Turkey has agreed to temporarily halt its military operation against Syria’s Kurdish-led militias, allowing them to withdraw from the country’s border, US Vice President Mike Pence said during a visit to Ankara.
“Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria,” Pence said during a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The ceasefire between the Turkish military backed by affiliated militants and the Kurdish-led fighters is set to last 120 hours, according to Pence. This time will be spent on the withdrawal of the Kurdish forces from the 20-mile strip along the Syrian border, where Turkey wants to set up a “safe zone.”
According to Pence, Ankara promised that the military operation, dubbed ‘Peace Spring’, will be stopped entirely when the Kurdish-led militias complete their withdrawal, adding that Washington supports the Turkish idea of creating a “long-term” buffer zone within Syria’s territory.
Trump was ebullient after the agreement was announced, tweeting that “Millions of lives will be saved!” and asserting that “People have been trying to make this ‘Deal’ for many years.”
Kurdish forces were not party to the agreement, and it was not immediately clear whether they would comply. Before the talks, the Kurds indicated they would object to any agreement along the lines of what was announced by Pence. But Pence maintained that the US had obtained “repeated assurances from them that they’ll be moving out.”
Speaking to reporters, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu confirmed suspension of the offensive, but rejected the notion that the agreement constituted a ceasefire.
“We are suspending the operation, not halting it,” he said. “We will halt the operation only after (Kurdish militants) completely withdraw from the region.
“This is not a ceasefire. A ceasefire is reached between the two legitimate parties,” he said.