Kurdish militia 'kill Turkish soldier' in Syria

Carla Harmon
October 20, 2019

USA forces withdrew from a key base in northern Syria Sunday, a monitor said, two days before the end of a US -brokered truce to stem a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces in the region.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with US Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a "safe zone" Turkey aims to form in northeast Syria near its border.

The Turkish ministry said on Sunday that the soldier was on a reconnaissance mission when he was killed in Tel Abyad in northeast Syria.

Erdogan said on Friday it would run for some 440 km along the border, though the United States special envoy for Syria said the accord covered a smaller area where Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies were fighting. The agreement has not specified the area of its pullback.

Erdogan on Saturday said he would also discuss Syrian army deployment in northern Syria with Putin, saying the two needed to find a solution to the matter.

Khalil said a partial evacuation happened earlier on Saturday from Ras al-Ain after much stalling and with U.S. coordination.

Turkish Foreign Ministry condemned Amnesty International's report on Turkey's counter-terrorism operation in northern Syria.

He said only after that will his force pull back from a 120km (75mile) area between the towns of Ras al-Ain and Tal Abyad.

Erdogan had warned on Saturday that the offensive would continue and Turkey would "crush the heads of terrorists" if the deal was not fully implemented, while Turkey insisted that it is the duty of Washington to ensure the withdrawal of the YPG.

Turkey said the presence of Syrian troops in the border region complicated Ankara's plan to build a "safe zone" in Syria where it plans to resettle up to 2 million refugees now living in Turkey.

Erdogan has said the Kurdish fighters must withdraw from a far larger length of the border from the Euphrates River to the Iraqi border - more than 440 kilometres (260 miles) - or else the Turkish offensive will resume on Tuesday.

"The Turkish side is not committing to the ceasefire and is not allowing the opening of a security corridor to evacuate the wounded and besieged civilians from Ras al-Ain", Mr Khalil told AFP, blaming the mediator of the ceasefire, the US.

Turkish and Kurdish leaders accused each other of violating a US-brokered truce in north-eastern Syria, even as it appeared to be taking hold on its second day yesterday.

SDF had said they would abide with the terms of the ceasefire but did not commit to any pull-out.

A pull-back would be a major boost to the deal.

The SDF largely consists of fighters from the Kurdish Protection Units (YPG), a group Ankara considers "terrorists" linked to Kurdish separatists on its soil.

Khalil said the Syrian government and its ally Russian Federation did not want to deploy more extensively in the area, apparently to avoid frictions with Turkey.

"We know very well...what we want", Mr. Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.

Other reports by iNewsToday