18 Oct 2019

Turkey to suspend Syria offensive, US vice president says

8:09 am on 18 October 2019

Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in northern Syria to end an eight-day-old offensive against Kurdish-led forces, US Vice-President Mike Pence has announced.

US Vice President Mike Pence holds a media conference at the US Embassy in Ankara, Turkey on 17 October 2019.

US Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara, Turkey, announces a five-day ceasfire in northern Syria. Photo: AFP / Anadolu Agency

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.

The Turkish military operation would end once that withdrawal was complete, Mr Pence told a news conference.

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.

Critics fear this could lead to ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.

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.

Earlier this week Mr Trump said it wasn't "our problem" if Turkey entered Syria, that the US was not a policing agent and the Kurds were "no angels".

Speaking on Thursday after crisis talks with Erdogan in Ankara, Mr Pence said the United States and Turkey had "agreed to a ceasefire in Syria".

"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," Mr 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."

Displaced Syrians sit in the back of a pick up truck as Arab and Kurdish civilians flee amid Turkey's military assault on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria, on October 11, 2019 in the town of Tal Tamr in the countryside of Syria's northeastern Hasakeh province.

Displaced Syrians flee amid Turkey's military assault on Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria, on 11 October. Photo: AFP

Mr Pence said US forces in the region had already begun to facilitate a safe disengagement of YPG units.

The deal struck with Mr Erdogan also provided for Turkey not to engage in military operations in the flashpoint Syrian border town of Kobani.

Mr Pence said the United States and Turkey had committed to a peaceful resolution of Ankara's demand for a "safe zone" in northern Syria near Turkey's border, one of the objectives of the Turkish offensive.

- BBC / Reuters