The Latest: Turkey says troops captured Syrian border town

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A Turkish police armored vehicle patrols the town of Akcakale, Sanliurfa province, southeastern Turkey, at the border with Syria, Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019. The towns along Turkey’s border with northeastern Syria have been on high alert after dozens of mortars fired from Kurdish-held Syria landed, killing several civilians. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

AKCAKALE, Turkey (AP) — The Latest on Turkey’s military offensive into northeastern Syria against Syrian Kurdish fighters (all times local):

11:25 p.m.

France is halting exports of any arms to Turkey that could be used in its offensive against Kurds in Syria, and wants an immediate meeting of the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State extremists.

France’s defense and foreign ministries made the announcement in a statement Saturday reiterating opposition to the Turkish military operation, which is facing growing international condemnation.

The statement says France will push for a “Europe-wide approach” toward suspended arms sales at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting Monday. Germany also announced Saturday it’s curtailing arms exports to Turkey.

The French government argues the offensive is causing growing humanitarian problems and threatens the international fight against IS, “and therefore threatens European security.” IS-linked extremists have staged deadly attacks in European countries.

France wants a meeting of the anti-IS coalition to discuss its next steps in the context of the Turkish actions.

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10:05 p.m.

Germany’s foreign minister has announced that the country will curtail its arms exports to Turkey, which has started a military offensive into northeastern Syria against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Heiko Maas on Saturday told weekly Bild am Sonntag that, “against the background of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the government will not issue any new permissions for any weapons that can be used by Turkey in Syria.”

Maas’ remarks came as thousands of Kurdish immigrants rallied against the Turkish military offensive in cities across Germany. Germany is home to one of the biggest Kurdish communities in Europe.

Austria, Switzerland and Greece also saw Kurdish demonstrations against Turkey’s offensive in Syria.

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9:25 p.m.

About 1,000 Kurds and a contingent of left-wing activists have protested in the northern city of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest, against the Turkish military offensive in northern Syria.

The protesters carried banners, including one saying, “Where is the UN?” and burned pictures of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. They repeated the photo burning and slogans outside the Turkish consulate. Both premises were guarded by police forces.

In the capital Athens, police said close to 2,000 Kurds and other activists marched to the Turkish Embassy in the city center but police prevented them from getting too close. They dispersed after a peaceful protest. A small contingent of 150 protesters also marched to the U.S. Embassy.

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7:10 p.m.

The Arab League is calling for the United Nations Security Council to take measures to force Turkey to halt its military offensive in Syria and “immediately” withdraw its forces from the Arab country.

A communique after the meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Saturday also urged the Security Council to suspend military and intelligence support that could help Turkey’s offensive.

The communique says Arab countries reject Turkey’s attempts to impose “demographic changes” in Syria by a so-called “safe zone.”

It says Arab countries should consider taking “diplomatic, economic, investment, cultural measures … to confront the Turkish aggression.”

Two countries, Qatar and Somalia, expressed reservations about the communique. Qatar has backed Turkey’s offensive.

The Arab League’s meeting came as Turkey’s offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters entered its fourth day.

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6:20 p.m.

Thousands of people have demonstrated in Paris in support of Kurds being targeted by Turkish forces in Syria.

Protesters warned that the offensive could allow Islamic State group extremists to resurge. Kurdish forces being targeted by Turkey this week were crucial to the international campaign against IS fighters, who orchestrated several deadly attacks against France.

Demonstrators from various activist groups slammed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with one carrying a sign reading “Erdogan=IS.” They also criticized U.S. President Donald Trump for his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, which helped pave the way for the Turkish offensive.

The rally Saturday at Republique plaza in eastern Paris ended peacefully.

Turkey’s military, which calls the Kurdish forces a security threat, said it captured a key Syrian border town Saturday. French President Emmanuel Macron urged an end to the fighting, as international criticism of the offensive mounted.

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6:05 p.m.

The main Kurdish-led group in northern Syria is calling on the United States to carry out its “moral responsibilities” and close northern Syrian airspace to Turkish warplanes.

Reydour Khalil, a spokesman for the Syrian Democratic Forces, read the group’s statement, which did not directly name the U.S. but referred to them as “our allies.”

Saturday’s statement said “we don’t want them to send their soldiers to the front lines and put their lives in danger.”

It said “what we want is for them” to close the airspace for Turkish warplanes and “this is something they can do easily.”

The statement said the SDF has lost 45 fighters since Turkey began an invasion of northeast Syria four days ago.

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6 p.m.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin says that all foreign forces in Syria that lack its government’s invitation should leave the country.

Putin, speaking in an interview with journalists from the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia ahead of his visits to the countries, said Moscow has talked to Turkey, Iran, the United States and others about the need to restore Syria’s territorial integrity and end foreign military presence.

Putin didn’t talk about Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria in parts of the interview that were broadcast by Russian television Saturday. Russia has taken a soft stance on Turkey’s move, noting Ankara’s need to secure its border.

He added that if the Syrian leadership decides in the future that the country no longer needs Russian troops, they will also leave.

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4:30 p.m.

Iraq’s foreign minister says Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria “reinforces terrorists’ capabilities” to reorganize and undermines world efforts to fight the Islamic State group.

Mohamed Alhakim says the Turkish incursion is a “blatant aggression” against Syria’s sovereignty and integrity.

Alhakim spoke Saturday at an Arab League meeting called by Egypt following Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, which was launched on Wednesday.

He says the military assault also threatens to fuel other conflicts in Syria and will have “negative repercussions,” especially in Iraq, which is still suffering from the war against IS.

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3:55 p.m.

Lebanon’s top diplomat is calling on the Arab League to restore Syria’s membership amid Turkey’s military offensive in northern Syria.

Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil says that readmitting Syria into the pan-Arab organization should be “the first response from the League to the Turkish aggression.” He spoke to the league on Saturday in Cairo.

He says: “We can no longer allow any Israeli or Turkish aggression or (aggression) from any party against an Arab state or an Arab people.”

Syria’s membership in the 22-member Arab League was suspended in 2011 after the Syrian government’s military crackdown on protesters calling for reforms.

Bassil spoke Saturday at an Arab League meeting called by Egypt on Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

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3:10 p.m.

The head of the Arab League is calling for Turkey to halt its military offensive in Syria and pull out its forces from the war-torn country.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Saturday that Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria has resulted in a new wave of displacement and jeopardizes “achievements” made in fighting the Islamic State group.

Turkey says it aims to push back Syrian Kurdish forces, which it considers a threat for their links to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.

Aboul Gheit spoke at an emergency Arab League summit called by Egypt on Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, after meeting with a Syrian Kurdish representative earlier in the day, said he supported Kurdish “legitimate resistance” against the Turkish operation.

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1:50 p.m.

A Kurdish police force in northern Syria says a car bomb has exploded outside a prison where members of the Islamic State group are being held, but there was no word on casualties.

The police force known as Asayesh said the blast occurred early Saturday outside the central prison in the northeastern city of Hassakeh, much of which is controlled by Kurdish forces.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said after the blast, Kurdish fighters brought reinforcements to prevent prisoners from escaping.

No one claimed responsibility but IS sleeper cells have carried out such bombings.

Kurdish fighters are holding about 10,000 IS fighters including some 2,000 foreigners.

There have been concerns that as Kurdish fighters try to repel Turkey’s invasion, some IS detainees might try to flee.

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12:45 p.m.

Turkey says its military offensive has taken central Ras al-Ayn, a key border town in northeastern Syria, and its most significant gain since its cross-border operation began against Syrian Kurdish fighters.

The Turkish Defense Ministry tweeted: “Ras al-Ayn’s residential center has been taken under control through the successful operations in the east of the Euphrates (River).”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, confirmed that Turkish troops have entered the town adding that fighting is still ongoing.

The Turkish military and allied Syrian opposition forces have been advancing in villages around Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn, under the cover of Turkish artillery and some airstrikes.

Turkey is fighting the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which it considers a threat for its links to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.

The YPG forms the backbone of the U.S.-backed ground forces fighting the Islamic State group.

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12:20 p.m.

Arab foreign ministers are meeting to discuss Turkey’s invasion of northern Syria, as the Arab League holds an emergency session at its headquarters in Cairo.

Saturday’s meetings in Egypt’s capital came as the Turkish offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters enters its fourth day.

Egypt called the emergency meeting to discuss what it called Turkey’s “blatant aggression” against Syria’s sovereignty.

Turkey says it aims to push back Syrian Kurdish forces, which it considers terrorists for its links to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.

But the military action and violence in northern Syria has raised concerns about a possible resurgence of Islamic State activity.

Syria’s membership in the 22-member Arab League was suspended in 2011 after the Syrian government’s military crackdown on protesters calling for reforms.

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10:20 a.m.

France’s president has discussed the Turkish offensive in Syria with U.S. President Donald Trump, and warned about a possible resurgence of Islamic State activity as a result of the military action.

President Macron’s office said in a statement Saturday that in the call, the French leader “reiterated the need to make the Turkish offensive stop immediately.”

The statement didn’t say whether Macron urged U.S. forces to intervene. Trump’s decision to pull out of the region cleared the way for this week’s Turkish offensive against Kurds in northeast Syria it sees as a threat.

Macron stressed “above all else the need to avoid any resurgence of IS in the region,” and to support the Kurdish forces who helped the U.S.-led military coalition retake Syrian and Iraqi territory from IS extremists.

France has suffered multiple deadly attacks by IS-linked radicals.

The statement said France and the U.S. “share common concerns” and will coordinate closely on the issue in the coming days.

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10:10 a.m.

Turkey’s official news agency says Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces have reached a strategic highway in northeastern Syria as Turkey’s offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters enters its fourth day.

Anadolu news agency said Saturday the forces have arrived at the M-4 highway that connects the Syrian towns of Manbij and Qamishli. The road is about 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of the Turkish border.

Turkey has said it aims to push back Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, which it considers terrorists for its links to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency within its own borders.

Erdogan said Friday Turkey won’t stop until the YPG, who forms the backbone of the U.S.-backed ground force against the Islamic State, withdraws below a 32 kilometer (20 miles) deep line.

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