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Turkey Agrees To Suspend Syria Operations


U.S. Vice President Mike Pence speaking during a news conference at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara.

Turkey has agreed to a cease-fire in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence said following talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

"Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a cease-fire in Syria," Pence told a press conference in the Turkish capital on October 17.

He said there would be "a pause in military operations" for five days, and the United States will help facilitate an "orderly withdrawal" of Kurdish-led troops from a "demarcation line" 32 kilometers from the border.

"Let me say that's already begun,” Pence added.

"We are suspending the operation. This is not a cease-fire," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu later told reporters, adding that the offensive would only be permanently halted when "terrorists" completely withdraw from the border zone.

The commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said they were "ready to abide by the cease-fire."

Mazloum Abdi told a Kurdish TV station that the extent of the cease-fire stretches 100 kilometers from the town of Tal Abyad to Ras al-Ayn.

Turkey launched a ground and air offensive in the area, now in its ninth day, saying it wanted to clear the area of a Kurdish militia that Ankara views as a terrorist group, and establish a buffer zone to resettle Syrian refugees.

The move came after Trump's abrupt decision announced last week to withdraw forces from northeast Syria where they had been supporting the SDF in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) extremist group.

The U.S. president later placed some sanctions on Turkey for the offensive, and threatened to impose further restrictive measures that would be "devastating to Turkey’s economy."

Hailing the October 17 announcement as a "great day" for the United States, Turkey, and the Kurds, U.S. President Donald Trump said sanctions on Turkey "won't be necessary" now.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, the BBC, and dpa
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