Kurds strike deal with Syrian regime as US prepares to withdraw troops in Syria

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By Emma Beswick  & Lauren Chadwick  with AFP
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels are seen in the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad, as seen from Akcakale, Turkey, October 13, 2019.
Turkish-backed Syrian rebels are seen in the Syrian border town of Tel Abyad, as seen from Akcakale, Turkey, October 13, 2019.   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Stoyan Nenov

Kurdish fighters announced that they had concluded an agreement with the Syrian regime to redeploy government forces on the border with Turkey, according to AFP.

Meanwhile, US defence secretary Mike Esper said the United States was preparing to withdraw the roughly 1,000 remaining troops from Syria on Sunday.

He told CBS News' "Face the Nation" that the situation was "untenable" and that the US would begin a "deliberate withdrawal" from Syria.

Turkey invaded northern Syria five days ago to drive Kurdish-led forces away from the border, accusing the Kurds of being terrorists. Kurdish forces in Syria have been longtime Western partners in the fight against the Islamic State.

The invasion came after the White House released a statement following a phone call between US President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Trump is widely seen as having green-lighted the Turkish incursion.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that Turkish airstrikes in the Syrian town of Ras al Ain killed 14 people. They said 64 civilians had died since the start of the Turkish military operation.

As many as 130,000 people have so far fled their homes in the area, the UN said.

IS fighters' families flee camp in northern Syria

Kurdish authorities in Syria said on Sunday nearly 800 close relatives of fighters from the so-called Islamic State (IS) fled the Ain Issa camp in the north of the country, according to AFP.

They reportedly "took advantage of security chaos" created by the Turkish military assault that began in the area on Wednesday, the news agency cited officials as saying.

Turkish President Erdogan was quoted by the state-run Anadolu news agency on Sunday dismissing the reports, saying they were "disinformation" aimed at provoking the West.

The families of French nationals in camps in northern Syria on Sunday urged the government to repatriate their relatives after the reports concerning Ain Issa.

The "Collectif des familles unies" said in a statement that it "calls on the French government to urgently repatriate innocent French children trapped in the war in Syria, and - for security reasons that now seem obvious - to repatriate their parents as well."

READ MORE: Families of IS fighters in Syria hope Turkish offensive offers way out

Save the Children said it was "deeply concerned by troubling reports" that hundreds of women and children fled the Ein Issa camp.

The charity said the annexe was home to 249 women and 700 children linked to IS.

It warned there was a danger that children of foreign nationals "could now be lost in the chaos".

Kurds say IS fighters escaping detention due to Turkish offensive

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) told Euronews on Saturday that fighters from the so-called Islamic State (IS) had escaped from detention following the Turkish military incursion into northern Syria.

"The Turkish army shelling targeted a number of jails such as Tcharkin jail — west of Qamishli," Hikmat Habib, a member of the presidential body of the Syrian Democratic Council — the SDF's political arm — told Euronews via Skype, warning that at least five detainees at escape.

The Kurdish official also warned that SDF fighters may soon " be obliged to leave" their posts at the detention camps "in order to protect their own families" which could result in further break-outs.

"We are still securing jails hosting IS fighters but if this war continues we will be obliged to gather all forces to protect our land and families from this terror," he added.

READ MORE: IS fighters escaping detention due to Turkish offensive, Kurds say, warning more will follow

EU countries stop arms exports to Turkey over offensive

France and Germany announced on Saturday that they are temporarily halting arms exports to Turkey over the country's military incursion into northern Syria.

"Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive ... the Federal Government will not issue any new permits for all military equipment that could be used by Turkey in Syria," Germany's Foreign Minister Heiko Maas stated on Saturday afternoon.

Hours later, Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, issued a similar statement.

"Pending the cessation of the Turkish offensive in North-East Syria, France has decided to suspend any plans to export to Turkey war materials that could be used in the context of this offensive. This decision is of immediate effect," she wrote on Twitter.

Berlin and Paris join fellow European countries the Netherlands, Norway, and Finland in their blockade, with the latter stating that the arms export ban concerned not only Turkey but also any other country involved in the fighting.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson "expressed the UK’s grave concern about Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria" in a call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday evening, Downing Street said.

Johnson "urged the President to end the operation and enter into dialogue" adding the incursion could further worsen the humanitarian situation in northern Syria "and undermine the progress made against Daesh".

READ MORE: France and Germany halt arms export to Turkey over incursion into northern Syria

READ MORE: Johnson 'urges' Erdogan to end Turkish operation in Syria during call