Kurdish fighters withdrawing from Syria border: Turkey

Last Updated 20 October 2019, 14:54 IST

Turkey on Sunday said Kurdish fighters were withdrawing from the border town of Ras al-Ain under an agreement brokered with the United States.

"A convoy of approximately 55 vehicles entered Ras al-Ain and a convoy of 86 vehicles departed in the direction of Tal Tamr," the Turkish defence ministry said in a statement and simultaneously distributed pictures of the evacuation in civilian vehicles.

Turkey had agreed -- after talks with US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday -- to suspend its Syria offensive for five days to allow Kurdish forces to withdraw from a safe zone along the border and will end its assault.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to restart the operation if Kurdish fighters fail to pull out.

The defence ministry said: "There are absolutely no impediments to the withdrawal" of Kurdish forces and "the activities of exiting and evacuation from the region are firmly coordinated with the US counterparts."

Turkey and Kurdish forces have each accused the other of violating the agreement.

The defence ministry said one Turkish soldier was killed Sunday in an attack by Kurdish fighters in the Tal Abyad border area.

Ankara accused the Kurdish forces of carrying out 22 attacks since the deal but the defence ministry said close coordination was under way with US military officials on the issue.

In an interview with AFP on Saturday Kurdish fighters withdrawing from Syria border town, Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara abided by the agreement and urged the US to use its leverage to ensure Syrian Kurdish forces' pullout.

"Since we reached this agreement with the American delegation, we have been committed to this deal," he said.

"Our president has ordered our troops to maintain their positions and not engage with anybody."

Meanwhile, Erdogan on Sunday spoke by phone with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the Turkish presidency said.

Erdogan told Johnson Turkey "was closely following the withdrawal" of Kurdish fighters from the proposed safe zone, according to the presidency.

(Published 20 October 2019, 14:54 IST)

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