October 17, 2019 / 6:35 PM / a month ago

U.S., Turkey agree Ankara to primarily control Syria 'safe zone'

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey will primarily enforce a “safe zone” in northern Syria, according to a joint statement with the United States after high-level talks in Ankara at which the sides agreed the Turkish military would pause attacks against a Kurdish militia.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu addresses lawmakers at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, October 16, 2019. Fatih Aktas/Turkish Foreign Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

Under the agreement the NATO allies reached on Thursday, Turkey would stop its operation for five days in northern Syria against the Kurdish YPG militia, while it withdraws from a region along the Turkish border.

Speaking after four hours of meetings between delegations from both sides, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Ankara had gotten what it wanted.

“We will pause Operation Peace Spring for PKK/YPG to leave the safe zone. This is not a ceasefire - ceasefires can only happen between two legitimate sides,” he told a news conference.

“When the terrorist elements completely leave the safe zone, we can stop the operation,” Cavusoglu said.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organisation with links to Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in Turkey. YPG was a main U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State.

Cavusoglu said the two sides had agreed for heavy arms to be taken from the YPG and for their positions to be destroyed - fulfilling a long-held request by Ankara.

Contradicting separate remarks in Ankara by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Cavusoglu also said Turkey had given no guarantees regarding the Syrian border town of Kobani.

He said Turkey would discuss the town of Manbij and other regions with Russia, which, along with the Syrian government forces, have deployed in several positions vacated by the United States.

Cavusoglu was quoted earlier on Thursday as saying Moscow had promised Ankara that the YPG militia will not be in the Syrian territories across the border.

Reporting by Ali Kucukgocmen; Editing by Jonathan Spicer

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