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The Latest: Kurdish official rejects ‘safe zone’ in Syria

January 15, 2019
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to MPs of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan talks to MPs of his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) at the parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) — The Latest on developments in Syria’s civil war (all times local):

6:50 p.m.

A senior Kurdish official has categorically rejected a “safe zone” that the Turkish president says his troops plan to set up in northern Syria.

Bedran Ciya Kurd says the so-called safe zone would be tantamount to Kurdish occupation but with a new cover. He spoke to The Associated Press from northern Syria on Tuesday, a few hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his troops will establish a 20-mile- (32-kilometer) wide “safe zone” in northern Syria, and that Turkey would seek logistical and financial assistance from the United States and other allies to create the zone.

Ciya Kurd said the Kurdish administration in northern Syria would accept a “safe zone” only if it us under the auspices of the United Nations with international forces. Alternatively, he said Syrian governments troops were also a possibility.

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3:35 p.m.

The Iranian Embassy in Beirut says recent comments by visiting U.S. officials are a blatant interference in other people’s business and an attempt to dictate orders.

The rare statement referred to comments made by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a regional tour and those by David Hale, the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs on a visit to Lebanon. Both vowed to step up efforts to counter Iran’s activities around the region and expel from Syria “every last Iranian boot.”

The embassy statement called the remarks “provocative.” It said Iran’s military presence in Syria “does not need permission” from anyone because it was requested by the Syrian government and was done in full cooperation between the two countries.

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1:20 p.m.

Turkey’s president says his troops will establish a 20-mile-wide “safe zone” in northern Syria with the help of allies, remarks that came after Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s discussions with President Donald Trump.

Erdogan made the comment on Tuesday, during an address to his ruling party legislators in Parliament. He later told reporters that Turkey would seek logistic and financial assistance from the United States and other allies to create the zone.

Erdogan said the zone would keep “terrorists out,” protect civilians and stem the flow of refugees.

Erdogan and Trump discussed the issue in a telephone call late Monday that apparently aimed to ease tensions after the U.S. president tweeted a threat to Turkey warning of economic harm should Ankara attack U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria. Ankara considers the Kurdish forces in Syria terrorists aligned with a Kurdish insurgency within Turkey’s borders.

Erdogan said the two leaders reached an “understanding of historical importance.”

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11:35 a.m.

The United Nations’ new special envoy for Syria says he hopes to have “constructive” talks in Damascus.

Geir Pedersen spoke briefly to reporters upon his arrival in the Syrian capital on Tuesday. It’s his first trip to Syria since he took office earlier this year.

The veteran Norwegian diplomat took over from Staffan de Mistura, who stepped down for family reasons after four years and four months of peace efforts that led nowhere.

Pedersen’s office, in a tweet, said the envoy is looking forward to productive meetings in Damascus.

Syria has said it will cooperate with Pederson if he avoids the “methods” of his predecessor and commits to Syria’s territorial integrity.

Nearly half a million people have been killed in the seven-year civil war in Syria.

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