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NATO head says he is encouraged by Turkey cease-fire in Syria

By Clyde Hughes
NATO head says he is encouraged by Turkey cease-fire in Syria
A general view showing smoke clouds rising from the scene of clashes between the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and Turkish troops near Ras al-Ain town on Oct. 17. NATO said Wednesday a ceasefire in that conflict has given hope for a diplomatic solution. Photo by Ahmed Mardnli/EPA-EFE

Oct. 23 (UPI) -- NATO's Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday he has been encouraged by the pause in Turkey's offensive against the Kurds in Syria and believes a political solution to the violence in the region is possible.

Stoltenberg made the statements the day before a key session with NATO defense ministers on Thursday.

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"I think what we have seen over the last days is encouraging because it shows that it is possible to move towards a political settlement, a political solution," Stoltenberg said.

Turkey had launched an offensive earlier this month into northern Syria, claiming it was attacking terrorists in the region. Before the offensive, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that U.S. troops, which had been fighting alongside Kurds against the Islamic State, would leave northern Syria.

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During a ceasefire brokered between the U.S. and Turkey last week, Kurdish fighters had been given until noon Wednesday to move 18 miles from the Syria-Turkey border. Russian soldiers were expected to move in to create a "safe zone" for about two million Syrian refugees.

Russian military police arrived in the Syrian border town of Ayn al-Arab early Wednesday, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.

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"In accordance with the agreements reached by the presidents of Russia and Turkey on Oct. 22 in Sochi, today, at 12 o'clock, a column of Russian military police crossed the Euphrates River and moved in the direction of the Syrian-Turkish border," the statement said.

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In the meantime, Trump said he will make a statement about the developments in Syria this morning.

"Big success on the Turkey/Syria Border," Trump said on Twitter. "Safe Zone created! Ceasefire has held and combat missions have ended. Kurds are safe and have worked very nicely with us. Captured [Islamic State] prisoners secured. I will be making a statement at 11 a.m. from the White House. Thank you."

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