Istanbul: Turkey on Saturday accused Kurdish forces of violating an agreement to suspend its Syria offensive if they withdraw from a “safe zone” along the border.
“The Turkish armed forces fully abide by the agreement reached on Thursday with the United States,” the defence ministry said in a statement. “Despite this, terrorists carried out a total of 14 attacks in the last 36 hours.” The ministry said 12 of the attacks came from the border town of Ras al-Ain in northeastern Syria, one from Tal Abyad and another from Tal Tamr region, adding that various light and heavy weaponry including rockets were used.
Turkey had agreed to suspend its Syria offensive for five days but President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned he would resume a full-scale operation against Kurdish forces if they did not withdraw from a border safe zone. “If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved. If it fails, the operation will start the minute 120 hours are over,” Erdogan said.
But he added the agreement was holding and that there had been no issues so far. The defence ministry said “for the agreement to hold soundly and to keep the calm with exception of self-defence”, Turkey was coordinating with the US. Calm appeared to be prevailing in Ras al-Ain with no signs of fighting, according to AFP journalists on the Turkish side of the border.
US Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell attacked President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops from Syria as “a strategic nightmare” that will help Washington’s foes and hurt its allies.
“Withdrawing US forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake,” McConnell, the top Republican in Congress, stated. “It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances.” His comments come after Trump defended his decision to pull US troops out.