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Trump declares start of U.S. troop pullout from Syria

Trump declares start of U.S. troop pullout from Syria

Pompeo's remarks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, come after the Pentagon announced Friday that "the process of our deliberate withdrawal" had begun.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who has been touring the Middle East this week to reassure allies of Washington's commitment to regional security, said on Saturday he was "optimistic" a way could be found to protect Syrian Kurds while allowing Turks to defend their country despite a US pullout from Syria.

Ankara, which views the fighters a danger to its southern border, has reacted angrily to suggestions that Trump's plan to withdraw troops was conditional on the safety of the US-backed Kurdish forces.

"It is a fatal mistake to equate Syrian Kurds with the PKK, which is on the USA terrorists list, and its Syria branch PYD/YPG", Ibrahim Kalin, Turkish presidential spokesperson said on Twitter in response to Trump's threat.

"Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds", he added, while pushing for the creation of a 30km "safe zone".

DAMASCUS, Jan 13 - The Syrian government hopes dialog with Syrian Kurdish groups will intensify, a minister said on Sunday, signaling support for talks the Kurds hope will lead to a political deal between two of the main players in the multi-sided war.

Trump did not detail who would create, enforce or pay for the safe zone, or where it would be located.

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He said the United States envoy for Syria, Jim Jeffrey, had travelled to northeast Syria this week and would soon go to Ankara for talks, including on moving forward a UN-led political process to end the eight-year long conflict in Syria.

Trump's comments follow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's pledge to take action against the YPG, which Turkey considers a terrorist organization linked to the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) within Turkey.

"They are living the final moments and realize that this battle is the battle to eliminate them", Mustafa Bali, SDF media office head, told Reuters.

The monitor said 300 SDF combatants had deployed near the village of Sousa in preparation for a final assault. "Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms", the President tweeted on Sunday.

"Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long-term USA policy of destroying ISIS in Syria - natural enemies".

"We also know that those fighting alongside us for all this time deserve to be protected as well", he added. "Stop the ENDLESS WARS!"

Mr Abdel Rahman said some 16,000 people, including 760 ISIS fighters, had fled the area since the start of December.