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Macron tells Putin Syria cease-fire should be extended

Vladimir Putin and Emmanuel Macron (Official Internet Resources of the President of Russia/Released)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

French President Emmanuel Macron has told his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, that France wants to see an extension of a cease-fire by Turkey in northeast Syria.

“The president underscored the importance of prolonging the current cease-fire, and of ending the crisis with diplomatic means,” the French presidency said after a phone call between the two leaders on October 21.

Turkey has agreed to halt its incursion against Kurdish forces in Syria until 10 p.m. (1900 GMT/UTC) on October 22 if they withdraw from a 120-kilometer “safe zone” near the Turkish border.

Ankara has warned it will resume its attacks against any Kurdish forces left in the “safe zone” after the October 22 deadline.

The talks between Macron and Putin came ahead of a meeting between the Russian leader and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on October 22 in Russia’s Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Turkey launched its offensive on October 9 after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was withdrawing the bulk of U.S. troops from northeastern Syria.

Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia as terrorists, though the Kurds were instrumental in the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) group in Syria earlier this year.

Critics called Trump’s decision a “betrayal” of the U.S.-allied Kurds, and many expressed concern that the thousands of IS prisoners being held by the Kurdish militias would be able to flee during the fighting.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on October 20 that Ankara did not want “a single Kurdish militant” left in its planned “safe zones” and that Turkey will discuss with Russia, whose forces are fighting in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the removal of Kurdish militia fighters from the Manbij and Kobani regions of Syria.

Meanwhile, Iran rejected the establishment of Turkish military posts inside of Syria, saying borders between the two countries should be respected.

Speaking at a weekly news conference broadcast on state TV, Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Musavi said issues between Syria and Turkey should be resolved “by diplomatic means.”

“We are against Ankara’s establishing of military posts in Syria…. Syria’s integrity should be respected,” he said.

Syrian Kurdish militia officials said they were willing to withdraw their forces from a border area in northeastern Syria to comply with the U.S.-brokered cease-fire if Turkish-led forces allow remaining Kurdish forces and civilians to leave an embattled city there.

Tens of thousands of civilians have fled cities caught up in the fighting, and many groups fear a humanitarian disaster, particularly as images emerged of apparent abuse and summary executions by Turkish forces.

International outcry had mounted at the offensive by NATO-member Turkey, including from European leaders slapping arms embargoes on Ankara and U.S. President Donald Trump threatening to “ruin” Turkey’s economy if it overstepped.