Trump sanctions fail to slow Turkey assault

The official spoke to The Associated Press on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive planning for a US pullout amid heavy fighting between Turkish and Syrian Kurdish forces.

Western powers are especially concerned over the fate of Islamic State extremists in Kurdish detention.

Turkish and Syrian troops are racing to control large parts of northern Syria that were run by an autonomous Syrian Kurdish government until a Turkish-led invasion began last Wednesday.

Erdogan said he told Trump in a phone call earlier this week that he should send a USA delegation to Ankara to discuss their demands and try to reach an agreement.

Last week, Turkey launched "Operation Peace Spring" with the stated goal of establishing a "safe zone" inside Syria - mainly on territory held by Kurdish militias allied with the U.S., but which Ankara considers terrorist organizations.

Though the West has backed the TPG forces in the past, Turkey sees them as an offshoot of the PKK which it designates as a terror group.

A USA military spokesman, Col. Myles B. Caggins, confirmed US troops had completed their pullout from Manbij. During the withdrawal, contacts were kept open with the Turks and Russians to ensure the several hundred American forces there got out safely, USA officials said.

Now Russia was playing that role.

"They say "declare a ceasefire". Russia "is not going to allow it", he told Russian state news agencies.

Kelly Craft, the US ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters Washington is "deeply concerned" that Russian troops are patrolling between the two sides.

Less than an hour before his statement, Trump was on Twitter defending his hands-off stance, saying that the fate of Syria's Kurds was not the business of the United States. "Because it is their own land", he said, adding that what mattered for Turkey was the removal of Kurdish militants. He says, "We're asking for a ceasefire" and have "a lot in store" if Turkey doesn't comply.

Turkey has lost six soldiers since the start of the offensive, including two in the Manbij area Tuesday.

"The Russian president drew attention to the aggravation of the humanitarian situation in areas along the Syrian-Turkish border".

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East of Manbij, the Kurds are mounting a desperate defence of the border town of Ras Al Ain, using tunnels, berms and trenches.

It followed a deal announced Sunday between Damascus and the Kurds that saw government troops raise the Syrian flag in the flashpoint northern city of Manbij on Tuesday after United States forces withdrew.

Syrian families fleeing the battle zone between Turkey-led forces and Kurdish fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in and around the northern flashpoint town of Ras al-Ain on the border with Turkey, October 15, 2019.

After opening the way for the Turkish assault with its pullout, Washington is now trying to restrain its fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member.

Despite his rebuke of the left's response to Trump's decision to withdraw support from the Kurdish fighters and pull troops from Syria, Kilmeade was critical of Trump's policy as recently as Monday.

Separately, the Turkish presidency said on Tuesday that Erdogan told Russian President Vladimir Putin in a phone call that Turkey's incursion into northeastern Syria would contribute to counter-terrorism efforts, Syria's territorial integrity, and a political solution process.

Erdogan made clear, however, that he had no intention of halting the Turkish offensive.

"They are leaving tomorrow", Trump told reporters at the White House, a day after Pence announced the trip, without giving a timetable.

Trump, itching to leave Syria, has pushed European states to bring back militants who are their nationals and try them at home.

North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ambassadors also will meet on Wednesday in Brussels on Turkey's offensive, said alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan defended Turkey's offensive in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, calling on the worldwide community to support the initiative or "begin admitting refugees" from Syria.

"Turkey reached its limit", Erdogan wrote of the 3.6 million Syrians in his country.

  • Sonia Alvarado