Turkey-Syria border calm after ceasefire agreement

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Damascus, Oct 18 (IANS) The Turkey-Syria border has remained calm following a five-day ceasefire agreement between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence who hammered out a deal for an immediate “pause” to the fighting.
Turkey’s offensive on northern Syria broke out on October 9 shortly after US President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the remaining American troops from the region.
Local journalists following the operation from the Turkish border towns told Efe news on the phone Friday morning that for the first time in the last nine days, both sides of the border remained calm and silent.
“We were observing military reinforcement almost every night with convoys coming to the border and entering Syria.
“There was no such a reinforcement yesterday night.
“We were hearing almost non-stop artillery fire from this side and firing of rockets and mortar shells from the other side.
“Until now, this morning we did not hear them,” a local journalist told Efe.
According to another journalist in the border town of Akcakale, Turkish F-16’s that had been flying along the border every night also went silent after Thursday’s deal.
Turkey launched the Syrian offensive was because authorities wanted to secure what it calls a safe zone which would extend some 32 km into northern Syria, stretching from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border.
As well as using the area to re-home some of the roughly 4 million Syrian refugees in Turkey, the Ankara government wants to avoid the creation of a Kurdish statelet along its border.
The 13-point document signed following a four and half hour meeting between the US and Turkey in Ankara on Thursday evening, said that the Kurdish-led People’s Protection Units (YPG) and Democratic Union Party (PYD) forces would withdraw from the 30-35 km safe-zone within 120 hours.
The document adds that Turkey will pause its operation during this time and will cease its offensive once the YPG-PYD withdrawal is complete.
On the other hand, US will lift the sanctions it threatened Turkey with and will not impose new ones.
Both Turkish and US officials said that they got what they wanted out of the deal.
Syrian Kurds said that they accepted the cease-fire but not occupation of northern Syria.
Northeastern Syria, a Kurdish majority region, is currently under the control of the YPG, a key US ally in the years-long fight against the Islamic State terror organization.
But Ankara views the YPG as indistinguishable from their more habitual enemies, the Kurdistan’s Workers Party PKK, which has fought a decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey.

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