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Trump says ceasefire in Syria holding despite some skirmishes

Compiled from wire services WORLD
Published October 21,2019

The ceasefire between Turkish forces and the PKK's Syrian offshoot the People's Protection Units (YPG) in Syria is holding despite few skirmishes, U.S. 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 it appeared that the 120-hour pause negotiated with Turkey was holding. "We're having very good news coming out. The ceasefire's holding," he said.

Turkey and Washington agreed on Thursday for Ankara to halt Operation Peace Spring for 120 hours while YPG terrorists withdraw from a safe zone in northeastern Syria.

Turkey on Oct. 9 launched Operation Peace Spring to eliminate terrorists from northeastern Syria in order to secure Turkey's borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees and ensure Syria's territorial integrity.

The U.S. president also dismissed accusations of betrayal, saying that the U.S. never gave a commitment to the Kurds to stay in the region "400 years" to protect them, referring to the YPG.

In defense of his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, he said: "Plenty of Turks have died as a result of conflicts on their borders."

"You have to look at it both ways," Trump said.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the European Union — has been responsible for deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

Trump further contended that U.S. troops are coming home following his decision, a claim at odds with remarks from Defense Secretary Mark Esper who said most U.S. service members will instead be redeployed to neighboring Iraq.

Trump said he does not think "it's going to be necessary" to leave a residual force in northeast Syria, saying "I don't want to leave any troops there." But he acknowledged that Jordan and Israel have requested some U.S. troops remain in a part of the country near the countries.

"So we have a small group there, and we secured the oil. Other than that, there's no reason for it, in our opinion," he said.