The Latest: Turkey sends reinforcements to border with Syria
BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest developments following President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon Syrian Kurdish fighters ahead of an expected Turkish offensive into northeastern Syria (all times local):
Turkey is continuing to reinforce its border with Syria as it prepares to launch a military incursion against Kurdish fighters who had been U.S. allies against Islamic State group militants.
Associated Press journalists on Tuesday witnessed three convoys made up of dozens of military vehicles — including trucks carrying armored personnel carriers and tanks — driving toward the border town of Akcakale.
Residents cheered and applauded as one of the convoys passed by.
Earlier, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that at least two convoys of buses carrying Turkish commandos headed toward the border Tuesday.
Turkey’s parliament has voted to extend by another year a mandate that allows the government to order cross-border military offensives in Iraq and Syria when faced with security threats.
In a show of hands, legislators approved the motion on Tuesday as Turkey says it is ready to carry out a new incursion into Syria to clear a border area from U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters that it considers to be terrorists.
Turkey has renewed the mandate — which has allowed the country to battle Kurdish rebels, Islamic State group militants and other groups that Turkey views as terrorists in Iraq and Syria — every year since 2014.
The current mandate expires on Oct. 30.
President Donald Trump says he’ll meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the White House next month.
Trump announced Erdogan’s Nov. 13th visit on Twitter on Tuesday.
The announcement came one day after Trump publicly warned Turkey it would be in “big trouble” if any American personnel in Syria are injured during a military operation Turkey is preparing to launch against Kurdish fighters who had been U.S. allies against Islamic State militants.
The White House recently announced plans to pull back U.S. troops from northern Syria.
Trump defended Turkey in Tuesday’s tweets, saying the country is a big U.S. trading partner and had returned an American pastor after years of confinement there.
Trump also says Turkey is a NATO member in “good standing.”
Iran’s foreign ministry says a Turkish incursion into northern Syria would not address Turkey’s security concerns and would also cause “extensive” damage and humanitarian problems.
The ministry said in a statement issued on Tuesday that it was closely watching Turkey’s actions in Syria.
It added, however, that the U.S. presence in Syria was “illegitimate” and that its forces should have withdrawn from the country sooner.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump’s abruptly decided to stand aside along Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey ahead of an expected Turkish incursion. Trump’s announcement has infuriated the Syrian Kurds, who stand to lose the autonomy they gained during Syria’s civil war.
Syria’s deputy foreign minister has called on the country’s Kurds to rejoin the government side after apparently being abandoned by their U.S. allies as northeastern Syria braces for an imminent Turkish attack on Syrian Kurdish militias there.
Faisal Mekdad urges the Syrian Kurds to return to the government rather than “plunge into the abyss” — a reference to the expected Turkish incursion.
His comments were published in the pro-government daily Al-Watan on Tuesday, the first Syrian reaction since President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to stand aside along Syria’s northeastern border with Turkey.
Trump’s announcement has infuriated the Syrian Kurds, who stand to lose the autonomy they gained during Syria’s civil war.
Mekdad says the homeland “welcomes all its sons” and that Damascus will solve all Syrian problems in a positive way, without violence.
He said Syria will defend all Syrian territory and will not accept any occupation.
Turkey’s vice president says his country won’t bow to threats in an apparent response to President Donald Trump’s warning to Ankara about the scope of its planned military incursion into Syria.
Fuat Oktay said in a speech on Tuesday that Turkey is intent on combatting Syrian Kurdish fighters across its border in Syria and on creating a zone that would allow Turkey to resettle Syrian refugees there.
Oktay said: “Where Turkey’s security is concerned, we determine our own path but we set our own limits.”
The comment came a day after Trump said the United States would step aside for an expected Turkish attack on Syrian Kurdish fighters, who have fought alongside Americans for years, but he then threatened to destroy the Turks’ economy if they went too far.
Iran is urging Turkey not to go ahead with an attack on Syrian Kurds following President Donald Trump’s decision to abandon the Kurdish fighters ahead of the expected Turkish incursion into northeastern Syria.
Iranian state TV reported Tuesday that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called his Turkish counterpart, Mevlut Cavusoglu, to express Tehran’s opposition to the anticipated Turkish operation.
Zarif urged Turkey to respect Syria’s integrity and sovereignty.
Iran, Turkey and Russia have been working together as part of the so-called Astana group on the Syrian civil war, talks that have run parallel to U.N. efforts to find a solution to the conflict.
Trump this week declared that U.S. troops will step aside for an expected Turkish attack on the Syrian Kurds, longtime U.S. allies against the Islamic State group.