Turkey to suspend Syria offensive, Mike Pence announces

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Organization of American States at the OAS headquarters in Washington, U.S. May 7, 2018 REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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

The development 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.

Its goal was to push back from its border a Kurdish militia – the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – that it views as a terrorist organisation.

Turkey had hoped to resettle up to two million Syrian refugees in the area, but critics raised fears that could trigger ethnic cleansing of the local Kurdish population.

The cross-border offensive came after US President Donald Trump announced he was pulling US forces out of the border region – a decision widely criticised in the US and internationally.

The SDF fought alongside the US against the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria, and the decision to leave the forces in the path of a likely Turkish invasion has been condemned as the abandonment of an ally.

President Trump tweeted about the Turkish ceasefire before Mr Pence unveiled it, writing: “Millions of lives will be saved!”

He added later: “This deal could NEVER have been made 3 days ago. There needed to be some “tough” love in order to get it done. Great for everybody. Proud of all!”

Mr Pence credited Donald Trump’s “strong leadership” during the announcement, saying: “He wanted a ceasefire. He wanted to stop the violence.”