(Bloomberg) — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outlined his understanding of the Turkish-patrolled “safe zone” in northern Syria, saying the U.S. and Russia should also play a role in maintaining a corridor that he wants to stretch along a vast section of Turkey’s border.
A deal reached with a top U.S. delegation on Thursday — which secured a 120-hour cease-fire — required Kurdish fighters to withdraw from an area 444 km long and 32 km deep, the president told foreign reporters in Istanbul on Friday. “This is what we call the safe zone. The safe zone is not just the area between Ras al-Ayn and Tal Abyad which is yet to be cleared.”
But Erdogan’s view clashes with that of the Kurdish YPG, a U.S. ally in the fight against Islamic State. It’s unclear how American officials interpret Thursday’s pact when it comes to defining the area from which the militia must withdraw.
Erdogan denied that fighting took place between Turkish troops and Kurdish forces on Friday. However, Syrian state-run Sana news agency said five people were killed in a Turkish airstrike in the Ras Al-Ayn area.
Here is a rundown of major events in Turkish local time:
Turkish markets rally a day after the U.S.-Turkey deal. Borsa Istanbul-100 index is up 3.7%, most since June 7, as of 5:31 p.m. Two-year government bond yields fell 137 basis points, most since August 2018, to 14.29%. The lira appreciated 1.6% against the dollar in the past two daysU.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Erdogan announced cease-fire deal in Ankara after marathon talks on ThursdayTrump faces Congressional rebuke for Syria pullout
Kurdish General Said to Reject Turkish Occupation (11:27 p.m.)
In a phone call with U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, Syrian Democratic Forces commander General Mazloum Abdi said Kurdish fighters are concerned about the cease-fire holding and will not stand by if “hundreds of thousands” of Kurds are pushed out of the so-called safe zone in northern Syria, according to a statement by Graham after the call.
“I hope we can find a win-win situation, but I share General Mazloum’s concerns,” Graham, a key Republican foreign policy hawk who strongly criticized Trump’s decision to begin withdrawing troops, said. “I also told him that Congress will stay very involved and is extremely sympathetic to the plight of the Kurds.”
Earlier, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo secured the blessing of NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg for the cease-fire deal, amid criticism by France about the U.S. decision to withdraw forces from the region.
“I welcome that two NATO allies, the United States and Turkey, have agreed on a way forward,” Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary-general, said at a briefing with Pompeo as the top U.S. diplomat made a brief stop in Brussels. “We all know and understand that the situation in northeast Syria is fragile, difficult, but I believe this statement can help to deescalate the situation.”
Trump Says Cease-Fire is ‘Working Out’ So Far (9:22 p.m.)
President Donald Trump defended the agreement reached with Turkey for a 120-hour pause in hostilities in northern Syria, saying the “Kurds are very happy about it” then adding, cryptically, “we’ve taken control of the oil that everybody was worried about.” It wasn’t clear what the president meant with that statement.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper issued a statement emphasizing that no U.S. ground troops will take part in enforcing the so-called safe zone in northern Syria. Esper added that he’ll be traveling to the Middle East on Saturday to visit troops and international partners before heading to a NATO meeting in Brussels.
U.S. Official Says Most Fighting Has Stopped (6:35 p.m.)
Most of the fighting in northeast Syria has stopped, a U.S. official said, asking not to be identified. It will take time for things to completely quiet down, which is usually the case in situations like this, the official said.
Death Toll in Syria Rises, SOHR Says (6:16 p.m.)
The number of people killed in northeast Syria in a day of sporadic clashes, strikes by airplanes and Turkish shelling increased to 14, according to SOHR, a monitoring group
Erdogan Speaks on Trump, Graham and Syria (5:26 p.m. Friday)
Erdogan said he understands Donald Trump is “under pressure,” but added that he won’t forget the Oct. 9 letter in which the U.S. president warned him not to be a “fool.” Erdogan also accused Senator Lindsey Graham of flip-flopping on whether the Kurdish militants are “terrorists.”
The president said the YPG had freed 750 Islamic State detainees, including 150 Turks, during the Turkish offensive. A total of 195 militants have been recaptured, and they should be tried in their respective countries, he said.
EU Leaders Stop Short of Punishing Turkey (5:10 p.m.)
Erdogan’s actions were discussed at a meeting of European Union leaders in Brussels. The EU has called for Turkey to show restraint against the Kurds, but stopped short of threatening major punitive action against a NATO ally.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel downplayed any link between Erdogan’s Syria operation and the threat of fresh migrants coming to Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron said he saw recent events as “a heavy mistake” by the West and NATO. “I found out via a tweet that the U.S. decided to withdraw their troops and free the zone,” he said.
Turkey Halts Offensive But Skirmishes Underway (9:30 a.m. Friday)
Turkey has halted its offensive but occasional skirmishes took place overnight, prompting Turkish artillery units to open fire on targets in the west of the town of Ras al-Ayn, Turkey’s IHA news agency reported Friday. The Rojava Information Center, which is aligned with the Kurdish-led forces, said fighting was continuing in the area and there was no sign yet of Kurdish fighters withdrawing.
Safe Zone Definition Contradicts Turkey Aspiration (11:59 p.m. Thursday)
Jim Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy for the Syria conflict who was with Pence in Ankara, said: “We talk about the safe zone here, and the Turks talk about an aspirational safe zone based upon what we had done with them back in August, where the safe zone was from the Euphrates to the Iraqi border and we had various levels of Turkish observation or movement or whatever down to 30 kilometers, with the withdrawal of the YPG from some of them.”
“What we have now is a different situation where the Turks have pushed down to that 30-kilometer level in a central part of the northeast and they’re still fighting in there, and that’s the focus of our attention now because that’s the area that we define as the Turkish-controlled safe zone.”
Turkey Says ‘It’s a Temporary Pause’ Not Cease-Fire (9:02 p.m.)
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the one-page accord wasn’t a cease-fire, but a pause, and boasted that Turkey had gotten what it wanted from the U.S. Top of their demands was that Turkish armed forces will be oversee a 20-mile “safe zone” inside Syria. Cavusoglu said Turkey was aiming to create a safe zone that would stretch for 444 kilometers along the frontier and 30 kilometers deep in Syria.
Turkey Agrees to Cease-Fire in Syria, Pence Says (8:40 p.m.)
Pence said the U.S. and Turkey have agreed to end hostilities in Syria. Turkey would cease operations permanently once the Kurdish forces withdraw and work on detention centers in the affected areas would be coordinated with Turkey, Pence said. Once a permanent cessation of hostilities is in place, the U.S. will lift all sanctions slapped on Turkey earlier, he said.
–With assistance from Nick Wadhams, Saleha Mohsin, Rosalind Mathieson, Selcan Hacaoglu, David Wainer, Taylan Bilgic, Justin Sink, Tony Capaccio and Steven T. Dennis.
To contact the reporter on this story: Onur Ant in Istanbul at [email protected]
To contact the editors responsible for this story: Lin Noueihed at [email protected], Bill Faries, Larry Liebert
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