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Turkey to suspend Syria offensive

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Turkey

Turkey has agreed to a ceasefire in northern Syria to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw, US Vice-President Mike Pence has announced.

The announcement followed talks in Ankara between Mr Pence and Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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.

Turkey launched its assault last week.

It aimed to repel a Kurdish militia that Ankara views as a terrorist group, and resettle up to two million Syrian refugees in the area.

Critics raised fears the move could trigger 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.

Mr Trump tweeted about the ceasefire before Mr Pence announced it, writing that “millions of lives will be saved!”

Mr Pence thanked Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement.

“He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence,” the vice-president said.

Turkey’s foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told journalists the offensive would only be permanently halted when the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) had left the border zone.

“We are suspending the operation, not halting it,” he said. “We will halt the operation only after (Kurdish militants) completely withdraw from the region.”

Mr Pence said the US would lift economic sanctions imposed on Turkey when the military offensive ended, and would not impose more in the meantime.

The SDF was not represented at the talks between Washington and Ankara and has not yet commented on the developments.

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Source – BBC