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Remarks on the Situation in Syria and an Exchange With Reporters Upon Arrival at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas

October 17, 2019

The President. Well, thank you very much. I'm very happy to report tremendous success, with respect to Turkey. And I want to thank President Erdogan. I want to thank our Vice President Mike Pence, our Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Great job. All of the people that we sent over the last 3 days. We sent an early group.

This is an amazing outcome. This is an outcome—regardless of how the press would like to damp it down, this was something that they've been trying to get for 10 years. You would have lost millions and millions of lives. They couldn't get it without a little rough love, as I called it. I just put out—they needed a little bit of that at the beginning. And then, everybody said, "Wow, this is tougher than we thought." When those guns start shooting, they tend to do things.

But I will tell you, on behalf of the United States, I want to thank Turkey. I want to thank all of the people that have gotten together and made this happen. This is an incredible outcome.

So you have a 22-mile strip. And for many, many years, Turkey—in all fairness, they've had a legitimate problem with it. They had terrorists. They had a lot of people in there that they couldn't have. They've suffered a lot of loss of lives also. And they had to have it cleaned out. But once you start that, it gets to be to a point where a tremendous amount of bad things can happen.

So a process started, and we started to negotiate. And I think that, obviously, the sanctions and tariffs were going to be very biting. I'm glad we don't have to do it. We'll be taking them off very quickly, as soon as this is finalized.

But this is an incredible outcome. This outcome is something they've been trying to get for 10 years—everybody—and they couldn't get it, other administrations. And they never would have been able to get it unless you went somewhat unconventional. I guess I'm an unconventional person.

I took a lot of heat from a lot of people, even some of the people of my own party, but they were there. In the end, they were there. They're all there. Look, this is about the Nation. This isn't about Republicans or Democrats. This is about our Nation.

So we have a 5-day cease-fire. During that 5 days, the Kurds and other people—they're going to be taken great care of. They're going to be moving around, moving out of a safe zone, which is something that Turkey has always wanted.

The ISIS—they call them "Daesh," but we call them "ISIS." The ISIS fighters that we have captured, they'll be under very, very strict control of various different groups. But we will be watching, we will be in charge, and they'll be under very, very powerful and strict control. And we've gotten everything we could have ever dreamed of, and we're also going to be able to bring our people back home. But we'll be able to have control of ISIS—total. We'll be able to do whatever we have to do to get the rest of ISIS, wherever they may be. They're never going to be ruling us.

And I want to thank everybody. And the other thing, I want thank—as a group, I want to thank the Kurds, because they were incredibly happy with this solution. This is a solution that really—well, it saved their lives, frankly. It saved their lives. So we've done a great thing for our partner. If we didn't go this unconventional, tough-love approach, you could have never gotten it done. They've been trying to do this for many, many years. You could have never gotten it done.

So I want to thank everybody. I want to thank everybody back in Washington.

We're in Texas now and we're going to be opening up a phenomenal new plant. One of the greatest men in business—in all of business—is here with us. You know who he is.

And they're opening up a plant in Texas. The first time, I believe—one of the great companies of the world—first time ever in the United States. And then, we're having a big rally in Dallas tonight at the American Airlines Center. So we look forward to that. We've been—they've been standing on line for 3 days, as you know. So it's a record crowd over in Dallas.

But I didn't know it was going to work out this quickly. I didn't know it would work out this well. It's a great day for the United States. It's a great day for Turkey. It's a great day for our partners, who have really worked. I mean, a lot of people questioned some of them; I'm not questioning anybody. They really did. The Kurds were great. Great day for the Kurds. It's really a great day for civilization. It's a great day for civilization.

So I just want to thank everybody.

Q. Mr. President, didn't Turkey get everything they wanted, when it comes to——

Turkey-U.S. Relations

Q. Do you expect Congress now to call off their sanctions effort?

The President. Well, sanctions won't be necessary because Turkey is doing what they're doing. I didn't need Congress for sanctions, because I can do sanctions that are tougher than Congress. And I was prepared to do that.

I just want to thank and congratulate though, President Erdogan. He's a friend of mine, and I'm glad we didn't have a problem. Because, frankly, he's a hell of a leader, and he's a tough man. He's a strong man. And he did the right thing, and I really appreciate it. And I will appreciate it in the future.

Turkey's Incursion Into Northern Syria/Kurds/U.S. Military Involvement in the Middle East

Q. So, Mr. President, isn't Turkey getting everything they want from this? Don't they effectively just get control of the safe zone?

The President. Well, Turkey has a great military power. Turkey is a friend of ours, a neighbor of ours, and they're a member of NATO. And what Turkey is getting now is, they're not going to have to kill millions of people, and millions of people aren't going to have to kill them.

I mean, this was going to be a war of lots of other groups coming in; this wasn't going to stop with Turkey against the Kurds. A lot of different groups were coming in. We might not have been involved. I don't want to be involved in that kind of a war.

And by the way, we have the strongest military in the world. But we've been there for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East for 19½ years. So this was a great thing for everybody. And Turkey is—I really appreciate what they've done. They did the right thing. And I have a great respect for the President.

Syria/Reconciliation Efforts/Withdrawal of U.S. Military Forces From Syria

Q. Your decision not to keep any of the sanctions in place, doesn't that effectively let Turkey just get off with no punishment for this incursion?

The President. No. No. If you let this go, you would have lost millions of lives. Don't forget: Your friend, President Obama, lost more than a half a million lives in a very short period in the same reason—region. We've lost very little.

But without that gunfire going back and forth, without those rockets going in both directions, without other countries moving in, and potentially moving in and creating virtually a world war—without all of that happening, you would have never been able to make this deal.

We've tried—we have tried, but everybody has tried to make this deal for 15 years. They could never do it. It was only when it started—people started seeing how nasty it was going to be. It was going to be very nasty. Not only sanctions and tariffs, the war itself would have been very nasty.

So they did things that they wouldn't have done. I just put out. Everybody agreed to things that, 3 days ago, they would have never agreed to. That includes the Kurds. The Kurds are now much more inclined to do what has to be done. Turkey is much more inclined to do what has to be done. Turkey wouldn't have done this 3 days ago. The Kurds would not have done it 3 days ago.

This is a situation where everybody is happy. And I'm happy because there's no fighting. We can bring certainly most of our people back home for the first time in many years.

Turkey's Incursion Into Northern Syria/Kurds

Q. Mr. President, you're talking about all of this shooting as though it was part of a plan. Are you saying that you planned for these people to attack each other so you could resolve it?

The President. No. No. But I do think this, David [David Martosko, Daily Mail]: I think it had to be an unconventional solution. Because the conventional solution is to sit down, negotiate, and they've done that for 15 years. Actually more than that, I understand. And that was never going to work.

But all of a sudden, when they saw—and how nasty it was and how rough it would get; it would get a hundred times worse than what was happening. But when they saw the level of nastiness, they said: "Let's make a deal—everybody together. Let's make a deal."

Q. Are you sure that this will last more than 5 days? A lot of stuff can disappear in 5 days.

The President. I think so. I think it's going to last. I think that President Erdogan is very smart. I think he wants it to last. He wants safety for his people.

Look, say what you want. A lot of bad things happened to Turkey from that district, from that 22-mile stretch. A lot of people in Turkey were killed. So that's not fair. Nobody likes to mention that. This was a great thing for the Kurds. This was a great thing for Turkey. This is great for everybody.

And frankly, the thing that I'm most happy about is that we were—I took a lot of heat—but that we were able to do it so fast. I thought this would go on for longer. This was such a smart thing to get it done so fast.

Turkey-U.S. Relations

Q. Is President Erdogan still coming next month to the White House?

The President. Well, now I would say that would be very much open. I would say that, yes, he would come. He did a terrific thing. He's a leader. He's a leader. He had to make a decision. A lot of people wouldn't have made that decision because they don't know; they ultimately would have made it. But what he did was very smart, and it was great for the people of Turkey. And they're lucky it was him that was making the decision, I will tell you that.

Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) Terrorist Organization/Kurds

Q. The U.S. military—will you leave anybody in this zone to help monitor this cease-fire?

The President. Yes. We're going to have people that watch it. And most particularly, we're going to have people that are watching ISIS. We'll have people watching. And ISIS will be largely again controlled by the Kurds. Because what a lot of people don't know: Most of the areas where ISIS is, is outside of the war zone or the 22 miles.

Q. Yes.

The President. So ISIS will be—very few have gotten out. Most of them have been recaptured. And what's happened is ISIS is outside of the war zone. So that's going to be controlled very much by the Kurds, with our supervision.

Syria/Syrian Democratic Forces

Q. And the Kurdish general, General Mazloum, who you talked to before, are you going to talk to him again to get him to——

The President. He's going to be very happy. They've spoken to him. The Kurds are very happy. Turkey is very happy. The United States is very happy. And you know what? Civilization is very happy. It's a great thing for civilization.

Thank you, everybody.

Q. Did you talk to——

NOTE: The President spoke at 1:17 p.m. In his remarks, he referred to Bernard Arnault, chairman and chief executive officer, LVMH Moët Hennessy–Louis Vuitton. A reporter referred to Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi, commander of the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks on the Situation in Syria and an Exchange With Reporters Upon Arrival at Naval Air Station Fort Worth Joint Reserve Base, Texas Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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