Turkey Syria offensive: Trump lifts Turkey sanctions after deal

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Media captionTrump on Turkey ceasefire: “This was an outcome created by us, the United States.”

The US is lifting sanctions on Turkey after its recent offensive against Kurdish fighters in north-eastern Syria, President Donald Trump says.

His decision came after Russia agreed with Turkey to use troops to extend a ceasefire along the Syrian border.

Turkey’s offensive began after Mr Trump’s unexpected decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria earlier this month.

“Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained sand,” the president said.

“The sanctions will be lifted unless something happens that we’re not happy with,” he announced in a statement at the White House on Wednesday.

He said Turkey had assured him that it would halt fighting in the region and would make the recently agreed ceasefire permanent.

The US Treasury later confirmed that sanctions, imposed on 14 October, had been lifted on the Turkish ministries of defence and energy, as well as three of the country’s senior officials.

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Media captionRussian military vehicles were seen in the key border town of Kobane on Wednesday

Turkey sees Kurdish fighters as terrorists and wants to create a 30km (20-mile) deep “safe zone” along the Syrian side of the border, where it wants to house some two million Syrian refugees it hosts.

Mr Trump came under heavy criticism over the US military pullout, as the Kurds had been key US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group (IS) in the region.

He said on Wednesday he would keep a “small number” of troops in parts of the country to protect oil installations.

He also urged Turkey to commit to securing IS militants, and make sure the jihadist group did not regain any Syrian territory.

According to President Trump, it was US diplomacy alone that halted the Turkish military operations in Syria and instituted a lasting deal to save Kurdish lives.

Others may see a different reality, that Russia and Turkey did the deal and the whole episode was precipitated by Washington’s willingness to abandon its Kurdish allies.

This press conference was not about diplomatic realities but the electoral cycle – an effort by Mr Trump to try to turn diplomatic catastrophe into political credits.

He hopes the riff on ending pointless wars in the Middle East will play well with his base, who care little about the tortuous detail of the Middle East powder keg.

But as to Washington’s abiding strategic interests in the region, there was no mention.

What was in the deal?

President Trump hailed the deal between Russia and Turkey as a “big success”.

The agreement was struck during a pause in Turkey’s offensive, and will see Russian and Syrian troops facilitate the removal of Kurdish fighters up to 30km deep along the border region.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian forces deployed to the two key border towns of Kobane and Manbij.

As part of the deal, Turkey will continue to control an area it took in the recent offensive between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.

The deal also sets out plans for joint Turkish-Russian patrols along the border from next week.

The head of the Kurdish-led SDF force, Mazloum Abdi, publicly thanked Mr Trump on Twitter, and said the US president had promised to maintain their partnership.

Turkey agreed to pause the assault last week at the request of the US to facilitate the removal of Kurdish forces from the “safe zone”.

What has the cost of the offensive been?

The UN says more than 176,000 people, including almost 80,000 children, have been displaced in the past two weeks in north-east Syria, which is home to some three million people.

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Media captionThe BBC’s Aleem Maqbool hears from a grieving mother, a frustrated fighter and fleeing families

Some 120 civilians have been killed in the battle, along with 259 Kurdish fighters, 196 Turkish-backed Syrian rebels and seven Turkish soldiers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), a UK-based monitoring group.

Twenty civilians have also been killed in attacks on Turkish territory by a Kurdish militia group dominating the SDF, known as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), Turkish officials say.


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