Ankara confirms ‘pausing’ operation against Kurds in Syria, but says its goals stay unchanged
Turkey has confirmed reaching an agreement with the US on temporarily halting its military operation against Kurdish-led militias in northern Syria but refused to call it a ‘ceasefire’, adding that it will go on with its plans.
‘Operation Peace Spring’ will be seized for five days, Foreign Minister Melvut Cavusoglu announced. It came just as US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo – currently on a visit to Ankara – were breaking the same news to journalists there.
While saying that the Turkish Army would indeed stop a further incursion and let the Kurdish YPG militias – which Ankara calls a ‘terrorist organization’ – leave the ‘safe zone’, Cavusolgu still refused to call it a ceasefire. Such a thing is only possible between “two legitimate sides,” he told the local media.
He also said that Turkey intends to pursue its initial strategy and create a 32-kilometer deep ‘safe zone’ along its border with Syria stretching from the Euphrates River to Syria’s border with Iraq. He added that, under the fresh deal with the US, this zone would be controlled by Turkish troops.
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Another part of the agreement, which has not been mentioned by Washington so far, involves the “collection” of all heavy arms from the YPG and destruction of their positions in the area. On top of that, Cavusoglu made it clear that Turkey did not give America any “guarantees” on the fate of such cities as Kobani (liberated in 2015 from Islamic State by the Kurds).
At the same time, he did mention that Turkey actually plans to discuss the fate of the cities within the ‘safe zone’ like Manbij at a forthcoming meeting between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, in Sochi.
The pause to the hostilities was already hailed by President Donald Trump as an “amazing outcome.” Doubling down, he claimed that sanctions the US imposed on Ankara over the military operation are “no longer necessary” and would be lifted “very quickly.”
Erdogan launched ‘Peace Spring’ on October 9, souring Ankara’s relations with Washington, which saw Kurds as allies in a fight against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS). Trump repeatedly threatened Turkey with the destruction of its economy, if it did anything that Washington considers “off limits.”
Now, tensions seem to be easing off a bit as Trump thanked Erdogan for his decision in a tweet and said that the path to the Turkish leader’s visit to the US next month is now open.
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