Kurdish commander: Trump approved deal with Russia, Damascus
Ceylanpinar (Turkey): The US President Donald Trump did not oppose a deal struck between the Syrian Kurdish-led forces, Russia and the Syrian government in Damascus to protect against a Turkish offensive in northeastern Syria, the commander of the force said as his fighters battled a new push by Ankara-backed fighters to seize a strategic border town.
The commander of the Kurdish-led forces, Mazloum Abdi, said Trump essentially gave the go-ahead for the deal in a phone call Monday.
The Kurds' deal, announced Sunday, came after Trump ordered US troops to step aside as Turkey launched its attack last week.
Under the agreement, forces of Syrian President Bashar Assad effectively replace the US troops on the ground in the border areas, with Moscow guaranteeing the deal.
"We told (Trump) that we are contacting the Syrian regime and the Russians in order to protect our country and land," Abdi, better known by his nom de guerre Mazloum Kobani, told a local TV station, Ronahi TV.
"He said, 'We are not against that. We support that.'"
Vice President Mike Pence, heading a US delegation that includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, is set to arrive in Turkey Thursday afternoon, aiming to press Turkey to accept a cease-fire in its offensive.
Before their arrival, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu met with White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien.
But on Wednesday, Trump dismissed the very crisis he sent his aides on an emergency mission to douse.
Trump said the situation in northern Syria was uncontrol and that the Syrian government was now protecting the Kurds.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday once again called on Turkey to stop its military offensive in Syria, telling parliament that the offensive "makes tens of thousands, among them thousands of children, flee."
She said the military operation "a humanitarian drama with big geopolitical consequences," strengthening the role of Russia and Iran.
So far, Syrian troops have deployed in the border town of Kobani, further south and along a main highway to the west.
But fighting for the strategic town of Ras al-Ayn continued, as Turkish-backed fighters make a new push for the town where the Kurdish-led group has put up stiff resistance.
An Associated Press journalist on the Turkish side of the border reported heavy shelling into Ras al-Ayn.
An official with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said the town saw "insane bombing" from the air and land as the Turkish-backed fighters launched a three-pronged attack.
They advanced slightly in the town but there were "fierce battles," the official spoke on condition of anonymity to describe operational details.
The official also said Syrian government forces have deployed south of Ras al-Ayn, taking a rear position behind the Kurdish forces.
Syria's Kurdish fighters have allied with the US since 2014 to fight Islamic State militants. Abdi said the priority now is to stop Turkey's invasion.
Abdi said his forces will decide what to do with detained IS prisoners and their families.