Turkey to halt military action in Syria, says US

17 October 2019, 18:52

Mike Pence meeting with President Erdogan today
Mike Pence meeting with President Erdogan today. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Turkey has agreed to a five-day ceasefire to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw from northern Syria, US Vice President Mike Pence has announced.

Turkish forces launched a devastating assault last week against a Kurdish militia, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - that it views as a terrorist organisation.

Military action will cease for five days and the US will help the withdrawal of Kurdish led troops from a ‘safe zone’ near the border.

The cease-fire was announced after talks between Mr Pence and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

After today's meeting, Mr Pence said that US President Donald Trump made it clear that had Turkey not agreed, the US would impose more economic sanctions.

However, the agreement essentially gives the Turks what they had sought to achieve with their military operation in the first place, removal of the Kurdish forces from the border "safe zone".

Mr Pence said Turkey had agreed to a "pause in military operations for 120 hours" to allow the Kurds to withdraw. He said the US and Turkey had "mutually committed to a peaceful resolution and future for the safe zone".

After the Kurdish forces are cleared from the safe zone, Turkey has committed to a permanent ceasefire but is under no obligation to withdraw its troops. That, according to one US official, is tantamount to allowing Turkey to occupy the safe zone.

In addition, the deal gives Turkey relief from sanctions the administration had imposed and threatened to impose since the invasion began, meaning there will be no penalty for the operation.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump imposed economic sanctions on Turkey. The move came five days after Mr Trump threatened sanctions in a letter to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in which he also said that if Turkey invaded Syria Mr Erdogan would be remembered as a "devil".

Mr Trump told Mr Erdogan he would not want to be responsible for "slaughtering thousands of people", and warned, "don't be a tough guy. Don't be a fool!"