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November 12, 2019
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Kurdish forces ‘ready to abide’ by Turkish ceasefire

ANKARA, Turkey: Mike Pence, the vice president of the United States, said Washington and Ankara have agreed to a ceasefire in Turkey’s assault northeast Syria.

The announcement on Thursday came after talks between Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara.

The ceasefire grants the Kurdish-led forces that were Washington’s main Syrian ally in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, or ISIS) five days to withdraw from the so-called “safe-zone” Ankara wants to establish inside Syria.

Turkey launched its cross-border offensive on October 9, aiming to clear the region of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers “terrorists” linked to Kurdish separatists on its soil. The campaign, dubbed Operation Peace Spring, would also allow the repatriation of Syrian refugees, according to Turkish officials.

However, there are fears the offensive may result in mass displacement of people and the revival of ISIL.

Australia has ruled out retrieving dozens of Australian women and children from refugee camps during the cease-fire in Syria. Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said on Friday the situation remained too dangerous to send Australian troops or officials into the war-torn nation.

About 46 Australian women and children, who fled the territory held by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), are being held at the al-Hawl refugee camp in northern Syria near the area of the Turkish operation.

Eight Australian offspring of two slain ISIL fighters were removed from Syria in June, Australia’s only organised repatriation from the conflict zone.

Antonio Guterres, the secretary-general of the United Nations, welcomed efforts to de-escalate hostilities in northeast Syria and protect civilians, according to a spokesman.

Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told Kurdish media his forces would abide by Ankara’s ceasefire agreement.

The extent of the ceasefire stretched 100 kilometres along the Syria-Turkey border from the town of Tel Abyad to Ras al-Ain, he told Ronahi TV. “We have not discussed the fate of other areas,” he said, referring to other parts of northeastern Syria where Turkey wants to create what it calls a “safe zone”.

“We will do whatever we can for the success of the ceasefire agreement,” Abdi said, describing it as a “tentative agreement.”

The president of the UN Security Council said that Thursday’s ceasefire would be “a great thing if it happens.”

South Africa’s UN ambassador, Jerry Matjila, this month’s president, told reporters that members were waiting for details. “If it does happen, I think it’s a step in the good direction,” he said.

Donald Trump, the US president, credited his threat of sanctions on Turkey as “tough love” that led Ankara to agree to a five-day cease-fire in its battle with Kurds in northern Syria.

Talking to reporters in Fort Worth, Texas, Trump said the Kurds were happy with the deal.

He also heaped praise on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, saying: “He’s a hell of a leader. He did the right thing. I have great respect for the president.”