A deadline has been set by Turkey for the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from areas in north-eastern Syria which are expected to form the “safe zone” where Syrian refugees can return home and live.
The deadline will expire at 19:00 GMT tonight, according to Turkish military sources, at the end of a 120-hour ceasefire agreed between Ankara and Washington on Thursday. The ceasefire was hailed by US President Donald Trump as “a great day for civilisation” as “millions of lives will be saved”.
Following the launch of Turkey’s Operation Peace Spring on 9 October, Ankara hopes that the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters belonging to the YPG militia means that it will be able to establish the safe zone between Tal Abyad and Ras Al-Ain, a distance of approximately 120km. The intention is to extend this to 444km.
As a result of the military offensive, “greenlighted” by a withdrawal of US troops from north-east Syria, Turkey was criticised by Washington, which imposed sanctions, including a rise in the import tariffs on Turkish steel. However, tension appears to have eased following a hastily-arranged visit to Ankara last Thursday by US Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in order to agree a deal about the Turkish presence in Syria.
The US reportedly agreed that the Kurdish YPG would withdraw from the areas concerned and that Washington would lift the sanctions, and not impose any more, if Turkey ceased its operation and withdrew its troops.
According to Al-Manar, the same Turkish military sources said that 125 vehicles have already left the area carrying YPG fighters towards the city of Hasakeh. Any “terrorists” left within the 120km-long safe zone after tonight’s deadline “will be neutralised”.