White House: Turkey to invade Northern Syria

Turkey preparing military operation by land and air in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan to meet US President Trump over Syria safe zone

Ankara and Damascus signed the agreement in 1998 to ease tensions after Turkey threatened Syria with military action if it did not expel Turkish-Kurdish rebel leader Abdallah Ocalan from its soil.

"We don't know what is going to happen", the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Syria, Panos Moumtzis, said in Geneva, stressing there were "a lot of unanswered questions" about the consequences of the operation.

The SDF says it has been "stabbed in the back" by the United States and will defend north-eastern Syria "at all costs".

The United States informed the commander of the SDF on Monday morning that USA forces will not defend them from Turkish attacks anywhere, a U.S. official told Reuters.

Turkey said Tuesday it was ready for an offensive against Kurdish militants in northern Syria despite mixed signals from US President Donald Trump over whether he had approved the operation.

On the United States troop withdrawal from northern Syria, Trump said that Washington is in "no way" abandoning the Kurds.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-led militia that controls much of northeastern Syria, said early Monday in a statement that "US forces withdrew from the border areas with Turkey".

The SDF accused Washington of betraying its ally.

But senior Republicans criticised the decision, with even staunch ally Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority leader, saying: "A precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from Syria would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime".

"Sometimes people that don't have the need to know or that aren't part of the decision chain may be a little disappointed that they weren't part of it and may call their friends in the press and tell them that they're blindsided", the official said.

The White House statement Sunday said Turkey will take custody of foreign fighters captured in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group who have been held by the Kurdish forces supported by the US.

"We will fight where it is to our benefit, and only fight to win", he emphasized.

"The safe zone has two aims: to secure our borders by clearing away terrorist elements and to achieve the return of refugees in a safe way", Mr Kalin wrote on Twitter.

It has repeatedly warned of launching an offensive on its own into northeast Syria, where U.S. forces are stationed alongside the SDF. Turkey has previously said it wants to settle up to two million Syrian refugees in the zone.

Turkey has two main goals in northeast Syria: to drive the Kurdish YPG militia which it deems a security threat away from its border, and to create a space inside Syria where two million Syria refugees now hosted in Turkey can be settled. Turkey has demanded USA -allied Syrian Kurds leave the area.

Turkish state media also reported on military reinforcements sent to the border with Syria after Erdogan's comments.

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