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AFP
October 20, 2019

Erdogan threatens to ‘crush the heads’ of Kurdish fighters

World

AFP
October 20, 2019

ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday warned that Turkey would "crush the heads" of Kurdish forces if they did not withdraw from a proposed safe zone along the border under a US-brokered deal.

If the pullout does not happen by Tuesday evening, "we will start where we left off and continue to crush the terrorists’ heads," Erdogan said in a televised speech in central Anatolian city of Kayseri.

Turkey has agreed to suspend its Syria offensive for five days and to end the assault if Kurdish-led forces withdraw from the proposed safe zone away from the border, after talks with US Vice President Mike Pence in Ankara.

Erdogan also provided some details from his talks with the Americans, adding that Ankara agreed to the 120 hour time deadline after its initial demand of "one night" for the withdrawal.

"If the promises given to our country are not kept, as we did in the past we will not wait and restart the operation as soon as the time we have given ends," he said.

The Turkish leader said he also informed US President Donald Trump of Ankara’s position during a phone call late Friday.

Erdogan is due to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi next Tuesday, which overlaps with the end of the 120 hour deadline.

Ankara considers Syrian Kurdish YPG militants to be an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) -- a group that has fought a bloody insurgency inside Turkey for 35 years.Turkey’s defence ministry said it was “completely abiding” by the accord and that it was in “instantaneous coordination” with Washington to ensure the continuity of calm.

The ministry accused Kurdish-led fighters of carrying out 14 “attacks and harassments” in the past 36 hours, mostly in the town of Ras al-Ayn, which was besieged by allied fighters before the ceasefire. It said Syrian-Kurdish fighters used mortars, rockets, anti-aircraft and anti-tank heavy machine guns.

Turkey also said it had recaptured 41 suspected Islamic State members who had fled a detention camp amid the chaos caused by the fighting earlier this week.

The Kurds, meanwhile, appealed to the US vice-president, Mike Pence, to enforce the deal saying Turkey has failed to abide by its provisions and has continued the siege of Ras al-Ayn.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said there were still clashes inside Ras al-Ayn and medical personnel could not enter to help the wounded.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the Turkish-backed fighters entered Syria and advanced into Kurdish-held Shakariya, a village east of Ras al-Ayn where there were clashes and a Turkish strike a day earlier.

Video posted online showed the fighters driving alongside the wall Turkey has erected along the border and boasting that they were headed on “an assault” into Syria.

The video did not show them crossing the border.

Syrian state media said Turkish-backed fighters also made an “infiltration attempt” south of Ras al-Ayn but were repelled in clashes with the Syrian government military that had just moved into the area. The reports gave no further details.

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