President Donald Trump said Friday he had received assurances from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that military operations at border between Turkey and Syria — which would violate an agreed-upon cease-fire — had stopped.
"Just spoke to President @RTErdogan of Turkey. He told me there was minor sniper and mortar fire that was quickly eliminated. He very much wants the ceasefire, or pause, to work. Likewise, the Kurds want it, and the ultimate solution, to happen," Trump wrote in a series of tweets Friday. "Too bad there wasn't this thinking years ago. Instead, it was always held together with very weak bandaids, & in an artificial manner."
Trump's tweets came after gunfire, grenades and mortars had been heard in theSyrian border town of Ras al-Ayn Friday, despite a pause in fighting the United States drew up and Turkey agreed to Thursday night.
The agreement announced by Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara required Turkey to suspend its military operations in northeast Syria for five days to allow Kurdish forces to retreat from a designated safe zone.
But NBC News staff could see and hear mortars, grenades, machine-gun and rifle fire in Ras al-Ayn — although it remains unclear who was responsible. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) — allies of the U.S. during the fight against the Islamic State militant group — claimed Friday that Turkish forces were not slowing down their assault.
At a news conference Friday, Erdogan had denied attacks were ongoing. "There is no question of clashes. This is all speculation, disinformation," he said.
Turkey's invasion was launched last weekjust as Trump pulled U.S. troops from the area, a move met with bipartisan criticism and condemned as a betrayal of the Kurds. On Friday, Erdogan said he informed Trump about the offensive in a phone call three days before the operation started.
The agreed-to pause in fighting appeared to be a significant embrace of Turkey's position in the weeklong conflict, giving the Turks what they had sought to achieve with their military operation.
After the Kurdish forces are cleared from the safe zone, Turkey has committed to a permanent cease-fire but is under no obligation to withdraw its troops. In addition, the deal gives Turkey relief fromsanctions that the administration imposed or threatened since the invasion began, meaning there will be no penalty for the operation.