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120-Hour Ceasefire In Northeastern Syria. What’s Going On?

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120-Hour Ceasefire In Northeastern Syria. What's Going On?

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On October 17th, the US and Turkey reached an agreement for a 120 hour long “ceasefire” in northeastern Syria.

The decision was made after 4-hour talks between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence, who visited Ankara with a delegation.

The entire text of the joint statement was published by the White House.

Essentially:

  • Turkey is implementing an immediate ceasefire.
  • The two governments committed to safeguard religious and ethnic minorities.
  • Both governments are increasing cooperation to help detain ISIS fighters.
  • Relations between the United States and long-standing NATO ally Turkey have been bolstered.

“Turkey has agreed to pause its offensive for 120 hours to allow the United States to facilitate the withdrawal of YPG forces from the Turkish-controlled safe zone.

Turkey has agreed to a permanent ceasefire upon completion of the YPG withdrawal.  The U.S. has already begun to facilitate the YPG withdrawal from the safe zone area.”

Following the meeting, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that the 120-hour pause in Operation Peace Spring wasn’t a “ceasefire.”

“Turkey will end the operation in northern Syria only after YPG/PKK terrorists leave [the safe zone],” he said. He further added that for 5 days the operation would be put on pause, but there would be no ceasefire since such an agreement can be made only between two “legitimate sides.”

“When we pause the operation, the U.S. will stop the sanctions attempts, and we can only end the operation after the previous conditions have been met,” he said, adding when the YPG withdraws from the region, then the operation will end.

Turkey and the U.S. “agreed on collecting the heavy weapons of the YPG, destroying their positions and fortifications,” Cavusoglu added.

“The U.S. side, as part of protection of Turkey’s legitimate security interests, acknowledged the importance and functionality of the safe zone,” Cavusoglu said, stressing that it is fully agreed that the safe zone will be under the control of the Turkish Armed Forces. Which, according to him, means that the US accepts the legitimacy of Turkey’s “anti-terror” operation in northeastern Syria.

The Kurdish side praised the agreement and said they accept it. Senior Kurdish official Aldar Khalil welcomed it in an interview.

Completely in denial, Khalil said that Erdogan was forced to compromise and agree “because of Kurdish resistance,” which appears to be untrue, judging by recent events.

SDF commander Mazloum Kobani said that they accept the agreement with Turkey and will do what’s needed to make it succeed. He warned that the ceasefire was the beginning and would not achieve Turkey’s goals.

The Syrian government didn’t seem at all pleased with the prospects the “ceasefire” agreement presented.

Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s political adviser Bouthaina Shaaban in an interview said that Damascus opposes the idea of an autonomous Kurdistan.

“Of course, we cannot accept it,” Shaaban said, asked if there could be a region similar to Iraqi Kurdistan on its territory.

“There are no grounds for this [Kurdish autonomy] … We will never be able to speak about it from such an angle, since Syria consists of many ethnic and religious layers, and we do not say that someone is a Kurd, or someone follows such and such religion, we simply don’t say that. The majority of the Kurds are a precious part of our society for us, but some Kurdish organizations have made a political decision that is contrary to the interests of the country,” Shaaban stressed.

“The ceasefire agreement announced by the US and Turkey is unclear,” Shaaban said.

“As for the term a ‘security zone,’ it is incorrect: what Turkey really implies is a zone of occupation,” she added.

Separately, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is to visit Russia on October 22nd and discuss the situation in Northeastern Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Erdoğan and Putin will meet in Sochi, the Turkish Presidential Communications Directorate said in an October 16th statement.

Prior to that, on October 17th, Turkey’s Presidential spokesperson received a Russian delegation, led by Alexander Lavrentiev, Russia’s special envoy to Syria.

İbrahim Kalın and Alexander Lavrentiev — accompanied with other members of the delegation — discussed the latest developments in Syria, including Manbij and Idlib, and Turkey’s ongoing counter-terrorism operation in the country.

Both countries agreed to prevent the threat posed by all terror groups, including YPG/PKK-PYD and ISIL, against Syria’s territorial integrity and to maintain the existing cooperation between Turkey and Russia on this subject during the meeting.

On the previous day, Lavrentiev and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin, together with representatives from the Russian Ministry of Defense met with the Secretary of the Supreme Council of National Security of Iran A. Shamkhani and consultations with senior assistant to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iran for special political issues A. Haji.

The primary topics of the discussions were Yemen and Syria. The central topic was the escalation in the northeastern part of Syria. The general belief was confirmed that the achievement of lasting and long-term stabilization on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River, in Syria and in the region as a whole is possible only on the basis of restoring the country’s sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.

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