The Latest: Syria’s Assad visits retaken area, slams Erdogan

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the situation in Syria following the Turkish invasion earlier this month into the country’s north (all times local):

12:20 p.m.

Syrian president Bashar Assad has slammed Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan as a “thief” as he made his first visit to areas in Idlib province recently retaken by Syrian government forces from Turkey-backed rebels.

Syrian state media showed images of Assad on Tuesday standing among Syrian soldiers in what the report said was strategic southern Idlib territory.

The media quoted Assad as calling Erdogan a “thief who robbed factories, wheat and fuel and is today stealing territory” — apparently referring to Turkey’s invasion this month into northeastern Syria to push out Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Turkey has also carried out other incursions into Syria and controls territory east of Idlib. It also has observation points inside Idlib, negotiated with Russia, to monitor a cease-fire there between the government and opposition fighters and jihadi groups.

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11:40 a.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says up to 1,300 Syrian Kurdish fighters have yet to vacate areas in northeastern Syria as a Turkish-U.S. cease-fire agreement is running out.

Erdogan spoke to reporters before traveling to Russia on Tuesday.

He says up to 800 Syrian Kurdish fighters have already left under the deal that brought a five-day pause in fighting following Turkey’s incursion into northeast Syrian to drive the Kurdish militiamen away from its border areas.

Erdogan renewed threats to resume fighting “with more determination” if the Syrian Kurds don’t depart before the deadline runs out at 10:00 p.m.

Erdogan is scheduled to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, for talks expected to focus on border areas that are currently held by Syrian government forces.

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11:30 a.m.

European Council President Donald Tusk is condemning Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria and is calling on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to pull his troops out of the region.

Tusk told EU lawmakers in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday that “no one is fooled by the so-called cease-fire” agreement made last week by the U.S. and Turkey. Turkey expects the Syrian Kurdish fighters to pull back from a border area.

Tusk says that Turkey, which is a candidate for EU membership, “needs to end its military action permanently, withdraw its forces and respect international humanitarian law.”

He says that “any other course means unacceptable suffering, a victory for Daesh, and a serious threat to European security.”

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11:10 a.m.

Iraq’s military says U.S. troops leaving Syria and heading to neighboring Iraq do not have permission to stay in the country.

Tuesday’s statement says that American troops currently withdrawing from Syria have acquired permission from the Iraqi Kurdish regional government to enter Iraq to later be transferred out of the country.

It added that these troops do not have any approval to stay in Iraq.

The statement appears to contradict U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper who has said that under the current plan, all U.S. troops leaving Syria will go to western Iraq and the military will continue to conduct operations against the Islamic State group to prevent its resurgence.

Esper said he has spoken to his Iraqi counterpart about the plan to shift the more than 700 troops leaving Syria into western Iraq.

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10:40 a.m.

Germany’s defense minister has proposed the establishment of an internationally controlled security zone in Syria.

The proposal comes as Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters invaded northern Syria earlier this month, after President Donald Trump pulled back American troops who had partnered with Syrian Kurdish forces in the years-long war against the Islamic State group.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer told German news agency dpa on Tuesday that “the creation of an internationally controlled security zone with the inclusion of Turkey and Russia” would have the goal of deescalating the situation in northern Syria.

Kramp-Karrenbauer said the German parliament would need to decide on whether German troops could participate in such a zone. She also told broadcaster Deutsche Welle that Chancellor Angela Merkel had been informed of the proposal.

Categories: International News