US President Donald Trump announced that recent US sanctions on Turkey will be lifted in an address from the White House on Wednesday.
“I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury to lift all sanctions imposed on October 14 in response to Turkey’s original offensive moves against the Kurds in Syria’s northeast border region,” said Trump.
Trump said the government of Turkey contacted him Wednesday morning to say that Ankara would be stopping combat and its operation in Syria to make the US-brokered ceasefire permanent.
The US Treasury website reflected the removal of sanctions on Turkey's ministries of defense and energy, including sanctions placed on Turkey's interior, defense, and energy ministers.
Trump said last week's US-brokered ceasefire between Turkey and Syrian Kurdish forces has held.
“It has held very well, beyond most expectations,” said Trump.
The state of captured ISIS prisoners in Syria
Trump said that General Mazloum Abdi, the commander-in-chief of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), reassured him that captured ISIS fighters being held in northeastern Syria are secured in detention centers.
“The detention facilities are being strongly maintained. There were a few [ISIS prisoners] that got out…they have been largely recaptured,” said Trump.
The remarks come as a senior US official claimed that more than 100 imprisoned ISIS fighters had escaped in Syria since Turkey’s incursion.
“We would say the number is now over 100. We do not know where they are,” James Jeffrey, the State Department pointman on Syria, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday.
Jeffrey said that “almost all” the prisons being guarded by Kurdish forces are secured.
Limited US military presence will remain in Syria
Trump said that a small number of US troops will remain in Syria to secure the oil in the country.
“We’re going to be protecting [the oil] and deciding what we’re going to do with it in the future,” said Trump.
Trump announced on October 7 the withdrawal of US troops from northern Syria ahead of the Turkish incursion in the region.
Thanking US Vice President Mike Pence and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for their roles in brokering the ceasefire, Trump said that the credit for the outcome in northeastern Syria goes to the US, adding that he welcomes other countries' involvement if they would like to help.
Turkey and Russia reached an agreement on Tuesday to install their forces along the border in northeastern Syria, filling the void left by the withdrawal of US troops.
Trump hailed the agreement, which creates a “safe zone” inside Syria about 20 miles deep, as a “big success.”
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. I will be making a statement at 11:00 A.M. from the White House. Thank you!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2019
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