Kurd Leader: Trump Approved Deal 10/17 06:20
CEYLANPINAR, Turkey (AP) -- The U.S. President Donald Trump did not oppose a
deal struck between the Syrian Kurdish-led forces, Russia and the Syrian
government in Damascus to protect against a Turkish offensive in northeastern
Syria, the commander of the force said as his fighters battled a new push by
Ankara-backed fighters to seize a strategic border town.
The commander of the Kurdish-led forces, Mazloum Abdi, said Trump
essentially gave the go-ahead for the deal in a phone call Monday.
The Kurds' deal, announced Sunday, came after Trump ordered U.S. troops to
step aside as Turkey launched its attack last week. Under the agreement, forces
of Syrian President Bashar Assad effectively replace the U.S. troops on the
ground in the border areas, with Moscow guaranteeing the deal.
"We told (Trump) that we are contacting the Syrian regime and the Russians
in order to protect our country and land," Abdi, better known by his nom de
guerre Mazloum Kobani, told a local TV station, Ronahi TV. "He said, 'We are
not against that. We support that.'"
Vice President Mike Pence, heading a U.S. delegation that includes Secretary
of State Mike Pompeo, is set to arrive in Turkey Thursday afternoon, aiming to
press Turkey to accept a cease-fire in its offensive. Before their arrival,
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with White House national
security adviser Robert O'Brien.
But on Wednesday, Trump dismissed the very crisis he sent his aides on an
emergency mission to douse. Trump said the situation in northern Syria was
under control and that the Syrian government was now protecting the Kurds.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday once again called on Turkey to
stop its military offensive in Syria, telling parliament that the offensive
"makes tens of thousands, among them thousands of children, flee."
She said the military operation "a humanitarian drama with big geopolitical
consequences," strengthening the role of Russia and Iran.
Syria's Kurdish fighters have allied with the U.S. since 2014 to fight
Islamic State militants. Abdi said the priority now is to stop Turkey's
Abdi said his forces have frozen their activities to counter IS, other than
defending themselves against the militants, who he said were taking advantage
of the Turkish offensive. He said the militants have attacked prisons where
fellow members are jailed and have freed some families of IS members from
holding areas in displaced people's camps.
Abdi said his forces will decide what to do with detained IS prisoners and
"The matter is in our hands. We captured them. We are holding them, and we
will decide what to do with them. No one else," he told the channel.
Merkel said both the Middle East and Europe are being made to feel insecure
because prisoners of the Islamic State extremist group are no longer being
adequately guarded by Kurdish-led forces. Those forces are now diverting their
attention to the Turkish invasion.
So far, Syrian troops have deployed in the border town of Kobani, further
south and along a main highway to the east.
But fighting for the strategic town of Ras al-Ayn continued, as
Turkish-backed fighters make a new push for the town where the Kurdish-led
group has put up stiff resistance. An Associated Press journalist on the
Turkish side of the border reported heavy shelling into Ras al-Ayn.
An Associated Press journalist said Turkish cross-border artillery fire
targeted the town of Ras al-Ayn and areas beyond the town on Thursday. The
shelling came despite Turkey announcing that it has captured the town three
An official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the town saw
"insane bombing" from the air and land as the Turkish-backed fighters launched
a three-pronged attack. They advanced slightly in the town but there were
"fierce battles," the official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the
Turkish-backed forces have encircled Ras al-Ayn.
The SDF official also said Syrian government forces have deployed south of
Ras al-Ayn, near Tal Tamr and the highway there, taking a rear position behind
the Kurdish forces.