French President Emmanuel Macron has said that Turkey’s offensive in northern Syria was “madness” and criticised the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) for failing to prevent the conflict,
Just hours after Turkey has agreed to a temporary ceasefire to allow Kurdish-led troops to withdraw from Syria, Macron said that NATO’s failure to act was “a serious mistake.”
“It’s not a ceasefire it’s a demand of capitulation of the Kurds,” he said.
Both men were speaking at the closing of the European summit in Brussels.
Turkey will pause its offensive Syria, overseen by the US, for 120 hours in order to allow for the pullback.
US Vice President Mike Pence said that he had also received confirmation that the Kurdish YPG would withdraw in an orderly manner, while Turkey would agree to a permanent ceasefire after this is complete.
President Donald Trump praised the move saying it would save “millions of lives”.
It comes after Pence flew to Ankara this week for several hours of negotiations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan over the military operation.
The US had earlier imposed sanctions on Turkey over the incursion, which was met with an indignant response from Erdoğan, who said a Kurdish withdrawal would be the only way to end the conflict.
Pence said on Thursday evening that the US would not impose further sanctions with the enaction of a ceasefire.
In a speech from Texas, Trump said the result of the talks marked “an amazing outcome” and attributed it to “tough love to get it done”.
The US president also went on to say he would lift sanctions “very quickly,” and praised his Turkish counterpart as a “tough man” who “did the right thing”.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 17, 2019
Meanwhile, an unnamed Turkish official was quoted by Reuters as saying that Turkey got “exactly what it wanted”.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the agreement was solely to allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from the “safe zone”, adding they would be forced to give up their heavy weapons and that their positions would be destroyed.
He would not label the move a “ceasefire”, saying such deals could only be struck by legitimate sides, not a Kurdish militia that Turkey considers a terrorist group.
What the Kurdish response been?
Mazloum Kobani, commander in the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), told Kurdish television channel Ronahi TV that it would accept the agreement with Turkey in northern Syria but only in an area limited to border areas running between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.
It was not clear whether the group would fully comply with the ceasefire.
The joint declaration from Washington and Ankara said the two sides would work together on handling so-called Islamic State (IS) fighters as well as their families held in prisons and camps in the area — an issue of international concern.
The military operation against Kurdish-controlled areas was launched last week to push forces back from the border area to create a “safe zone”, where Turkey eventually wants to return millions of Syrian refugees.
It follows the US decision last week to withdraw its troops from Syria, in a move widely seen as an abandonment of the Kurds, who have been Washington’s key ally in the fight against the IS.
How has the EU reacted?
The EU response to the incursion has seen a number of countries including France, Germany, the UK and Spain halt their individual arms sales to Turkey, while the Union itself pledged to not sign any new arms deals with the country.
Earlier on Thursday, EU Parliament President David Sassoli condemned the operation as an “act of war” and said the bloc should extend its sanctions to include existing arms deals, too.
He also suggested a suspension of talks with Turkey concerning a potential EU membership.