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 swiftly hailed 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 the assault eight days ago: control of a strip of Syria more than 30 km (20 miles) deep, with the Kurdish YPG militia, formerly close U.S. allies, obliged to pull out.
"The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces," a joint U.S.-Turkish statement released after the talks said.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described it as a pause, solely 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 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 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.
Aldar Xelil, a leading Syrian Kurdish politician, said the Kurds would soon issue a statement. He said the Kurds had rejected the Turkish safe zone in the past. They would abide by the ceasefire but would defend themselves, he said on Al Arabiya television.
Pence said that once the pause became permanent, Washington would go ahead with its own plans to withdraw its entire military force from northern Syria, which had partnered with the Kurds to fight against Islamic State.
Trump tweeted: "Great news out of Turkey."
"Thank you to Erdogan," Trump said. "Millions of lives will be saved!"
"The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours," Pence said. "All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal."
The deal struck with Erdogan also provided for Turkey not to engage in military operations in the flashpoint Syrian border town of Kobani, Pence said. Cavusoglu said Turkey had given no commitments about Kobani.
If successful, the deal could smooth over a major rift between Washington and Turkey, its main Muslim ally in NATO.Turkey to suspend Syria offensive, Mike Pence announces - BBC News
Oct 17, 2019