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Live Updates: Turkey's Offensive in Northern Syria Enters Its Second Week

Turkey announced earlier that it would conduct a military operation in northern Syria to clear the area of Kurdish fighters and establish a safe zone; the formerly US-backed defenders of the region are viewed as terrorists by Ankara.

Turkey launched a cross-border offensive targeting Kurdish fighters almost immediately after US President Donald Trump’s 9 October decision to withdraw US forces from northern Syria.

The Syrian government has said Turkey’s operation amounts to aggression and constitutes a violation of Syria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Syrian government has also deployed troops to northern Syria, with the army taking full control of the town of Manbij on 15 October.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order authorising sanctions against Turkish officials and entities, including the defence and energy ministries, in response to Ankara’s Operation Peace Spring in northeast Syria.

In turn, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to continue the offensive, which he says is aimed at securing the area near his country's border and ousting the Kurdish-led SDF, which Ankara considers to be affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), listed in Turkey as a terror group.

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According to SDF commander Mazloum Kobani, US President Donald Trump said in a phone call that Washington does not object to the SDF agreement to allow Syrian forces to deploy to Kurdish areas.

Kobani added that the deal with Damascus has not yet been implemented and requires deployment across the entire board.

"If the Syrian government does not implement the agreement, we won't negotiate other matters," Kobani said as quoted by Reuters. 

According to the SDF commander, Russia is the guarantor of the agreement between SDF and the Syrian government following the withdrawal of US troops. 

18:05 GMT 16.10.2019

US-led forces have left the Syrian towns of Raqqa, Tabqah, as well as the Lafarge cement factory as part of the withdrawal operation, a statement by the Pentagon says. 

17:30 GMT 16.10.2019

Syrian forces have entered the border town of Kobani, a Sputnik correspondent reported, citing sources in the region. 

12:48 GMT 16.10.2019
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According to a Sputnik correspondent, citing sources in the region, the Syrian government army entered Raqqa from the city of Tabka under cover from the air. It is reported that government troops were enthusiastically welcomed by the local population.

10:51 GMT 16.10.2019

Ankara does not insist on the presence of its military in Syria's Manbij, the main thing is that terrorists should leave the area, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said.

“We have agreements with Russia on Manbij, and when we meet with respected [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, we will discuss this with him. We do not have such a goal - certainly be in Manbij. We have one concern, let Russia or [Syrian] regime be there, but terrorists should be cleared," Erdogan told reporters.

The autonomous administration of territories in northeastern Syria officially announced on Sunday that it had reached an agreement with the Syrian authorities to deploy the Syrian army along the entire Syria-Turkey border to help repel an attack by the Turkish army and pro-Turkish groups.

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The Kremlin respects Turkey's right to ensure security of its borders, but expects its offensive in Syria's north to be proportionate, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday.

"We respect Turkey's right to take measures for ensuring its security, but we expect the operation to be proportionate to the ... tasks of ensuring security," Peskov told reporters.

The Kremlin hopes that the offensive will not affect the political process in Syria, Peskov stressed.

The Kremlin spokesman noted that the timeline for termination of the offensive remained unclear.

09:19 GMT 16.10.2019

Russian military police officers have conducted their first patrolling of Syria's northeastern city of Manbij, driving infantry mobility vehicles Tigr, Russian Military Police officer Safar Safarov said on Wednesday, just one day after the Russian Defence Ministry announced that the Syrian army had taken full control of the city and the Russian military was patrolling Manbij borders along the contact line between Syrian and Turkish forces.

"Our patrol was driving the streets of this city for the first time ever. Military activities cease immediately at the sight of the Russian flag, as neither Turks nor Kurds want to affect us. So, fighting stops thanks to our efforts. Just one week ago we could not travel to Manbij openly and demonstrate our flag there, as US servicemen, present at two military bases, opposed us all the time, intercepting us on the road due to different understanding of areas of responsibility," Safarov told reporters.

The patrolling lasted for over three hours, Safarov added.

"We will continue controlling our area of responsibility. Our main task is to ensure safety of the locals if any side starts a shelling. This is not our first task here, as we have been working here for over six months, and we have never experienced any problems with anyone," Safarov added.

The Russian Defence Ministry also said on Tuesday that the US military had left its bases in Dadat and Umm-Mial, located to the northwest of Manbij.

08:53 GMT 16.10.2019

Only "several thousands" members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) are currently present in Syria's north, where Turkey conducts its offensive, the head of the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate, Husam Louka, said on Wednesday.

"Kurds in Syria's north are mainly represented by PKK members, their number does not exceed several thousands people," Louka said on the sidelines of a security conference in Russia's Sochi.

08:51 GMT 16.10.2019

The situation in Syria, namely preparations for the first session of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, will be on the agenda during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's upcoming visit to Russia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.

"The topics were outlined in yesterday's statement, released after Putin's phone conversation with President Erdogan. Of course, it will be mainly the situation in Syria, the task of ensuring the Syrian Arab Republic's sovereignty and territorial integrity in the conditions of hard-edged fight against the remains of terrorist groups, and, of course, the promotion of political process in the form of organizing the first inaugural session of the Constitutional Committee," Lavrov told reporters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin invited his Turkish counterpart to visit Russia on Tuesday, during their phone conversation, which focused on Ankara's offensive in Syria's north. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said earlier in the day that Erdogan could pay this visit by the end of October.

05:45 GMT 16.10.2019
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