Ankara,Oct 18: Turkey agreed Thursday to a 120 hours of cease-fire that would suspend its march into Syria and allow the Kurdish forces to withdraw.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government will carve a buffer zone far beyond his nation’s borders. Vice President Mike Pence announced after hours of negotiations, Turkey achieved what he sought during invasion in northeastern Syria is the expulsion of Syrian Kurdish militias from the border and save the country from US sanctions.
All military operations will be paused for five days, and the US will help facilitate an “orderly withdrawal” of Kurdish-led troops called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), from a large swath of territory stretching from Turkey’s border nearly 20 miles south into Syria, from what Turkey has termed a “safe zone” on the border, Pence said .
“After the completion of the Kurdish withdrawal, Turkey’s military operation, which began October 9, would be “halted entirely,” Pence said. “A great day for the Kurds, it’s a great day for civilization,” he added.
Turkey launched its assault last week.
It aimed to repel a Kurdish militia that it views as a terrorist group, and resettle Syrian refugees in the area.
The cross-border offensive came after US President Donald Trump pulled US forces out of the border region.
His decision prompted a raft of criticism at home and abroad, with some accusing him of giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “green light” for the operation.
Trump tweeted about the ceasefire before Mr Pence announced it, writing that “millions of lives will be saved!”
Pence thanked Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement.
“He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence,” the vice-president said.
Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists the offensive would only be permanently halted when the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had left the border zone.
“We are suspending the operation, not halting it,” he said. “We will halt the operation only after (Kurdish militants) completely withdraw from the region.”
Pence said the US would lift economic sanctions imposed on Turkey when the military offensive ended, and would not impose more in the meantime.
The SDF was not represented at the talks between Washington and Ankara, and has not yet commented on the developments.
Mazloum Kobane Abdi, the commander of the SDF, said in an interview on a Kurdish television channel that “we accepted this agreement, and we will do whatever it takes to make it work.” But the text of the agreement was “just the beginning,” he said, adding that “the Turkish occupation will not continue.”