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Syria's Assad says Kurdish controlled northeast of Syria to fall eventually under state control

Syria's Assad says Kurdish controlled northeast of Syria to fall eventually under state control
FILE PHOTO: Syria's President Bashar al-Assad speaks during a meeting with heads of local councils, in Damascus, Syria in this handout released by SANA on February 17, 2019. SANA/Handout via REUTERS -
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AMMAN (Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Thursday his country’s ultimate goal was to restore state authority over Kurdish controlled areas in northeast Syria after an abrupt U.S. troop withdrawal but said this would happen gradually.

In an interview with state television, Assad also said that a deal this month between Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin to drive out the Kurdish-led YPG militia from a 30 km (19 mile) “safe zone” along the border was a step that would help Damascus in that goal.

The Kurdish YPG militia had reached a deal with Damascus to take up positions near the border after U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of an abrupt withdrawal of U.S. forces in northeast Syria left them feeling abandoned.

The Kurds would not be asked to immediately hand over their weapons when the army enters their areas in a final deal with them that brings back state control, Assad said.

(Reporting by Suleiman Al-Khalidi; Editing by Chris Reese)

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