Turkey agrees with U.S. to pause Syria assault while Kurds withdraw

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary meets with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, October 17, 2019. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

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 the Trump administration and cast by Turkey as a complete victory.

The truce was announced by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, and was praised 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 its assault on Oct. 9: control of a strip of Syria more than 30 km (20 miles) deep, with the Kurdish militia, once U.S. allies, obliged to pull out.

It was also unclear if the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) would fully comply with the agreement, which would leave Turkish forces in charge of a swathe of territory that the Kurds once held with U.S. military support.

Syrian Democratic Forces accept ceasefire agreement with Turkey 

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) will accept a ceasefire agreement with Turkey in northern Syria and do what is necessary to make it work, SDF commander Mazloum Kobani told Ronahi TV on Thursday.

Kobani said the agreement is “just the beginning” and will not be able to achieve the goals of Turkey, which launched an incursion into northern Syria last week.

Kobani added the agreement was limited to the northern Syria border areas running between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.