US President Donald Trump announced on Wednesday the United States would be lifting sanctions on Turkey, hailing the success of a ceasefire along its border with Syria, which he says is now permanent.
“Earlier 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 in a televised address from the White House.
“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 in Syria’s northeast border region,” he added.
“The sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we are not happy with,” Trump said, warning that “crippling sanctions” could be reimposed if Turkey failed to honor its obligation to protect religious and ethnic minorities, and also voicing his scepticism about the meaning of “permanent” in “that part of the world.”
His announcement came after a deal struck by Russia and Turkey in Sochi on Tuesday, under which Russia and Syria will “facilitate the removal” from the border region of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters, Washington’s main allies in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) group.
The agreement will also see Turkey preserve a “safe zone” inside Syria about 75 miles long and 20 miles deep. Russia and Turkey will eventually launch joint patrols in the area.
Trump also said that a “small number” of US troops would remain to guard Syria’s oil fields despite a broader American withdrawal from the country. “We have secured the oil and, therefore, a small number of US troops will remain in the area where they have the oil,” he said.