The Latest: Official: Turkey to fight both Syrian Kurds, IS

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

3:20 p.m.

A top Turkish official says Ankara’s planned incursion in northeastern Syria aims to eradicate the threats posed by both Syrian Kurdish forces and the Islamic State group.

Fahrettin Altun, communications director for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said on Twitter on Monday that “Turkey’s intension is clear: to dismantle the terrorist corridor on our border. To fight against (the) PKK, which is the enemy of the Kurdish people. To combat (IS) and prevent its resurgence.”

His comments came after American troops began pulling back from positions along the border in northeast Syria ahead of an expected Turkish invasion to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters away from the frontier.

Turkey considers the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters terrorists who are allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.

Altun wrote: “Areas liberated from PKK will have services provided by Turkey, rather than enduring the occupation by a terrorist militia.”


2:20 p.m.

A senior Syrian Kurdish official is criticizing a White House statement about transferring to Turkey the responsibility for thousands of foreign Islamic State fighters held in northeastern Syria in the wake of a U.S. pullout from positions there as “illogical.”

Abdulkarim Omar, who acts as foreign minister for the Syrian Kurds, said on Monday the statement is unclear as the detention areas are far from the border zone where Turkey is expected to make its incursion.

Omar said the U.S. troop withdrawal from the border will have “catastrophic consequences” because Kurdish-led forces would be preoccupied with defending the border, instead of protecting detention facilities or the crowded al-Hol camp which houses over 73,000 people, many of them IS families and supporters.

Omar called on the international community to work to reverse President Donald Trump’s decision or stop the Turkish offensive.


2:10 p.m.

Germany has expressed concerns at the prospect of an incursion by Turkey into northeastern Syria, saying such an intervention could further destabilize the war-torn country.

Ulrike Demmer, a spokeswoman for Chancellor Angela Merkel, said on Monday that Germany is aware of the “special security policy situation” that Turkey faces on its border. But she cautioned that successes against the Islamic State group, which she noted were achieved in significant part by Syrian Kurdish forces with international support, “must not be endangered.”

U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces said American troops began pulling back on Monday from positions in northeastern Syria ahead of the expected Turkish incursion.

Demmer said that a unilateral military intervention “would lead to a further escalation in Syria and contribute to a continued destabilization of the country.” She said it would also have negative security policy and humanitarian consequences.


2:05 p.m.

A senior U.N. envoy for Syria says the fighting sides should “put people first” amid concerns that a pullback by U.S. troops along the Turkey-Syria border will trigger an invasion by Turkish forces into a densely populated area.

Panos Moumtzis, from the U.N. humanitarian aid coordination agency, said he hopes that “military engages with military” — and not civilians — if any such assault occurs.

He said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs is preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. OCHA is offering to help indicate where clinics, schools, water points, markets or residential areas are located to help the forces on the ground avoid civilians.


2 p.m.

The European Union is calling for calm in northern Syria and warns that fresh fighting there is only like to drive more people from their homes.

This comes as Turkish troops are expected to launch an offensive soon.

European Commission spokeswoman Maja Kocijancic said on Monday that “renewed armed hostilities in the northeast will not only exacerbate civilian suffering and lead to massive displacement but will also risk severely undermining current political efforts.”

Kocijancic says the EU remains committed to Syria’ “unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity” and that a long-term solution to the conflict “will not be reached through military means but requires a genuine political transition.”

Turkey has threatened for months to launch a military operation to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters from the border region.


11:05 a.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says American troops have started withdrawing from positions in northern Syria.

Erdogan spoke on Monday, hours after the White House said that U.S. forces in northeast Syria will move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish incursion. The announcement cast uncertainty on the fate of the Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. against against the Islamic State group.

Turkey has threatened for months to launch a military operation to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters from a border region east of the Euphrates River.

Erdogan didn’t elaborate on the planned Turkish incursion but said Turkey was determined to halt what it perceives as threats from the Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Erdogan also said he planned to travel to Washington next month to meet with President Donald Trump.


9:40 a.m.

U.S.-backed Kurdish-led forces in Syria say American troops have begun withdrawing from areas along Turkey’s border.

This comes hours after the White House said U.S. forces in northeastern Syria will move aside and clear the way for an expected Turkish assault — essentially abandoning Kurdish fighters who fought alongside American forces in the yearslong battle to defeat the Islamic State group.

The Syrian Democratic Forces say the move comes as Turkey is preparing to attack Kurdish-held areas in northeast Syria.

The statement warns the Turkish invasion would be a blow to the fight against IS militants.

The Kurdish Hawar news agency and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also say American troops were evacuating positions near the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad on Monday.

Categories: International News