Ankara says it has been assured by U.S. that Kurd withdrawal from border areas has been ‘completed’
Turkey said on Wednesday there was “no need” to restart its offensive against Kurdish fighters in Syria, saying that it had been informed by the U.S. that their withdrawal from the border areas had been “completed.”
“At this stage, there is no further need to carry out a new operation,” the defense ministry said in a statement. A U.S.-brokered deal had set a 120-hour deadline for Kurdish fighters’ pullout from a proposed safe zone, which expired on Tuesday night.
Turkey has agreed to “pause” its military action in Syria launched on Oct. 9 on the condition that Kurdish forces withdrew from an initial 120-kilometer area from the border, following a deal with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence last Thursday. Turkey has, however, repeatedly threatened to restart its offensive, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing to “crush the heads” of Syrian Kurdish forces if they failed to retreat.
“At the end of the 120-hour period, the United States announced that withdrawal of PKK/YPG from the area has been completed,” the Turkish defense ministry said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a phone call with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Wednesday, also confirmed that U.S. military officials informed their Turkish counterparts Kurdish forces withdrew from the safe zone, a Turkish diplomatic source said. The announcement comes shortly after Erdogan hailed a “historic” agreement with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to push back Syrian Kurdish fighters from its border areas.
Turkey has seized control of a “safe zone” inside Syria about 120 kilometers long and 32 kilometers deep, after it launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9.
Tuesday’s agreement with Moscow will see it preserve that zone between the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, giving Ankara a crucial presence inside the country. Under the agreement reached in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, “joint activities will start with the Russian Federation from Wednesday,” the Turkish defense ministry said, adding that the deal with Moscow was “upholding Turkey’s border security.”
From noon (0900 GMT) on Wednesday, Russian military police and Syrian border guards will “facilitate the removal” of Kurdish fighters and their weapons from within 30 kilometers of the border.