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  • U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 16, 2019.

    U.S. President Donald Trump listens during a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington, U.S., July 16, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 23 October 2019

In a White House speech, Trump described the truce as a “major breakthrough” negotiated by a team led by Vice President Mike Pence, adding that “sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we are not happy with." 

United States President Donald Trump said Wednesday a brokered ceasefire in northern Syria is now permanent and lifted sanctions on Turkey as a result, rejecting criticism of his decision to pull out U.S. troops that allowed Kurdish allies to come under attack.

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In a White House speech, Trump described the truce as a “major breakthrough” negotiated by a team led by Vice President Mike Pence, adding that “sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we are not happy with." 

This comes as Turkish forces launched an offensive on Oct. 7 into areas of northern Syria controlled by the SDF. Ankara said it was targeting Kurdish forces linked to an insurgency on its territory.

The Turkish assault started after Trump decided earlier this month to withdrew U.S. forces that have backed the Syrian Democratic Forces, from part of the Syrian-Turkish border. The SDF called the move a stab in the back.

The U.S. president then said he would authorize sanctions against Turkish officials, stop negotiating with Turkey on a US$100 billion trade deal, and boost tariffs on the country’s steel to 50 percent over Ankara’s incursion.

However, a five-day truce was announced by Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan back on Oct. 17.

With it would achieve all the main objectives Turkey announced when it launched the assault against Kurdish forces in northern Syria: control of a strip along the Syrian more than 30 km deep, with the Kurdish YPG militia, formerly a close U.S. ally, obliged to pull out.

Turkey and Russia agreed on Tuesday to remove the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia to beyond 30 km from the Turkish border, after which their troops will jointly patrol a narrower strip of land in the "safe zone" that Ankara has long sought in northern Syria.

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