Fri. 9:09 a.m.: Turkey’s president: Kurdish fighters withdrawing
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — 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 today 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 today, 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.
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.
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.”