Graham says he shares Kurdish 'concerns' over cease-fire

Graham says he shares Kurdish 'concerns' over cease-fire
© Greg Nash

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens Overnight Defense: Erdoğan gets earful from GOP senators | Amazon to challenge Pentagon cloud contract decision in court | Lawmakers under pressure to pass benefits fix for military families MORE (R-S.C.) said Friday he shares Kurdish concerns about a fragile cease-fire between the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), and Turkey in northeastern Syria after fighting broke out Friday.

Graham, a vocal defense hawk and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he spoke with Gen. Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the SDF (a military faction made up of Kurdish forces), and relayed that Mazloum is “concerned” about a recently minted ceasefire holding.

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“General Mazloum is concerned about the cease-fire holding and was emphatic that he will never agree to the ethnic cleansing of Kurds that is being proposed in Ankara,” Graham said in a tweet. “A buffer zone is acceptable to the Kurds but a military occupation that displaces hundreds of thousands is not a safe zone. It is ethnic cleansing.” 

 

“I hope we can find a win-win situation, but I share General Mazloum’s concerns.  I also told him that Congress will stay very involved and is extremely sympathetic to the plight of the Kurds.”

Bipartisan lawmakers have rushed to support the Kurds, who were instrumental partners in the U.S. campaign against ISIS, after Turkey launched an offensive in northeastern Syria. Turkey claimed these groups were part of an anti-Turkish insurgency. 

Vice President Pence traveled to Ankara this week to hammer out a cease-fire with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. They eventually brokered a deal that would have Turkey suspend its operations for 120 hours to allow Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a designated safe zone along the Turkish and Syrian border. In return, Pence said the U.S. would lift sanctions imposed this week on Turkish officials. 

The deal was panned by critics who said the cease-fire essentially allowed Turkey to continue its offensive after five days while forcing Kurds to retreat. Reports also emerged after the deal of ongoing fighting in the border region of Syria on Friday morning. 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump opens new line of impeachment attack for Democrats Bloomberg to spend 0M on anti-Trump ads in battleground states New witness claims first-hand account of Trump's push for Ukraine probes MORE tweeted that Erdoğan attributed the break in the cease-fire to “minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated” and said the Turkish leader “very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work. Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen.”

Trump has promoted the deal as a success for all sides, touting his own "unconventional" thinking helping craft the agreement.

"Too bad there wasn’t this thinking years ago," Trump tweeted Friday. "Instead, it was always held together with very weak bandaids, & in an artificial manner. There is good will on both sides & a really good chance for success."