his military action as, at least on paper, he was making himself an enemy of everyone. So, time was of essence. Pence’s and Pompeo’s visit was just a PR action for the White House that can now claim they haven’t let down the Kurds. But, of course, they have.

Just keep in mind every party’s final goal here.

  • The White House goal is to win the 2020 election.

  • Russia’s and Syria’s goal is to regain the entire Syrian territory. In the long term, the biggest threat to this plan is the Kurds. They are well-armed, the Kurdish population is important, and the Kurds have always strived for independence (or at least some strong form of autonomy), even for decades before the Syrian civil war. The Kurds have, at least for the last 100 years, represented a threat to all other political entities in the region (including Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria).

  • Turkey’s goal is to counter the Kurds’ threat that has increased as a result of the Syrian civil war. The Turks were already doing incursions into Syrian territory before the war to fight against the Kurds. But now that Kurds occupy such a large territory and have at their disposal a much larger arsenal of weapons, they must be defeated before they become an existential threat to Turkey.

So, while Turkey and Syria/Russia are presented by the media and the many disaster-prediction websites as enemies, in fact, they cooperate to a great extent.

Just picture this: Turkey cleans up North-Eastern Syria of Kurds and denies them strategic locations. The Kurds must request Syria’s help, which means that they will need to make concessions as far as their dream for autonomy. In sum, the Kurds gradually lose control of the territory they currently occupy and must submit to Assad; Syria will eventually regain control of its territory with some promises to Turkey to have a watchful eye on the border (maybe with the help of Turkey’s armed forces). And the US can claim they contributed to peace while pulling out the army. Russia, Turkey and Syria win (and they most likely cooperated behind the scenes to get there). The White House may or may not get an argument in favor of Trump’s reelection. But the big losers are the Kurds, as was to be expected based on history.

  • 1
    Many other countries would hate seeing an independent Kurdistan as this would encourage independence movements within their own minorities. So it's a win-win for the absolutely everyone except for Kurds hoping to become independent. Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 1:55

Has Pence essentially granted Kurdish Syrian territory to Turkey, subject to Russian approval?

How can the USA grant something that isn't theirs to give?

It's Syrian territory - Syria and Russia have the final say in this.

Note that the five day cease fire allows Syrian troops to enter the area. If anything at all, this cease fire allows Syria to oppose Turkish' plans.

  • 3
    My understanding is that Pence more or less promised he'll push the SDF to withdraw. That was apparently his entire leverage in those negotiations (Erdogan only engaged with the ceasefire idea after Pence mentioned a SDF withdrawal) The US sanctions were almost entirely symbolic, so no real leverage there. Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 14:30
  • @Fizz What has that to do with my answer?
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 14:33
  • 1
    Isn't asking the Kurds to evacuate their territory nearly the same thing as granting it to Turkey? (Not my downvote, by the way.) Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 15:01
  • 1
    @Fizz No, as Syria could move into it as well, and they do at the moment.
    – Sjoerd
    Commented Oct 18, 2019 at 16:18

I don't think, that he directly offered some land (or maybe I misunderstood question?). Recently, Erdogan have approved its commitment to Syrian territory consistency.

Directly about talks with Pence - I think, that their was mentioned some analogue of Adana's pact - maybe with 30km zone, instead of 5km in a pre-war version. Maybe that also would be discussed while Erdogan's visit to Moscow.

Also, McGerk in his (some month ago, if I remember) big interview (before his resign), mentioned Syria territorial consistency, if I remember. So, Adana's-pact-2 may be some shared point between Russia and US wishes towards Turkey.

About citations from the questions - I think, that Turkish press is right - Erdogan have won all he wants. Kurds will be pressed from the border, and also he provided to the US option to retreat with saving face - making some detention to recent US-Turkey tentions.

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