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US troops' retreat from N Syria 'has begun': Erdogan

US troops' retreat from N Syria 'has begun': Erdogan

This comes as Turkey plans operation east of Euphrates River in northern Syria

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The U.S. troops' retreat from Syria's north "has begun", said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday.

"After our conversation yesterday [Sunday] evening, as Mr. President [Donald Trump] stated, the retreat has begun," Erdogan told reporters at Ankara's Esenboga International Airport before his departure for a two-day visit to Serbia.

“We will most probably visit Washington in the first half of next month,” said Erdogan.

Bilateral relations and regional developments will be discussed during the meeting, Erdogan added.

Turkish President Erdogan on Sunday agreed to meet his U.S. counterpart in Washington this November.

In a telephone conversation, Erdogan and Trump exchanged views on bilateral issues as well as the planned safe zone east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria, according to a statement from Turkey's Directorate of Communications on Sunday.

“We cannot accept threats of terrorist organizations against our country any more,” Erdogan added.

The U.S. on Sunday ruled out any assistance or involvement in Turkey's planned operation east of the Euphrates River in northern Syria.

In a statement, the White House said Turkey will soon carry out its "long-planned operation" into northern Syria.

"The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS [Daesh] territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area," said the statement, using an alternate name for the terror group Daesh.

Underlining that the issue of the F-35s had been drawn out, Erdogan said: "I hope that in our meeting with Trump we will make a decision about this issue."

Trump has repeatedly voiced reluctance to penalize Turkey for its purchase of Russia’s S-400 missile defense system -- doing so when announcing Ankara's removal from the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program in July.

The Trump administration has maintained that the S-400 system could expose the advanced fighter to possible Russian subterfuge and is incompatible with NATO systems.

Turkey, however, counters that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.

Since 2016, Turkey’s Euphrates Shield and Olive Branch operations in northwestern Syria have liberated the region from YPG/PKK and Daesh terrorists, making it possible for Syrians who fled the violence to return home.

Turkey has long decried the threat from terrorists east of the Euphrates in northern Syria, pledging military action to prevent the formation of a "terrorist corridor" there.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of some 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. YPG is the Syrian branch of the terrorist organization PKK.

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