US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to a five-day ceasefire in the military incursion into northeastern Syria.

Pence was accompanied in Ankara by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

“Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a ceasefire in Syria,” Pence said.

The initial ceasefire will last 120 hours to allow Kurdish forces to move away from Turkey’s border and allow for negotiations toward a permanent end to the conflict.

“The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces,” a US-Turkish statement released after the talks said. US President Donald Trump said the agreement would save “millions of lives.”

Following the agreement, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic forces (SDF) Mazlum Abdi told the Kurdish Ronahi television station “we are ready to abide by the ceasefire” covering the area from Ras al-Ain to Tal Abyad.

However, he expressed uncertainty over other parts along the border that Turkey wants to include in the safe zone.

EU reaction

Following the ceasefire announcement, EU leaders repeated their call for Turkey to end its offensive on Kurdish forces in Syria and withdraw its troops.

“The European Council notes tonight’s US-Turkey announcement on a pause for all military operations. It again urges Turkey to end its military action, to withdraw its forces and to respect international humanitarian law,” the leaders said in a summit statement.

A ‘safe zone’ in Syria

Scheduled for just 10 minutes, the meeting between Pence and Erdogan lasted about an hour and a half. Pompeo and other officials were to hold talks with their Turkish counterparts. Erdogan initially refused to meet the US delegation, saying he would only speak to Trump, before backtracking.

Turkey launched its long-threatened military operation in northeastern Syria last week, targeting a US-backed Kurdish-led militia alliance after the United States withdrew from the border. 

Read more: Why Turkey wants a military assault on Syrian Kurds

Ankara views the Kurdish YPG, the main component of the SDF, as a terrorist group linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought a nearly four-decade war for Kurdish rights against the Turkish state.

Erdogan said he wanted to defeat the YPG and create a 32-kilometer-deep, 480-kilometer-long (20-mile by 300-mile) “safe zone” inside Syria along the border to protect its security and provide room to resettle millions of war refugees now in Turkey.

Sharp criticism

Critics have accused Trump of ditching Washington’s Syrian Kurdish partners who had fought against the “Islamic State” (IS). On Sunday, the US announced that it was withdrawing its entire force of 1,000 troops from northern Syria.

Trump defended his move on Wednesday and called it “strategically brilliant.” He also denied having approved Turkey’s actions in Syria in any way.

But the US president has faced intense criticism — both abroad and domestic — over his actions in Syria.

Fighting the domestic political damage and perhaps trying to demonstrate the president’s efforts to stop the offensive, the White House, released a letter sent by Trump to Erdogan on October 9. “Don’t be a tough guy,” the US president told his Turkish counterpart. “Don’t be a fool!” he wrote.

“Friends let their feelings be known,” Pence said on Thursday. “President Trump did that in this case. But it facilitated an agreement that has now led to a ceasefire.”

kmm, mkg, sri/sms (Reuters, AP)

Every evening at 1830 UTC, DW’s editors send out a selection of the day’s hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like

FBI offers $10,000 reward for ‘Pink Lady Bandit’ after string of bank robberies

The FBI is offering a $10,000 reward in its search for a woman suspected in at least four bank robberies over the span of a week. Police are searching for a suspect, dubbed the “Pink Lady Bandit,” who is believed…

Serie A season should be cancelled says Brescia’s Cellino

The Brescia president, Massimo Cellino, has called for the Serie A season to be cancelled due to “the plague” of coronavirus. Italy is in lockdown, with more than 4,800 people having been killed there by the Covid-19 pandemic. Cellino, who…

Amber alert issued for 15-year-old at risk of ‘serious harm’

New York police have issued an Amber Alert over a 15-year-old boy whose abduction puts him “at risk of serious harm or even death”. Authorities announced on Wednesday morning that they were investigating the child abduction which took place near…

Broadway star Nick Cordero is in ‘very critical condition’ amid possible coronavirus fight, wife says

Fox News Flash top entertainment and celebrity headlines are here. Check out what’s clicking today in entertainment. Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox.  Sign up here. It’s been a rough go for…