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Turkey agreed on Thursday to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish forces withdraw from a “safe zone” Ankara had sought to capture, in a deal hailed by Washington but which Turkish leaders cast as a complete victory.
The truce was announced by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkeys President Tayyip Erdogan, and was swiftly hailed by President Donald Trump, who said it would save “millions of lives”.
But if implemented it would achieve all the main objectives Turkey announced when it launched the assault eight days ago: control of a strip of Syria more than 30 km (20 miles) deep, with the Kurdish YPG militia, formerly close U.S. allies, obliged to pull out.
“The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces,” a joint U.S.-Turkish statement released after the talks said.
A Turkish official told Reuters Ankara got “exactly what we wanted” from the talks with the United States. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described it as a pause, solely to allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw.
Kurdish fighters would be forced to give up their heavy weapons and their positions would be destroyed, Cavusoglu said. He declined to call the agreement a “ceasefire”, saying ceasefires could be agreed only by legitimate sides, and not by the Kurds that Turkey considers terrorists.
Pence said Washington had already been in contact with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had agreed to withdraw and were already pulling out.
“Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria,” Pence told a news conference after more than four hours of talks at the presidential palace in Ankara.
“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” Pence said. “All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal.”
+++Co-chairman of PYD party, Salih Muslim:
-"Ceasefire is one thing and surrender is another, we are ready to defend ourselves"
-"We welcome the ceasefire, but we will defend ourselves in the event of an attack"
-Our people did not want war but it was imposed on us
— Rojava Network (@RojavaNetwork) October 17, 2019
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