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Turkey Suspends Syria Raids

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WASHINGTON, May 16, 2017 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump (L) welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on May 16, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on Tuesday to repair bilateral relationship fraught with difficulties in the past. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu/IANS) by .
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on May 16, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on Tuesday to repair bilateral relationship fraught with difficulties in the past. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu/IANS)

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 …. reports Asian Lite News

WASHINGTON, May 16, 2017 (Xinhua) -- U.S. President Donald Trump (L) welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on May 16, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on Tuesday to repair bilateral relationship fraught with difficulties in the past. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu/IANS) by .
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) welcomes Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House in Washington D.C., the United States, on May 16, 2017. U.S. President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged on Tuesday to repair bilateral relationship fraught with difficulties in the past. (Xinhua/Yin Bogu/IANS)

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

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, BBC reported.

Turkey launched its assault last week.

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

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.

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

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.”

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.

The Syrian army has so far deployed in the key city of Manbij in northeastern Aleppo near Turkey, as well as the town of Tall Tamr in Hasakah Province in northeastern Syria and the vicinity of the Ayn Issa town in the northern countryside of Raqqa Province.

Millions Displaced

As many as 300,000 civilians have so far been displaced since Turkey launched its long-threatened military campaign against the Kurdish forces in northern Syria on October 9, a war monitor reported.

The Turkish assault, which was launched with the help of Turkey-backed local Syrian rebels, also left 72 civilians killed as well as 416 Kurdish fighters and Turkey-backed rebels, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Britain-based watchdog on Thursday said the Turkish forces and allied Syrian rebels captured around 70 areas and besieged the city of Ras al-Ayn in the northeastern province of Hasakah, Xinhua news agency reported.

On October 9, Turkey and local rebel groups started an assault to eliminate Kurdish forces in northern Syria in order to end what Turkey perceives as the threat of “terrorist and separatist” groups on its southern border and to impose a safe zone to host millions of Syrian refugees.

With the gradual withdrawal of the U.S. forces from northern Syria that takes place in tandem with the Turkish attack, the Syrian army has moved to counter the Turkish offensive through assuming control of the areas controlled by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) under a Russian-mediated deal between the Syrian government and the Kurdish fighters.

The Syrian army has so far deployed in the key city of Manbij in northeastern Aleppo near Turkey, as well as the town of Tall Tamr in Hasakah Province in northeastern Syria and the vicinity of the Ayn Issa town in the northern countryside of Raqqa Province.

The Turkish campaign has drawn international criticism and strong condemnation from the Syrian government.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday slammed the Turkish military assault as “blatant invasion and clear aggression” against Syria, state news agency SANA reported.

The current Turkish “aggression” on Syria will be faced by all means on Syrian soil, Assad said.

Meanwhile, the Syrian Foreign Ministry released on Thursday its third condemnation statement since October 9.

“The Turkish aggression on the Syrian territories is the outcome of the expansionist ambitions and illusions” of the Turkish government, a ministry statement said.

“The Syrian Arab Republic affirms its complete rejection and strong condemnation of the blatant Turkish aggression and the interference in Syria’s internal affairs,” it added.

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