October 24, 2019 - 12:27 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - U.S. President Donald Trump announced Wednesday, October 23 he was lifting all sanctions on Turkey after it agreed to halt its attack on America's former Kurdish allies in northeastern Syria, shortly after his special envoy to Syria told Congress Turkey's incursion was a "tragedy" and that Ankara-backed forces are likely behind several war crimes, CNN reports.
Speaking in the White House Diplomatic Reception Room, the President claimed that "people are saying, wow, what a great outcome ... we've done a good job, we've saved a lot of lives." He praised President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, hinted that the Turkish leader would soon visit Washington and appeared to wash his hands of further US involvement in Syria.
"Let someone else fight over this long-bloodstained sand," Trump said, but added that some US troops would remain to protect oil in Syria, "and we'll be deciding what to do with it in the future."
Trump didn't mention Turkey's potential violations of international law, but shortly before he spoke, the US special envoy for Syria and the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Jim Jeffrey, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the US believes Turkish-backed opposition forces in Syria have committed war crimes.
"We've seen several incidents which we consider war crimes," Jeffrey said.
"The Turkish incursion into northeast Syria is a tragedy. It was long-standing US government policy in two administrations to keep that from happening and we were clearly not successful," Jeffrey said.
The President spoke on Jeffrey's second day of congressional testimony to lawmakers united in bipartisan anger over his decision to pull back US troops from northeastern Syria. The decision was widely seen as a green light for Turkey's plan to attack the Kurds, a betrayal of a long-standing ally in the fight against ISIS and a damaging blow to US national security interests.
On Wednesday, however, the President said his administration had done a "good job," and claimed ISIS fighters who had escaped Kurdish jails after the Turkish attack have "been largely recaptured." He said the Kurds' military leader was "extremely thankful for what the United States has done" and has assured the US "that ISIS is under very, very strict lock and key."
An hour earlier, Jeffrey told House lawmakers that the US now estimates that over 100 ISIS fighters had escaped and that "we do not know where they are."