The Latest: Pompeo optimistic cease-fire in Syria will hold

  • Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters on an armoured personnel carrier drive to cross the border into Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight.

    Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters on an armoured personnel carrier drive to cross the border into Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. Associated Press

  • Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters on an armoured personnel carrier chant slogans as they wait to cross the border into Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight.

    Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters on an armoured personnel carrier chant slogans as they wait to cross the border into Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. Associated Press

  • In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from targets in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, caused by shelling by Turkish forces, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. Shelling and gunfire could be heard in and around Ras al-Ayn, as smoke billowed from locations near the border with Turkey and the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar.

    In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from targets in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, caused by shelling by Turkish forces, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. Shelling and gunfire could be heard in and around Ras al-Ayn, as smoke billowed from locations near the border with Turkey and the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar. Associated Press

  • In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from targets in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, caused by shelling by Turkish forces, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. Shelling and gunfire could be heard in and around Ras al-Ayn, as smoke billowed from locations near the border with Turkey and the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar.

    In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from targets in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, caused by shelling by Turkish forces, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. Shelling and gunfire could be heard in and around Ras al-Ayn, as smoke billowed from locations near the border with Turkey and the Turkish town of Ceylanpinar. Associated Press

  • Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters on an armoured personnel carrier drive to cross the border into Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight.

    Turkish-backed Syrian opposition fighters on an armoured personnel carrier drive to cross the border into Syria, in Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting continued in a northeast Syrian border town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces early Friday, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. Associated Press

  • Members of the media work on a hilltop overlooking the border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, and further in the background Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning.

    Members of the media work on a hilltop overlooking the border town of Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, and further in the background Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning. Associated Press

  • In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning.

    In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning. Associated Press

  • In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning.

    In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning. Associated Press

  • In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning.

    In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning. Associated Press

  • In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning.

    In this photo taken from the Turkish side of the border between Turkey and Syria, in Ceylanpinar, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, smoke billows from a fire in Ras al-Ayn, Syria, Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. Fighting broke out in the morning hours in the Syrian border town which has been a flashpoint in the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect overnight. The fighting died down in mid-morning. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 10/18/2019 2:56 PM

ANKARA, Turkey -- The latest on Turkey's invasion of northern Syria (all times local):

10:55 p.m.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he's optimistic that the cease-fire between the Turkish army and Kurdish forces in northern Syria will hold in coming days, despite some breaches.

After briefing NATO envoys in Brussels, Pompeo said Friday "we're now some 24 hours into this. We're very hopeful that we will be able to implement and execute" the cease-fire.

He says "there was some activity today but we also saw some very positive activity; the beginnings of the coordination that will be required" to ensure that the cease-fire is respected.

Pompeo says he's hopeful "that both the Turks, who were part of the agreement alongside of us, as well as the YPG fighters in the region will take seriously the commitments that they made."

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He says he expects to see those commitments being respected "within the next 96 hours."

Earlier on Friday, Kurdish leaders accused Turkey of violating the accord with continued fighting at a key border town while casting doubt on provisions in the U.S.-brokered deal with Ankara

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7:20 p.m.

President Donald Trump says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is offering assurances that the cease-fire he agreed to has not already broken down.

Trump says on Twitter on Friday that Erdogan told him that "there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated" and that he "very much wants the cease-fire, or pause, to work."

An Associated Press journalist and activists in the region witnessed Turkish shelling and other activity in and around Ras al-Ayn on Friday morning.

Trump also says he has "just been notified that some European Nations are now willing, for the first time, to take the (Islamic State group) Fighters that came from their nations" as he has demanded.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about which countries he'd heard from and exactly what they had agreed to.

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6 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey's military will set up 12 observations posts along the border in northern Syria if a planned safe zone is established.

Speaking to foreign journalists in Istanbul on Friday, Erdogan said the safe zone would be 32 kilometers (20 miles) deep and 444 kilometers (275 miles) wide, stretching from the city of Manbij to the Iraqi border. "The safe zone we have expressed is not just between Ayn Al-Arab (Kobane) and Tel Abyad," he said.

The Turkish leader also told reporters that 195 out of some 750 Islamic State militants who he said were set free by Syrian Kurdish fighters as Turkey launched its push into Syrian territory have been re-captured. Turkish nationals among them would be imprisoned and tried in Turkey, Erdogan said.

Asked to comment on reports of atrocities committed by Turkey-backed Syrian forces, Erdogan said the Turkish army and intelligence service were investigating them.

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4:50 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron says Turkey's military operation in Syria is "madness."

Speaking in Brussels after a meeting of the European Union, Macron said he wants France, Germany and Britain to organize a meeting "in the coming weeks" with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Macron reaffirmed that foreign fighters from the Islamic State group who might flee Syrian detention centers and go to Iraq should be arrested and sent to trial there.

For those who would try to go to France, "there's no direct airline from the Syrian camps to Paris-Charles de Gaulle (airport)", he said. Macron said French members of the IS group who might got to Turkey on their way to France would be arrested and sent to trial in France, according to a cooperation protocol between France and Turkey.

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4:20 p.m.

EU Council President Donald Tusk says the "so-called" Syria cease-fire is "a demand of capitulation of the Kurds" and called on Turkey to immediately halt its operation in northern Syria.

After EU nations condemned Turkey's offensive in Syria, Tusk said the U.S.-Turkey agreement to lay down arms for five days was not a serious initiative.

"This so-called cease-fire. This is not what we expected. In fact it is not a cease-fire, it is a demand of capitulation of the Kurds," Tusk said after the EU summit.

"We have to reiterate our call for Turkey to put a permanent end to its military action immediately and to withdraw its forces and respect international humanitarian law," he said.

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4:15 p.m.

The Syrian Kurdish-led administration is accusing Turkey of violating the terms of a U.S.-brokered cease-fire and says some terms of the deal need further discussion with Washington.

The Kurdish-led administration said in its statement that the violations were mostly in the border town of Ras al-Ayn, where shelling and clashes were reported earlier Friday.

The statement said it was abiding by the cease-fire but said nothing about vacating border areas. It said the deal guarantees the return of those displaced from the 10-day long Turkish offensive. The administration, which is the political arm of the Kurdish-led forces, said some provisions of the agreement "need further discussion with the United States as the party responsible for it."

The agreement would solidify the position Turkey has gained in the offensive that began Oct. 9, and asks the Kurdish-led force to vacate a swath of land along the border.

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4:10 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey will resume its offensive in northeast Syria "in a more determined way" if Syrian Kurdish fighters do not pull out from areas of northeast Syria at the end of the five-day cease-fire.

Speaking to foreign journalists on Friday, Erdogan reiterated that Turkey would have no problem with Syrian government forces controlling some areas along Turkey's border, as long as these areas are cleared of Syrian Kurdish fighters, that Turkey considers as terrorists due to their links to outlawed Kurdish militants in Turkey.

Erdogan said: "If the United States is able to keep the promises it gave us by Tuesday night, at the end of the 120-hour period, the issue of a safe zone will have been resolved. But if this promise is not kept, without exception, the minute the 120 hours end, our Operation Peace Spring will resume from where it left off in an even more determined way."

Erdogan said Turkey's nine-day long offensive has resulted in the death of four soldiers and 74 Turkish-backed Syrian fighters. He claimed that the Turkish forces had "neutralized" around 750 Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The Turkish leader said Turkey and allied Syrian opposition forces captured some 65 settlements, including the towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al Ayn.

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3:40 p.m.

Turkey's president says his country "cannot forget" the harshly worded letter from U.S. President Donald Trump about the Turkish military offensive into Syria. But he says the mutual "love and respect" between the two leaders prevents him from keeping it on Turkey's agenda.

These are Recep Tayyip Erdogan's first comments concerning the Oct. 9 letter from Trump, in which among other things he warned Erdogan not to be a "tough guy."

Speaking to foreign journalists in Istanbul on Friday, Erdogan said that Turkey would "do what's necessary" concerning the letter "when the time comes." He did not elaborate.

Erdogan said: "President Trump's letter, which did not go hand in hand with political and diplomatic courtesy, has appeared in the media. Of course we haven't forgotten it. It would not be right for us to forget it."

Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched their offensive against Kurdish militias in Syria a week ago. That came two days after Trump suddenly announced he was withdrawing American troops from the border area.

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3:00 p.m.

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 Friday 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 on Friday, 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.

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."

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1:40 p.m.

Activists and a Syria war monitor says the Kurdish-led force and Turkey-backed fighters are clashing on the outskirts of Ras al-Ayn, a town along the border that is part of a 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.

The fighting comes despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire that went into effect late Thursday.

- Sarah El Deeb

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12:20 p.m.

A spokesman for the Syrian Kurdish forces says a border town remains besieged and is being shelled by Turkey and its allied forces, despite a cease-fire agreement.

Mervan, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said Friday his group's militiamen are not withdrawing in accordance with the cease-fire deal reached overnight because the town of Ras al-Ayn remains besieged. He says Turkey and allied fighters continue to target the town.

After hours of negotiations, the U.S. and Turkey agreed to a five-day cease-fire in Turkey's weeklong offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria, who were once Washington's ally.

When asked about pulling fighters back to vacate border areas, Mervan said: "So far there is nothing."

Mervan, who goes by his nom de guerre in accordance with the group's regulations, said: "It seems that under this deal they want to commit more massacres."

The Kurdish Red Crescent said its vehicles can't reach Ras al-Ayn to evacuate the wounded.

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11:50 a.m.

A member of the Syrian Kurdish force says its fighters will not pull back from border towns, asserting that an agreement with Turkey to vacate those areas "will not work."

The fighter spoke Friday while Ras al-Ayn, a town on the border, was shelled from Turkey despite the cease-fire agreement brokered overnight between the U.S. and Turkey. The Syrian Kurdish forces say they will abide by the cease-fire.

But the Kurdish fighter says the agreement - which asks them to withdraw - is an "insult" to the force. He says the Kurds will not give up their land. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The agreement would solidify the position Turkey has gained in the offensive that began Oct. 9, and asks the Kurdish-led force to vacate a swath of land along the border.

While the Kurds call it a cease-fire, Turkey says it is a pause. The two sides disagree on the size of the cease-fire area.

- Sarah El Deeb

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11:40 a.m.

Turkey's Defense Ministry says a soldier has been killed by shots fired across the border from Iran during a border patrol.

A ministry statement on Friday said the soldier was killed in the border town of Caldiran, in eastern Van province. Two other soldiers were lightly wounded, it said.

It was not immediately clear if the attack was related to Turkey's invasion of northeast Syria against Kurdish forces. Tens of thousands of people have been driven from their homes ahead of the Turkish advance.

Turkey views the Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their links to a decades-long insurgency in the country's southeast.

Iran - like Turkey, Iraq and Syria - is home to an ethnic Kurdish population. An Iranian Kurdish militant group, also accused of links to Kurdish insurgents in Turkey, operates there.

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11:30 a.m.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has met with Israel's prime minister to reaffirm the countries' close ties at a time when many in Israel fear the Trump administration intends to give up on the Middle East.

In brief remarks after their meeting, Pompeo praised the "remarkable, close relationship" with Israel and said they discussed efforts to counter Iran and other challenges in the region. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Pompeo for America's "consistent support."

Netanyahu is a close ally of U.S. President Donald Trump and welcomed his decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

But Trump's decision to abandon America's Syrian Kurdish allies in the face of Turkey's offensive in northern Syria, along with other recent moves, has raised concerns that Trump might not be a reliable ally.

When asked about a U.S.-brokered cease-fire on Thursday aimed at halting the fighting in Syria, Netanyahu said "we hope things will turn out for the best."

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11:20 a.m.

Turkey's pro-government dominated media is hailing the U.S.-Turkish cease-fire deal in northeast Syria as a victory for Turkey's president.

After hours of negotiations between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, the two nations agreed to a five-day cease-fire in Turkey's weeklong offensive against Kurdish fighters in northern Syria.

The agreement requires the Kurdish fighters to vacate a swath of territory inside Syria along the Turkish border. That arrangement would largely solidify the position Turkey has gained after ten days of fighting. The Kurds were U.S. allies in the fight against the Islamic State.

Yeni Safak newspaper's banner headline on Friday hailed a "Great Victory." It wrote: "Turkey got everything it wanted."

Sabah newspaper's headline read: "We won both on the field and on the (negotiating) table."

Kurdish-led forces have invited the Syrian government's military, backed by Russia, to deploy there to protect them from Turkey.

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9:20 a.m.

Associated Press journalists are seeing continued fighting in a Syrian town at the center of the fight between Turkey and Kurdish forces, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire.

Shelling and smoke could be seen around Ras al-Ayn on Friday morning, a day after Turkey and the U.S. agreed to a five-day cease-fire in Turkey's offensive.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, reports intermittent clashes in Ras al-Ayn, but relative calm elsewhere since the cease-fire.

The agreement requires the Kurdish fighters to vacate a swath of territory in Syria along the Turkish border, largely solidifying Turkey's position.

Turkish troops and Turkish-backed Syrian fighters launched their offensive a week ago, two days after U.S. President Donald Trump suddenly announced he was withdrawing American troops from the border area.

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