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Trump says ceasefire in Syria is holding despite few skirmishes

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The ceasefire between Turkey and Kurdish forces in Syria is holding despite some skirmishes, US President Donald Trump said on Monday, a day before the truce expires late on Tuesday.

Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House at a meeting of his Cabinet, said that the United States never gave a commitment to the Kurds to stay in the region “400 years” to protect them.

Ankara and Washington agreed on Thursday to a five-day truce in northeastern Syria to allow the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia to withdraw from a “safe zone” that Turkey aims to establish.

Trump said that a small number of US troops remain in Syria, some near the border with Jordan and others deployed to secure oil fields.

“I always said if you’re going in, keep the oil,” Trump said, suggesting that the US would “maybe get one of our big oil companies in to do it properly.”

Trump said that otherwise US troops are “moving out nicely.”

US Defense Secretary Mark Esper said earlier in Kabul, however, that the US withdrawal would take “weeks not days.”

“We have troops in towns in northeast Syria that are located next to the oil fields. The troops in those towns are not in the present phase of withdrawal,” Esper said.

Trump’s comments followed a US pullout from northeastern Syria, leaving the Kurds, America’s staunchest allies in the fight against ISIS to face invading Turkish forces.

Trump said the “small number” of US troops staying behind were in an entirely different part of Syria, near its border with Jordan and Israel.

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He said another group still in Syria “secured the oil,” a reference to oil fields that the US hopes to keep from falling into the hands of extremists fighters.