Ceasefire - Kurds flee 20 miles from border as US, Turkey broker truce
The United States (US) and Turkey agreed Thursday to a five-day ceasefire in the Turks’ attacks on Kurdish fighters in northern Syria to allow the Kurds to withdraw to roughly 20 miles away from the Turkish border. The arrangement appeared to be a significant embrace of Turkey’s position in the weeklong conflict.
After more than four hours of negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, US Vice-President Mike Pence said the purpose of his high-level mission was to end the bloodshed caused by Turkey’s invasion of Syria. He remained silent on whether the agreement amounted to a second abandonment of America’s former Kurdish allies in the fight against the Islamic State.
Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched their offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria a week ago, two days after Trump suddenly announced that he was withdrawing the US from the area.
Pence and Secretary of State Mile Pompeo lauded the deal as a significant achievement, and Trump declared it “a great day for civilisation”.
But the agreement essentially gives the Turks what they had sought to achieve with their military operation in the first place. 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. 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.
Kurdish forces were not party to the agreement, and it was not immediately clear whether they would comply. Before the talks, the Kurds indicated that they would object to any agreement along the lines of what was announced by Pence. But Pence maintained that the US had obtained “repeated assurances from them that they’ll be moving out”.