Syrian Kurdish fighters informed U.S. they fulfilled obligations under ceasefire - U.S. official

by Reuters
Tuesday, 22 October 2019 17:09 GMT

(Updates with comments)

By Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - The commander of Kurdish led-SDF fighters has informed the United States that it has carried out all of its obligations under a U.S.-brokered truce to withdraw forces from a border area with Turkey in northeastern Syria, a senior administration official said on Tuesday.

"A letter came in from General Mazloum...that he had carried out all of his obligations under the arrangement that we had done with the Turks...to withdraw all YPG forces out of the Turkish-controlled safe zone," the senior administration official told reporters, referring to Mazloum Abdi, the head of Washington's former allies in the fight against Islamic State.

Ankara and Washington have been in close contact to agree that the withdrawal has taken place, the official said and therefore Turkey's pause in its military offensive into Syria would turn into a permanent halt of the campaign, as agreed under a deal in Ankara last week.

The five-day truce in Turkey's cross-border offensive to allow the withdrawal of Kurdish YPG fighters from the border area ends at 10 p.m. (1900 GMT) on Tuesday, and President Tayyip Erdogan has said Turkey could then press on with fighting.

"We think that Turkey in the end will agree that the withdrawal has taken place under the terms of the agreement. This means that the Turkish pause becomes a Turkish halt in military operations," the official said.

But he warned that if Ankara fails to cease operations, U.S. sanctions will follow. "Any Turkish kinetic military operation that moves forward at the end of this 120 hours, when they're supposed to move into an even more...rigid and formal ceasefire under the name halt....will lead to us concluding that Turks have violated our agreement with inevitable sanctions."

The official said Washington was keeping a close eye on Erdogan's visit to Sochi to have talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and reminded that Erdogan has made it clear to the U.S. delegation that he was going to work with Russians to try to get an arrangement for the wider 20 mile-safe zone Ankara has envisioned.

(Reporting by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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