Trump lifts all sanctions against Turkey

By Meg Wagner, Zoe Sottile, Veronica Rocha and Fernando Alfonso III, CNN

Updated 6:16 p.m. ET, October 23, 2019
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12:25 p.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Trump's top adviser on Syria says the US doesn't know where the ISIS fighters are

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler

President Trump, speaking at the White House today, said that the ISIS fighters who have escaped in Syria have "been largely recaptured," directly contradicting Jim Jeffrey, his US special envoy for Syria and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

About an hour ago, Jeffrey addressed the issue of the escapees, saying, "We do not know where they are."

Trump also said there were “a small number, relatively speaking” who escaped — both Jeffrey and Defense Secretary Mark Esper have said the number is more than 100.

12:22 p.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Pence warned last week Turkey's sanctions would be lifted

Vice President Mike Pence previewed President Trump's announcement to lift all sanctions on Turkey last week when the temporary ceasefire was declared.

Last Thursday, Pence said once a permanent ceasefire was achieved, the President would withdraw the sanctions that were placed on Turkey.

A senior US official told CNN last week that the US' deal with Turkey was essentially validating the Turkish offensive.

"This is essentially the US validating what Turkey did and allowing them to annex a portion of Syria and displace the Kurdish population," the official told CNN last week. "This is what Turkey wanted and what POTUS green lighted. I do think one reason Turkey agreed to it is because of the Kurds have put up more of resistance and they could not advance south any further as a result. If we don't impose sanctions, then Turkey wins big time."
12:07 p.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Syrian Kurds say they're conflicted about Turkey-Russia agreement

From CNN's Kareem Khadder and Ingrid Formanek

For Syria’s Kurds, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "is the best of worst choices,” English teacher Hassan Hassan from northwestern Syria told CNN as he tries to make sense of the Turkey-Russia agreement.

Speaking with CNN on the phone, Hassan said “the devil is in the detail," but says Kurds now hope Turkey will not invade predominantly Kurdish cities like Qamishli.

If Turkish-backed rebels with former ISIS fighters in their ranks roll in, people would flee their homes and become displaced, he said.

But Assad is an ally of the Kurdish YPG, “because he is the enemy of our enemies," Hassan said.

Jawan Mirso, a media activist in al-Derbasiya, similarly told CNN that the population seems split in half in their feelings about the agreement. He said especially older people recently displaced by the Turkish military operation who now believe they can return to their homes and villages are relieved.

Younger people are more cautious, he said — especially those 18 and older who fear the Syrian regime will force them into military service.  

Some history: The Kurds are an Iranian ethnic minority with a population in Syria, whom the US has historically supported in the fight against ISIS. Bashar al-Assad has ruled Syria as president since July 2000 — but has been criticized for widespread violence against civilians and the use of chemical weapons against rebels in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

12:00 p.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Trump praises Turkey's president: "In his mind, he's doing the right thing for his country"

President Trump praised Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as "a man who loves his country" and thanked him for working on the Syria deal.

"I want to again thank everyone on the American team who helped achieve the cease fire in Syria, saved so many lives. Along with president Erdogan 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."

Trump added that he may meet the Turkish leader "in the very near future."

Earlier today, Jim Jeffrey, the US envoy for Syria and the coalition against ISIS, said the US believes that Turkish-supported opposition forces in Syria have committed war crimes. 

12:02 p.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Trump: "Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand"

President Trump said the US is "getting out" of the Syrian region after almost 10 years.

"Let someone else fight over this long blood-stained sand," The President said.

"We were supposed to be there for 30 days. That was almost 10 years ago. So we're there for 30 days, and now we're leaving. It's supposed to be a very quick hit, and let's get out and it was a quick hit except they stayed for almost 10 years," he added.

Trump said "thousands and thousands" have been killed in the area.

Remember: Jim Jeffrey, the US envoy for Syria and the coalition against ISIS, said the US believes that Turkish-supported opposition forces in Syria have committed war crimes. 

11:49 a.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Trump says "small number" of US troops will stay in Syria

President Trump said a "small number" of American troops will stay in Syria to protect 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," Trump said.
11:49 a.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Trump orders all sanctions on Turkey lifted

President Trump just announced that sanctions on Turkey have been lifted.

"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 moments ago. 

"So the sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we're not happy with," Trump said.

He acknowledged that "permanent" was "somewhat questionable" in the region, but nevertheless projected confidence in his decision.

Turkey announced earlier it was ending its incursion into Syria after striking a deal with Russia.

11:17 a.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Top US envoy for Syria: Turkish supported forces have committed "several" war crimes in Syria

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler and Ryan Browne

Jim Jeffrey, the US envoy for Syria and the coalition against ISIS, says the US believes that Turkish-supported opposition (TSO) forces in Syria have committed war crimes. 

“We’ve seen several incidents which we consider war crimes,” Jeffrey told the House Foreign Affairs Committee. 

The US envoy told the committee that “we haven’t seen any widespread ethnic cleansing in that area since the Turks have come in.” He added, “many people fled because they’re very concerned about these Turkish supported Syrian opposition forces, as are we.”

Jeffrey told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday that “Turkish-supported Syrian opposition forces who are under general Turkish command in at least one instance did carry out a war crime and we have reached out to Turkey to demand an explanation.”

Earlier today in the hearing, Jeffrey described the TSO as “very very dangerous and, in some cases, extremist.”

Some background: The recent withdrawal of US troops from Syria signaled what many called a betrayal of their Kurdish allies.

The US was not included in the Syria deal reached by Russia and Turkey yesterday. The deal made it clear that Turkey and Russia are not interested in including the US in plans regarding Syria's future.

Jeffrey said yesterday that he specifically was not consulted or advised in advance on President Trump's decision to pull US troops from northeastern Syria.

11:00 a.m. ET, October 23, 2019

Trump will speak about Syria soon

President Trump said he'll make a statement about Syria at 11 a.m. ET today.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday met in the southern Russian resort city of Sochi and unveiled a 10-point memorandum about Syria.

Remember: The US was not included in the negotiation. The deal made it clear that Turkey and Russia are not interested in including the US in plans regarding Syria's future.

Furthermore, after the recent withdrawal of US troops from the area signaled what many called a betrayal of their Kurdish allies, it appears Russia will be the Kurds' new powerful protector in the area.