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United States officials 'optimistic' about Syria ceasefire holding

The Turkish assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Washington Oct 20, 2019, 07.52 PM (IST)

Top United States officials expressed confidence Sunday that a cease-fire in northern Syria was holding despite skirmishes between Kurdish and Turkish forces.

US President Donald Trump has come under intense criticism, including from fellow Republicans, for effectively giving Turkey a green light to move against the Kurds, the staunchest US allies in the fight against the Islamic State group in Syria.

In a tweet, Trump quoted Defense Secretary Mark Esper as saying "the cease-fire is holding up very nicely," a view echoed by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a Sunday talk show appearance.

"We're optimistic," Pompeo said on ABC's "This Week."

"There's relatively little fighting, a little sporadic small-arms fire, a mortar or two," he said.

Turkey unleashed the offensive against the Kurds October 9 after Trump cleared the way by ordering US troops out of the area. 

Amid mounting international outrage over the offensive, Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence rushed to Turkey last week to negotiate a pause in the fighting.

Meanwhile, US troops were seen Sunday leaving a key base in northern Syria with their equipment, apparently part of a broad US withdrawal ordered by Trump.

"USA soldiers are not in combat or ceasefire zones. We have secured the Oil. Bringing soldiers home!" Trump said in his tweet.

Story highlights

Top United States officials expressed confidence Sunday that a cease-fire in northern Syria was holding.