Turkey agrees to ceasefire in Syria operation – live blog

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Turkey agreed to a 120-hour ceasefire in its northeast Syria offensive after hours of negotiations with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara on Thursday.

U.S. President Donald Trump applauded the deal as an “incredible outcome” that he said had saved millions of lives, but others said it hands Turkey all its military objectives without extracting any significant concessions.

According to the ceasefire deal, the previously U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and other Kurdish-led groups viewed by Ankara as a security threat will withdraw from a 32-km deep zone south of Turkey’s border.

Pence told reporters that the SDF’s withdrawal would start immediately, and that a permanent ceasefire would be implemented once all fighters had left.

But SDF commander Mazloum Kobani said his side had agreed to stop fighting in areas where there has been active conflict, but would not withdraw from territory the Syrian Kurds still control within the 32-km zone, which includes major towns.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported sporadic clashes continued in areas covered by the deal.

The 120-hour ceasefire ends on Tuesday, the day Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is to visit Russian President Vladimir Putin, a main player in the Syrian conflict.

Hundreds of fighters and civilians have been killed and tens of thousands forced to flee since the start of the Turkish operation on Oct. 9.

Thursday’s announcement came after U.S. senators introduced bills with strong sanctions on Turkey over its military operation. The co-author of one bipartisan bill has said he will still press on with the sanctions.

09:00 Shelling heard near Syrian town after Turkish-U.S. ceasefire deal – Reuters

Shelling and gunfire were heard near the northeast Syrian town of Ras al Ayn on Friday, a Reuters reporter said, less than a day after Turkey agreed with the United States to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw.

The reporter, in the Turkish town of Ceylanpınar across the border from Ras al Ayn, heard the sound of machine-gun fire and shelling in the area of the Syrian town, Reuters said.

08:55 One Turkish soldier killed, two wounded in eastern Turkey

One Turkish soldier was killed and two others wounded in an attack in the eastern province of Van during a patrol along the Iranian border, Sabah newspaper reported.

The newspaper said the attack was carried out by Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed group which has been fighting inside Turkey for more than 30 years.

07:30 U.S. struck ceasefire agreement knowing Kurdish forces could not hold territory – U.S. official

The United States struck a ceasefire agreement with Turkey to pause the Turkish offensive in northern Syria in part because Washington believed the Kurdish-led fighters would not be able to hold the area militarily, a top U.S. official said.

According to the U.S.-Turkish deal, the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) is to withdraw from a 30-km deep area in Syria along the Turkish border.

“There’s no doubt that the YPG wishes that they could stay in these areas,” Reuters quoted U.S. Special Envoy to Syria James Jeffrey as telling reporters. “It is our assessment that they have no military ability to hold onto these areas and therefore we thought that a ceasefire would be much better … for trying to get some kind of control over this chaotic situation.”

Turkey sees the YPG as an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), while the YPG has been the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State (ISIS) in Syria.

07:00 Trump says Turks and Kurds are like two kids fighting

U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration had managed to pause Turkey’s operation in northern Syria by treating the Turks and Kurds like kids fighting.

“Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while,” Trump told a rally in Texas. “Like two kids in a lot you let them fight, then you pull them apart.”

Trump said both Kurds and Turkey were friends of Turkey and that he would remove sanctions on Turkey on Monday.

“Without a little tough love — you know what tough love is, right? — they would’ve never made this deal,” Trump said.

06:00 Erdoğan responds Trump’s tweet on Turkish-U.S. deal

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan responded to U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweet that said millions of lives had been saved by a ceasefire deal struck between Turkey and the United States.

“Mr. President, many more lives will be saved when we defeat terrorism, which is humanity’s arch enemy. I am confident that this joint effort will promote peace and stability in our region,” Erdoğan said.

23:50  – Abandoning Kurds leaves stain on U.S. history – Republican Senator Romney

In his speech on the Senate floor on Thursday, Republican Senator Mitt Romney said one of the most sacred principles of the United States, to not abandon its friends, has been violated.

“[The decision to abandon the Kurds] strikes at American honour. What we have done to the Kurds will stand as a blood stain in the annals of American history,” he said.

Regarding the ceasefire agreement between the United States and Turkey, Romney said he hoped that Turkey would honour the deal, but many had been killed already.

The decision to withdraw from Syria has strengthened Russia, Iran and the Syrian government while diminishing the United States, he added.

22:50 – SDF leader says ceasefire agreement accepted only for active war zone

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) leader Mazloum Kobani on Thursday said the SDF agreed on the ceasefire deal between Turkey and the United States but only for Ras al Ayn and Tel Abyad, two cities where fierce fightings were happening.

Kobani said the SDF did not agree to totally withdraw 30 kilometres away from Turkey’s border with Syria, they would pull back forces only from active war zones.

 

Meanwhile, the former leader of the Syrian-Kurdish Democratic Union Party Salih Muslim said they welcomed the ceasefire but Kurds would defend themselves if Turkey attacks again, Kurdish ANHA news agency reported.

“We welcome the ceasefire, but we will defend ourselves in the event of an attack,” Muslim said in an interview with ANHA.

Turkey and the United States reached an agreement to halt the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), for 120 hours to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw 30 kilometres away from Turkey’s border with Syria.

“We will not accept the occupation of northern Syria, and we must know the details of the agreement between Pence and Erdoğan,” Muslim said. “Ceasefire is one thing and surrender is another, we are ready to defend ourselves.”

21:10 – Turkish foreign minister says Turkey reached its aim

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that Turkey carried its point after U.S. and Turkish officials agree on halting the military offensive in northeast Syria.

“We got what we wanted,” Çavuşoğlu told reporters in a press conference.

Turkey and the United States reached an agreement to halt the Turkish offensive in northeast Syria against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara sees as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), for 120 hours to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw 30 kilometres away from Turkey’s border with Syria.

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said the countries agreed on a ceasefire, but Çavuşoğlu maintained that the agreement did not mean a ceasefire since it could only be made between two legitimate sides.

“Provided terrorist elements withdraw, then we will end our military operation. And while it is on hold, there will be no more moves by the U.S. to sanction us. After this, existing sanctions will be lifted,” Çavuşoğlu said

20:35 – U.S., Turkey reach deal to halt Turkish operation in Syria

Turkey and the United States have agreed on a deal that will see the Turkish incursion in northeast Syria halted for 120 hours, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters after meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The two sides have agreed to the ceasefire to allow Kurdish-led groups to withdraw from a 20-mile  safe zone south of Turkey’s border. The safe zone will be mainly administered by Turkey.

20:30 Trump thanks Erdoğan after U.S.-Turkish meeting

U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that “millions of lives will be saved” thanks to the outcome of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence as press in Ankara await a statement.

20:10 – Senator Graham, Van Hollen introduce sanctions against Turkey

Senators Lindsey Graham and Chris Van Hollen introduced bipartisan sanctions on Turkey at a Senate press conference on Thursday.

Graham said sanctions announced by the Trump administration on Monday are just the beginning of “a crippling journey” unless Turkey stops its offensive against U.S. allied Kurdish forces in northern Syria and withdraws to areas its military was deployed before what he called an invasion.

The sanctions bill will include measures against Turkish state-run Halkbank for breaking Iran sanctions, mandate CAATSA sanctions for Turkey’s S-400 purchase from Russia within 30 days, prohibit the purchase of sovereign debt from Turkey and will prohibit military assistance to Turkey, Graham said.

Van Hollen urged the Senate to immediately vote on the bipartisan resolution, sponsored by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel and ranking member Michael McCaul, that passed the House on Wednesday and take up their bill next.

Ahval

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