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France, EU leaders condemn US-brokered cease-fire in Syria

Updated October 18, 2019 - 7:04 am

BRUSSELS — 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.

‘Demand of capitulation of the Kurds’

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.

Violations by Turkey claimed

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.

Erdogan warns of more attacks

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.

Earlier, 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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