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World 'It's clear the US has been sidelined.' Turkey and Russia agree to joint patrols in Syria

02:50  23 october  2019
02:50  23 october  2019 Source:   usatoday.com

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" It is clear that the United States has been sidelined ,” Menendez said, calling Trump' s policy a "capitulation" to Turkey . “ Russia and the murderous Assad regime are calling the shots," said Menendez, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. " We don’t even have clarity about whether and where U . S . troops might remain." Jeffrey acknowledged he was "not personally consulted" before Trump announced his decision to withdraw U . S . forces from Syria . Lawmakers said that demonstrated the "chaotic and ad hoc" nature of Trump' s policy in the region.

Turkey and Russia have agreed on a deal to establish a "terrorism-free safe zone" in northern Syria , with Kurdish fighters expected to vacate the area within 150 hours. A five-day truce between Turkey and the mostly Kurdish Syrian Defence Forces ended at 10pm on Tuesday. But on Wednesday, Turkey said there was "no need" to restart its attacks against Kurdish fighters in Syria , saying that it had been informed by the US that their withdrawal from the border areas had been "completed". "At this stage, there is no further need to carry out a new operation," the defence ministry said in a

WASHINGTON – Russia and Turkey agreed Tuesday to take joint control of a vital strip of territory along the Syria-Turkey border, a victory for Moscow as the U.S. military continued its withdrawal from Syria. 

The pact between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkey's leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, came shortly before a U.S.-brokered cease-fire – which had temporarily halted a Turkish attack on Kurdish forces in Syria – expired Tuesday afternoon. 

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" We 're penalizing Turkish financial institutions who perpetuate President Erdogan' s corruption and abuses." Pelosi, D-Calif., fast-tracked the sanctions legislation, which goes well beyond President Donald Trump' s temporary sanctions on Turkey . Although it passed the House by a vote of 403-to-16, its fate in the Senate is unclear. Van Hollen said he hopes the House' s actions will put pressure on McConnell to reconsider that position. "The Senate needs to stop twiddling its thumbs and take action," he said. ' Clear the US has been sidelined ': Turkey and Russia agree to joint patrols in Syria .

Turkey announced it will begin patrols with Russian troops in northern Syria . The statement from President Erdogan follows Turkey and Russia ' s deal to withdrawal Kurdish fighters in the area. The upcoming Russia - Turkey operations were initially agreed in talks between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Erdogan in Sochi on October 22, in addition to the 150-hour period that expired on Tuesday. The leaders met to discuss a solution following Turkey ' s offensive into the strip of land in northeast Syria .

The Putin-Erdogan deal gives Russia a crucial foothold in the Middle East amid a power vacuum created by the U.S. withdrawal. Under the agreement, Russia and Turkey agreed to work together to remove Kurdish fighters from a 20-mile zone in northern Syria. 

"Both Russia and Turkey got exactly what they want," Sen. Bob Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said during a hearing on the Trump administration's policy Tuesday. 

During that hearing, President Donald Trump's top envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey, faced a barrage of pointed questions from senators in both parties on the president's decision to withdraw from Syria, which many have said was a betrayal of the Kurdish fighters who helped America defeat the Islamic State's caliphate in the country. 

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Russia and Turkey have reached a deal to establish a safe zone long sought by Ankara in northern Syria , which will see Kurdish militants operating in the region removed to beyond 30 kilometers from the Turkish border. The deal was announced on Tuesday evening following lengthy discussions between Turkish When the area is cleared of the Kurds, Turkish and Russian soldiers will jointly patrol 10 kilometers to the east and west of the buffer zone to block the militants’ possible infiltration into the area. “All YPG elements and their weapons will be removed from Manbij and Tal Rifat [northern Syrian

Russia and Turkey have struck a deal to jointly police northeastern Syria that they say will end two weeks of bloodshed, just hours before a ceasefire in the area was due to expire. After a marathon meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the President Erdogan said it aimed to build a “safe zone” where he also hopes to repatriate some of the 3.5 million Syrian refugees currently living in Turkey . But he has faced mounting condemnation for the operation which has displaced hundreds of thousands of people and killed at least 70 civilians

"It is clear that the United States has been sidelined,” Menendez said, calling Trump's policy a "capitulation" to Turkey. 

“Russia and the murderous Assad regime are calling the shots," said Menendez, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "We don’t even have clarity about whether and where U.S. troops might remain."

Jeffrey acknowledged he was "not personally consulted" before Trump announced his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria. Lawmakers said that demonstrated the "chaotic and ad hoc" nature of Trump's policy in the region.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, pressed Jeffrey on Trump's Oct. 6 phone call with Erdogan, in which the Turkish president told Trump he planned to invade Syria. Trump said then that he would remove American troops stationed on the Turkish-Syria border, which many said gave Erdogan the green light to attack the Kurds. 

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Russia and Turkey have reached a deal to establish a safe zone long sought by Ankara in northern Syria , which will see Kurdish militants operating in the region removed to beyond 30 kilometers from the Turkish border. It remained unclear whether the YPG would agree to the terms of the deal. Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist organization tied to the homegrown Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militant group, which has been seeking an autonomous Kurdish region in Turkey since 1984. The YPG has been the subject of a Turkish military operation since October 9, which was launched after the US

MOSCOW (Sputnik) – The Turkish Defense Ministry said its experts started to demine territories in northern Syria , where Ankara and Moscow are conducting joint border patrols .

"Erdogan basically said, 'I'm coming in, get out of the way' and America blinked," Romney said.

Jeffrey pushed back, saying Trump warned Erdogan not to invade Syria and did not give him a green light to attack the Kurds. He said American forces in Syria were never given a mission to defend the Kurds against an attack from Turkey, which is a NATO ally.

He said Erdogan's decision came despite "warning after warning" and "incentive after incentive" from the Trump administration to stave off such a move.

Kurdish forces controlled much of northeastern Syria until two weeks ago, when Turkey invaded and began pushing them south. Under the U.S.-brokered cease-fire, the Kurdish fighters agreed to pull back deeper into Syria, and Turkey agreed to stop its assault.

If the terms of the cease-fire are ratified by all sides, Trump will lift sanctions he imposed on Turkey earlier this month and Turkey will not advance further into Syria. 

Jeffrey defended the cease-fire, saying it has limited Turkey's territorial gains in Syria – and the chaos that unleashed. But he conceded that hundreds of Kurdish fighters have died in the two-week-long incursion and that ISIS fighters have taken advantage of the mayhem. 

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He estimated that "dozens" of ISIS fighters – who had been captured by the Kurds – have escaped amid the upheaval created by Turkey's incursion. 

Turkey's invasion has "scrambled" the situation in Syria, undercut U.S. efforts against ISIS and "brought in the Russians and the Syrian regime forces in a way that is really tragic for everybody involved,” Jeffrey said. But Turkey itself, he said, has not gained much for its incursion.

The U.S. envoy said 10,000 captured ISIS fighters remain in Syria and their detention could be jeopardized "if things goes south" with the cease-fire. 

About three hours before the cease-fire deadline, Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the top commander of the Syrian Kurdish forces, sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence saying he had withdrawn all his forces from a Turkish-controlled "safe zone" inside Syria.

Jeffrey expressed confidence that the Kurdish withdrawal was complete and the temporary cease-fire would become a permanent halt in the fighting.

Earlier Tuesday, Erdogan said 1,300 Syrian Kurdish fighters had yet to vacate a stretch of the border, as required under the deal.

Erdogan warned Tuesday that if the Kurdish fighters did not withdraw, “our offensive will continue from where it left off, with a much greater determination.”

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“There is no place for the (Kurdish fighters) in Syria’s future. We hope that with Russia’s cooperation, we will rid the region of separatist terror,” he said.

Trump has faced sustained blowback on Capitol Hill over his decision earlier this month to withdraw U.S. troops from northeastern Syria. Critics say that move gave Erdogan a green light to invade Syria and attack the Kurds. Turkey views the Kurds in Syria as terrorists.

On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., introduced a resolution that urges Trump to stop the U.S. withdrawal and calls on the president to “rethink” his invitation to Erdogan to visit the White House.

“It recognizes the grave consequences of U.S. withdrawal, the rising influence of Russia, Iran and the Assad regime, and the escape of more than 100 ISIS-affiliated fighters detained in the region,” McConnell said in a Senate floor speech Tuesday. “We specifically urge the president to end the drawdown” in Syria.

Russia has stepped into the void left by America's withdrawal, offering to patrol the border region and serve as a buffer between the Kurds and the Turks. The Kurds are hoping Russian and Syrian forces can keep Turkey's military at bay and help them maintain some autonomy in the region they carved out for themselves during Syria’s civil war. 

Putin is a staunch ally of the Assad regime, which has used chemical weapons to attack his own people amid Syria's horrific civil war.

a close up of a map: SOURCE Reuters, as of Oct. 16; ESRI © USA TODAY SOURCE Reuters, as of Oct. 16; ESRI

While Erdogan and Putin met in Sochi to discuss the Syrian crisis, the Trump administration continued to send mixed signals about its policy and next steps. Trump has zigzagged between ordering a full withdrawal of U.S. forces to announcing he would leave a residual force there. 

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Trump said Monday that a "small" number of U.S. troops will remain in Syria, a shift that came amid blistering criticism from lawmakers in both parties who have denounced his previous decision to withdraw American forces.

“I’m trying to get out of wars. We may have to get in wars, too,” Trump said in a rambling, 70-minute Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Jeffrey told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that the administration was still reviewing its options on a residual military presence in northeastern Syria, although Trump has committed to leave a small number of troops in the south. 

McConnell did not say when the Senate would vote on his nonbinding resolution, which he touted as "stronger” than a measure passed by the House last week.

But the GOP Senate leader also expressed concerns about a more forceful response: bipartisan legislation that would impose stiff new sanctions on Turkey. Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., introduced a bill last week that would target Erdogan’s personal finances and sanction the Turkish armed forces, among other entities.

“We need to think extremely carefully before” imposing sanctions on a NATO ally, McConnell said. He said it’s not clear if such economic penalties would weaken Erdogan inside Turkey or “rally the country to cause.” He said the impact of such a bill could also hurt American companies and U.S. allies whose economies are closely intertwined with Turkey’s.

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'It's clear the US has been sidelined.' Turkey and Russia agree to joint patrols in Syria

Putin and Erdogan Announce Plan for Northeast Syria, Bolstering Russian Influence .
His jets patrol Syrian skies. His military is expanding operations at the main naval base in Syria. He is forging closer ties to Turkey. He and his Syrian allies are moving into territory vacated by the United States. And on Tuesday, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia played host to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey for more than six hours of talks on how they and other regional players will divide control of Syria, devastated by eight years of civil war.The negotiations cemented Mr. Putin’s strategic advantage: Russian and Turkish troops will take joint control over a vast swath of formerly Kurdish-held territory in northern Syria.

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