Turkey agrees to pause Syria advance, says US Vice President

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Emma Murphy

US Vice President Mike Pence says the Turkey has agreed to a cease-fire in Syria - and that action will stop entirely once Kurdish forces leave a part of northern Syria.

Mr Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with President Recip tayyip Erodgan in Turkey on Thursday, after which the vice president said there will be "a pause in military operations for 120 hours".

This is to give time for the US-allied Syrian Kurds to withdraw.

The agreement essentially gives the Turks what they had sought to achieve with their military operation in the first place, removal of the Kurdish forces from the border "safe zone."

After the Kurdish forces are cleared from the "safe zone", Turkey has committed to a permanent cease-fire 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, but the commander of Kurdish-led forces in Syria on said they will abide by a cease-fire agreement

But his comments suggested a smaller "safe zone" than Ankara has demanded, underscoring the ambiguities in the American-Turkish deal.

Mazloum Abdi, speaking on Kurdish Ronahi TV, said the extent of the cease-fire stretches about 100 kilometers (60 miles) along the middle of the border between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn.

That is the region where Turkey has largely made its gains in nine days of fighting.

"We hope that this cease fire will be successful, and we will do our best to make it successful," Abdi said Thursday, describing it as a "tentative agreement."

Abdi is also known by his nom de guerre, Mazloum Kobani.

Before the talks, the Kurds indicated they would object to any agreement along the lines of what was announced by Pence.

President Donald Trump is crediting his threat of sanctions on Turkey as "tough love" that led the country to agree to the five-day cease-fire.

Talking to reporters in Fort Worth, Texas, President Trump claimed the Kurds are happy with the deal.

But the president's critics say the deal essentially gives Turkey what it wanted to achieve from its incursion into Syria in the first place.

President Trump says he's open to hosting the Turkish leader in Washington.

Te US President told reporters: "Turkey is a friend of ours, a neighbor of ours, and they're a member of NATO.

"And what Turkey is getting now is they're not going to have to kill millions of people and millions of people aren't going to have to kill them.

"I mean, this was going to be a war of lots of other groups coming in. This wasn't going to stop with Turkey against the Kurds. A lot of different groups were coming in."

The vice president says the US and Turkey have "mutually committed to peaceful resolution and future for the safe zone".

Syrian forces had entered the strategic border town of Kobani, blocking a path for the Turkish military to establish a “safe zone” free of Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The seizure of Kobani by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad also pointed to a dramatic shift in northeastern Syria. The town was where the US military and Kurdish fighters first united to defeat the Islamic State group four years ago.

The convoys of government forces drove into Kobani after dark on Wednesday night, a resident said.

flames and smoke billow from a fire on a target in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, caused by shelling by Turkish forces. Credit: AP