Syria's five-day "ceasefire" runs out today

By Veronica Rocha, Mike Hayes, Tara John and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 12:57 p.m. ET, December 30, 2019
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1:00 p.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Esper says Turkey may be liable for war crimes in Syria 

From CNN's Hannah Ritchie

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told CNN today that Turkey and its allies may be liable for war crimes in Syria. 

“I’ve seen the reports as well, we’re trying to monitor them, they are horrible, and if accurate — and I assume they are accurate – they would be war crimes,” Esper told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour during an exclusive wide-ranging interview at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. 

“I think those responsible should be held accountable. In many cases, it would be the government of Turkey," he added.

Esper was responding to a question regarding alleged human rights abuses by Turkish-aligned forces in northern Syria. In her questioning, Amanpour described an account of the alleged torture and murder of a female Kurdish politician, before raising an ongoing UN investigation into Turkey’s potential use of white phosphorus against civilians in Syria. 

A report from Amnesty International published on Saturday alleged that Turkish military forces and Turkey-backed Syrian armed groups may have carried out war crimes in northeast Syria during the recent incursion.

12:54 p.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Trump authorizes $4.5 million in aid for Syria Civil Defense

President Trump has authorized $4.5 million in aid for the Syria Civil Defense, according to White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham.

In a statement today, Grisham said the funding would continue US support for "the organization’s important and highly valued work in the country."

"Over the course of the 8-year conflict in Syria, the SCD has rescued more than 115,000 people, including many ethnic and religious minorities. The United States encourages our allies and partners to join us in our support for the SCD and in our efforts to protect civilians, religious and ethnic minorities, and other innocent victims of the Syrian conflict," she said in the statement. 
12:07 p.m. ET, October 22, 2019

McConnell's Syria resolution requires certification of terrorists' defeat before US troop withdrawal

From CNN's Ted Barrett

Zach Gibson/Getty Images
Zach Gibson/Getty Images

In a copy of a resolution obtained by CNN that Mitch McConnell is introducing in the Senate, the GOP leader will lay out a measure that tries to tie the hands of the commander-in-chief by requiring the Trump administration report to Congress that ISIS and al Qaeda have been defeated before pulling US troops out. 

From the resolution:

Congress “calls upon the President to certify whether conditions have been met for the enduring defeat of al Qaeda and ISIS before initiating any further significant withdrawal of United States forces from the region.”


10:51 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

At least 21 civilians killed during "ceasefire," humanitarian group says

From CNN's Kareem Khadder

At least 21 civilians have been killed and 27 others injured since the US and Turkey announced a five-day break in fighting in northern Syria, according to the Kurdish Red Crescent.

"Since the ceasefire, we documented 21 civilians dead and 27 injured," a statement from the Kurdish Red Crescent released Tuesday said. "Not counted are all those who remains under the destroyed houses, got kidnapped or executed by the allies of Turkey."

The Kurdish Red Crescent, a humanitarian group, said the humanitarian situation has worsened as displacement camps are overcrowded and there is a shortage of shelters, food, medicine and water. 

Since the Turkish military offensive began in Syria, about 200,000 people have been displaced to southern areas, according to the Kurdish Red Crescent.

"After the withdraw of hundreds of humanitarian organizations, the number of victims will increase very dramatically," the statement from the humanitarian organization read. 

The Kurdish Red Crescent also accused the international community of not taking steps to "reduce this catastrophe."

The "ceasefire" agreement — referred to as a "pause" by Turkey — is scheduled to end today. 

9:35 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Pompeo: "Some progress has certainly been made" ahead of the 120-hour deadline

From CNN's Jennifer Hansler


Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed that “some progress has certainly been made” ahead of the 120-hour deadline of the ceasefire agreement negotiated between US and Turkey.

Pompeo, speaking at the Heritage Foundation President’s Club Meeting, did not go into details, suggesting he would elaborate later in his remarks.

“The truth was that it was not in Turkey’s interest as a NATO ally to continue with that incursion. The truth was that our invasion set back our shared fight against ISIS. We think now we’re in a better place,” Pompeo said.

“The President used America’s economic might, our economic power, to avoid a kinetic conflict with a NATO ally,” he continued. 

Pompeo claimed that the Trump administration’s work to build out the D-ISIS coalition “never gets talked about.”

“The work that we did to build out that team, united around the destruction of the caliphate in Syria and Iraq, was important and effective,” he said.

Pompeo acknowledged that the Kurdish forces “were great warriors” — but reiterated that the US is “mindful” that Turkey has “legitimate security concerns” with the PKK.

8:51 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

SOON: Putin and Erdogan speak to reporters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin will soon speak to reporters as the 120-hour ceasefire deal — which was brokered between Erdogan and US Vice President Mike Pence last week — ends.

The two were seen shaking hands ahead of the news conference.

You ca watch the news conference in the play at the top of this page.

7:55 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Putin and Erdogan may address Syria ceasefire, Russia says

From CNN’s Nathan Hodge


Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov today declined to speculate on whether a five-day break in fighting in northern Syria would be extended — but indicated the matter might be addressed in talks later in the day between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the southern Russian city of Sochi.

The US and Turkey last week announced a five-day break in fighting, referred to as a “ceasefire” by Washington. Asked whether the pause would be extended, Peskov said:

“The Turkish side should be asked this. … it was an agreement that was reached in Ankara between the representatives of the USA and Turkey. Today there will be an exchange of information between the two presidents of Turkey and Russia. After the talks, there will be a press conference, where they will probably clarify.”

Asked whether Russia is ready to allow the Turkish military to remain in Syria, Peskov said that was a matter for the government Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“You know that the only armed forces that are legitimately located in Syria at the request of the Syrian leadership are the armed forces of the Russian Federation,” he said. 

7:09 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

Talks between Erdogan and Putin start in Sochi

Talks on Syria have begun in the Russian city of Sochi between President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Earlier, the Kremlin declined to speculate on whether the five-day break in fighting in northern Syria, which is due to end today, would be extended.

But it added that the matter might be addressed in discussions between Putin and Erdogan later.

6:59 a.m. ET, October 22, 2019

US troops withdrawing from Syria do not have permission to stay in in Iraq

From CNN's Aqeel Najim in Baghdad and Nada Altaher in Abu Dhabi

A CNN camera crew witnessed US armored vehicles carrying American troops through western Iraq
A CNN camera crew witnessed US armored vehicles carrying American troops through western Iraq

Iraqi officials have said that US troops withdrawing from Syria do not have approval to remain in Iraq, contradicting US Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s comments on Monday that American forces leaving Syria will be repositioned into the west of Iraq.

The Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement Tuesday that all US troops that have withdrawn from Syria have received approval to enter the Kurdish region of Iraq and then leave Iraq.

“No approvals have been issued for those (US) forces to remain inside Iraq,” the statement added.

US President Donald Trump earlier announced that "United States troops coming out of Syria will now redeploy and remain in the region to monitor the situation and prevent a repeat of 2014, when the neglected threat of ISIS raged across Syria and Iraq."

Yesterday, a CNN camera crew witnessed US armored vehicles carrying American troops in western Iraq. The convoy had come from Syria.

It remains unclear what the Iraqi statement means as some US troops do have permission to be stationed in Iraq and could simply switch out with those who were previously deployed in Syria.