News ID: 260450
Published: 0414 GMT October 19, 2019

Zarif calls regional counterparts amid north Syria interim cease-fire

Zarif calls regional counterparts amid north Syria interim cease-fire

Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held separate telephone conversations with the foreign ministers of Turkey, Iraq, Russia and Syria on the latest developments in the region, particularly over the situation in northern Syria.

The talks will continue in particular with officials from other countries in the region.

This came as Ankara has agreed to suspend its offensive for five days to allow the Kurds to withdraw from the Turkish-Syrian border or the so-called “Safe Zone” Turkey seeks to create.

Ankara agreed to pause its invasion into Syria for 120 hours while the US facilitates the withdrawal of Kurdish SDF militants from a 20-mile safe zone along the Syrian-Turkish border.

The announcement on Thursday came after negotiations between US Vice President Mike Pence and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the Turkish capital.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who accompanied Pence to Ankara, said in an interview with Politico he was "confident" the ceasefire would take hold.

The suspension of hostilities looked designed to help Turkey achieve its main territorial goals without fighting.

But Erdogan warned the same day that he would resume a full-out offensive if Kurdish forces did not pull back.

Turkey wants to push Kurdish forces away from its southern border by establishing a 30 kilometer (20 mile) deep "safe zone" on the Syrian side of the frontier.

Accusations exchanged on truce violation

However, Turkish and Kurdish sides accused each other of violating the US-brokered truce in northeastern Syria even as it appeared to be taking hold on its second day Saturday.

Turkey on Saturday accused Kurdish forces of violating the US-brokered agreement to suspend its military operation in northeastern Syria, Press TV reported.

"The Turkish armed forces fully abide by the agreement" reached on Thursday with the United States, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. "Despite this, terrorists ... carried out a total of 14 attacks in the last 36 hours."

Reuters’ journalists said on Saturday that bombardment heard near the Syrian border city of Ras al Ayn had subsided and that there were just a few Turkish military vehicles crossing the frontier.

However, the Turkish Defense Ministry said Kurdish militants had been violating the ceasefire deal over the past hours using various light and heavy weaponry including rockets.

"The Turkish armed forces fully abide by the agreement," the ministry said in a statement. "Despite this, terrorists... carried out a total of 14 attacks in the last 36 hours."

It said 12 of the attacks came from Ras al-Ayn, one from the town of Tell Abyad in Raqqah Province, and another from the town of Tell Tamr in Hasakah.

Turkey was coordinating with the US "for the agreement to hold soundly and to keep the calm with exception of self-defense," it added.

On Friday, the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish airstrikes killed at least five civilians while sporadic clashes continued despite the ceasefire.

Mustafa Bali, a spokesperson for SDF militants, tweeted that “despite the agreement to halt the fighting, air and artillery attacks continue to target the positions of fighters, civilian settlements and the hospital in Serekaniye/Ras al-Ayn.”

“Turkey is violating the ceasefire agreement by continuing to attack the town since last night," he said.

Erdogan denied the claims as “disinformation,” and US President Donald Trump in a tweet dismissed it as “minor.”

The offensive has killed dozens of civilians, mainly on the Kurdish side, and prompted hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in the latest humanitarian crisis of Syria's eight-year war.

Press TV, IFP and AFP contributed to the story.




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