(TELESUR) – Turkey agreed on Thursday to pause its five-day offensive on Syria to let Kurdish forces withdraw from a “safe zone” that Ankara had sought to capture in a deal hailed by the Trump administration and Turkey as a complete victory.
The truce was announced by United States Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan.
If implemented, it would achieve all the main objectives Turkey announced when it launched the assault eight days ago: control of a strip along the Syrian more than 30 km deep, with the Kurdish YPG militia, formerly a close U.S. ally, obliged to pull out.
“The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces,” read a joint U.S.-Turkish statement released after the Thursday talks.
A Turkish official told Reuters that they got “exactly what we wanted” from the talks, while Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described the measure as a pause to allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw.
Kurdish fighters would be forced to give up their heavy weapons and their positions would be destroyed, Cavusoglu said. He declined to call the agreement a “ceasefire”, saying ceasefires could be agreed upon only by legitimate sides, and not by a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist group.
“When the terrorist elements completely leave the safe zone, we can stop the operation,” Cavusoglu said.
The joint declaration said Washington and Ankara would cooperate on handling Islamic State (IS) fighters and family members held in prisons and camps, a major international concern.
Pence said Washington had already been in contact with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had agreed to withdraw and were already pulling out. However, the Kurdish position was not clear.