Trump says Erdogan Assured Him of Cease-Fire

Have Been Reports of Fighting

AP News
October 18, 2019 - 2:23 pm

(AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

Categories: 

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The latest on Turkey's invasion of northern Syria (all times local):

7:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is offering assurances that the cease-fire he agreed to has not already broken down.

Trump says on Twitter on Friday that Erdogan told him that "there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated" and that he "very much wants the cease-fire, or pause, to work."

An Associated Press journalist and activists in the region witnessed Turkish shelling and other activity in and around Ras al-Ayn on Friday morning.

Trump also says he has "just been notified that some European Nations are now willing, for the first time, to take the (Islamic State group) Fighters that came from their nations" as he has demanded.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about which countries he'd heard from and exactly what they had agreed to.

___

6 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey's military will set up 12 observations posts along the border in northern Syria if a planned safe zone is established.

Speaking to foreign journalists in Istanbul on Friday, Erdogan said the safe zone would be 32 kilometers (20 miles) deep and 444 kilometers (275 miles) wide, stretching from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi border. "The safe zone we have expressed is not just between Ayn Al-Arab (Kobane) and Tel Abyad," he said.

The Turkish leader also told reporters that 195 out of some 750 Islamic State militants who he said were set free by Syrian Kurdish fighters as Turkey launched its push into Syrian territory have been re-captured. Turkish nationals among them would be imprisoned and tried in Turkey, Erdogan said.

Asked to comment on reports of atrocities committed by Turkey-backed Syrian forces, Erdogan said the Turkish army and intelligence service were investigating them.

___

4:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says Turkey's military operation in Syria is "madness."

Speaking in Brussels after a meeting of the European Union, Macron said he wants France, Germany and Britain to organize a meeting "in the coming weeks" with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Macron reaffirmed that foreign fighters from the Islamic State group who might flee Syrian detention centers and go to Iraq should be arrested and sent to trial there.

For those who would try to go to France, "there's no direct airline from the Syrian camps to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (airport)", he said. Macron said French members of the IS group who might got to Turkey on their way to France would be arrested and sent to trial in France, according to a cooperation protocol between France and Turkey.

__

4:20 p.m.

EU Council President Donald Tusk says the "so-called" Syria cease-fire is "a demand of capitulation of the Kurds" and called on Turkey to immediately halt its operation in northern Syria.

After EU nations condemned Turkey's offensive in Syria, Tusk said the U.S.-Turkey agreement to lay down arms for five days was not a serious initiative.

"This so-called cease-fire. This is not what we expected. In fact it is not a cease-fire, it is a demand of capitulation of the Kurds," Tusk said after the EU summit.

"We have to reiterate our call for Turkey to put a permanent end to its military action immediately and to withdraw its forces and respect international humanitarian law," he said.

___

4:15 p.m.

The Syrian Kurdish-led administration is accusing Turkey of violating the terms of a U.S.-brokered cease-fire and says some terms of the deal need further discussion with Washington.

The Kurdish-led administration said in its statement that the violations were mostly in the border town of Ras al-Ayn, where shelling and clashes were reported earlier Friday.

The statement said it was abiding by the cease-fire but said nothing about vacating border areas. It said the deal guarantees the return of those displaced from the 10-day long Turkish offensive. The administration, which is the political arm of the Kurdish-led forces, said some provisions of the agreement "need further discussion with the United States as the party responsible for it."

The agreement would solidify the position Turkey has gained in the offensive that began Oct. 9, and asks the Kurdish-led force to vacate a swath of land along the border.

___

4:10 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will resume its offensive in northeast Syria "in a more determined way" if Syrian Kurdish fighters do not pull out from areas of northeast Syria at the end of the five-day cease-fire.

Speaking to foreign journalists on Friday, Erdogan reiterated that Turkey would have no problem with Syrian government forces controlling some areas along Turkey's border, as long as these areas are cleared of Syrian Kurdish fighters, that Turkey considers as terrorists due to their links to outlawed Kurdish militants in Turkey.

Erdogan said: "If the United States is able to keep the promises it gave us by Tuesday night, at the end of the 120-hour period, the issue of a safe zone will have been resolved. But if this promise is not kept, without exception, the minute the 120 hours end, our Operation Peace Spring will resume from where it left off in an even more determined way."

Erdogan said Turkey's nine-day long offensive has resulted in the death of four soldiers and 74 Turkish-backed Syrian fighters. He claimed that the Turkish forces had "neutralized" around 750 Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The Turkish leader said Turkey and allied Syrian opposition forces captured some 65 settlements, including the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al Ayn.

___

3:40 p.m.

Turkey's president says his country "cannot forget" the harshly worded letter from U.S. President Donald Trump about the Turkish military offensive into Syria. But he says the mutual "love and respect" between the two leaders prevents him from keeping it on Turkey's agenda.

These are Recep Tayyip Erdogan's first comments concerning the Oct. 9 letter from Trump, in which among other things he warned Erdogan not to be a "tough guy."

Speaking to foreign journalists in Istanbul on Friday, Erdogan said that Turkey would "do what's necessary" concerning the letter "when the time comes." He did not elaborate.

Erdogan said: "President Trump's letter, which did not go hand in hand with political and diplomatic courtesy, has appeared in the media. Of course we haven't forgotten it. It would not be right for us to forget it."

Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched their offensive against Kurdish militias in Syria a week ago. That came two days after Trump suddenly announced he was withdrawing American troops from the border area.

__

3:00 p.m.

Turkey's president say Syrian Kurdish fighters are withdrawing from parts of northeast Syria. That follows a cease-fire agreement reached between Turkey and the United States a day earlier.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul Friday that his country's defense minister confirmed that the Kurdish fighters had begun withdrawing. However, Erdogan says Turkish troops will remain in northeast Syria to monitor whether "this terror organization (is) truly leaving the area."

Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence agreed late Thursday to a five-day cease-fire, halting Turkey's weeklong offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria.

But on Friday, Associated Press journalists, activists and a Syria war monitor group have reported continued fighting around the northeast town of Ras al-Ayn, which is part of the cease-fire agreement.

Erdogan however, denies that clashes were ongoing, saying: "I don't know where you're getting your news from. According to the news I received from my defense minister, there is no question of clashes. These are all speculation, disinformation."

The Turkish leader said he would hold further talks on northeast Syria with Russian President Vladimir Putin next week.

He said: "With these discussions, God willing we will bring peace to the area."

___

1:40 p.m.

Activists and a Syria war monitor says the Kurdish-led force and Turkey-backed fighters are clashing on the outskirts of Ras al-Ayn, a town along the border that is part of a cease-fire agreement.

The Rojava Information Center and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported fighting in villages on the western and eastern flanks of Ras al-Ayn. The Observatory says at least five people were killed and 14 injured. The Rojava Center said its activists on the ground reported advances by Turkey-backed forces on two villages.

Other activists reported a new exodus of civilians from the villages as fighting continued. A Kurdish fighter said there were attacks near the hospital in the center of Ras al-Ayn. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters.

The fighting comes despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect late Thursday.

— Sarah El Deeb

___

12:20 p.m.

A spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish forces says a border town remains besieged and is being shelled by Turkey and its allied forces, despite a cease-fire agreement.

Mervan, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Friday his group's militiamen are not withdrawing in accordance with the cease-fire deal reached overnight because the town of Ras al-Ayn remains besieged. He says Turkey and allied fighters continue to target the town.

After hours of negotiations, the U.S. and Turkey agreed to a five-day cease-fire in Turkey's weeklong offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria, who were once Washington's ally.

When asked about pulling fighters back to vacate border areas, Mervan said: "So far there is nothing."

Mervan, who goes by his nom de guerre in accordance with the group's regulations, said: "It seems that under this deal they want to commit more massacres."

The Kurdish Red Crescent said its vehicles can't reach Ras al-Ayn to evacuate the wounded.