US Vice President Mike Pence announced in Turkey Thursday that he and Turkish President Erdogan agreed to a ceasefire halting Turkey’s aggression in northern Syria.
Pence said Turkey has agreed to suspend its Syria offensive for five days and will end the assault if Kurdish-led forces withdraw from a safe zone along the border.
As part of the deal, Pence said Turkey “will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of (Kurdish) YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” referring to Ankara’s official name for the unilateral military offensive.
“All military operations will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal,” Pence said after talks with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that stretched hours longer than expected.
“This also includes an agreement by Turkey to engage in no military action against the community of Kobani,” he continued, referring to the Kurdish-held city on the border of Syria.
Pence said the Turkish operation would end when the YPG forces complete their withdrawal.
Once a permanent ceasefire is achieved, Pence said the President would withdraw the sanctions that were placed on Turkey in the last week.
However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said during a televised press conference Thursday that the agreement “is not a ceasefire.”
“We will pause the operation for 120 hours in order for the terrorists to leave,” Cavusoglu said, referring to the Kurds. “We will only stop the operation if our conditions are met.”
US Special Envoy for Syria James Jeffrey, who participated in the talks in Ankara, told reporters the agreement will be focused on “those areas where the Turks had penetrated into northeast Syria,” saying, “The Turkish army has seized a great deal of territory in a very short period of time.”
SDF chief Mazlum Abdi said the forces were “ready to abide by the ceasefire” covering the area from Ras al-Ain to Tal Abyad.
But James Jeffrey acknowledged that the Kurdish fighters were not happy and that Washington was using “a carrot and a stick” with threats of sanctions to enforce the deal.
“There’s no doubt that the YPG wishes that they could stay in these areas,” he told reporters travelling from Ankara with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.