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Turkey to suspend Syria offensive, Mike Pence announces

Ankara, Oct 18 (IANS) US Vice-President Mike Pence has announced that Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw.

All military operations will be paused for five days, and the US will help facilitate an “orderly withdrawal” of Kurdish-led troops from what Turkey has termed a “safe zone” on the border, BBC reported.

Turkey launched its assault last week.

It aimed to repel a Kurdish militia that it views as a terrorist group, and resettle Syrian refugees in the area.

The cross-border offensive came after US President Donald Trump pulled US forces out of the border region.

His decision prompted a raft of criticism at home and abroad, with some accusing him of giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a “green light” for the operation.

Trump tweeted about the ceasefire before Mr Pence announced it, writing that “millions of lives will be saved!”

Pence thanked Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement.

“He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence,” the vice-president said.

Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists the offensive would only be permanently halted when the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had left the border zone.

“We are suspending the operation, not halting it,” he said. “We will halt the operation only after (Kurdish militants) completely withdraw from the region.”

Pence said the US would lift economic sanctions imposed on Turkey when the military offensive ended, and would not impose more in the meantime.

The SDF was not represented at the talks between Washington and Ankara, and has not yet commented on the developments.

–IANS

rt/

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