Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan denied on Friday the presence of ongoing clashes in northeastern Syria a day after Turkey agreed with the United States to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish-led forces withdraw.
A Reuters correspondent and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported on shelling and gunfire resonating in northeast Syria’s Ras al-Ain city earlier on Friday.
Erdogan also said the “safe zone” will stretch 440 km along the Syrian-Turkish border with an eastern edge on the border with Iraq and added that a depth of 32 km was agreed on with the United States.
The President added that Turkey will continue its offensive into northeast Syria more rapidly than before if the agreement is not fully implemented.
Erdogan also told journalists that it was not a problem for Turkey if Syrian government forces, backed by Russia, were to enter areas cleared of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, adding that Ankara had no intention to stay in areas under its control in northern Syria.
He also said he had informed US President Donald Trump about the offensive in a phone call a day before launching it, adding that “what is necessary will be done when the time is right” about a letter from Trump in which he told Erdogan to not be a “fool” and “tough guy.”
White House: Ceasefire “takes time”
The ceasefire was agreed on Thursday after talks between US Vice President Mike Pence and Erdogan in Ankara. The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said that they are willing to abide by the ceasefire.
Asked about the fighting in the region despite the pause agreement, White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told Fox News in an interview that the US delegation was “successful in a ceasefire, but that takes time,” adding that she would not discuss operations on the ground.
As fighting continued on Friday, Amensty International accused Turkish forces and Syrian rebel allies of committing “war crimes,” including summary executions, during their offensive.
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