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‘Grave concern’: UK PM asks Erdogan to stop Syria attacks in phone call | World News

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The UK has expressed “grave concern” about the situation in northern Syria, calling on Turkey to end its military operation in the area.

Turkey launched its ground and air offensive on Wednesday after US President Donald Trump cleared the way by pulling American forces back from the area.

Kurds fighting as the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) played a vital role alongside US troops in defeating Islamic State but now the US has been accused of abandoning them.

The Trump administration has since demanded that Turkey halts its offensive, which has seen American forces come under artillery fire, warning the regime that it was causing “great harm” to ties and could face sanctions.

On Saturday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and joined calls for him to end the fighting.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “[Mr Johnson] expressed the UK’s grave concern about Turkey’s military operation in northern Syria which he said could further worsen the humanitarian situation there and undermine the progress made against Daesh [IS].

“The prime minister underlined that Turkey is an important partner for the UK and a NATO ally.

“He recognised Turkey’s role at the forefront of the fight against Daesh and its generosity in supporting refugees who’ve fled the civil war in Syria.

“But the prime minister was clear that the UK cannot support Turkey’s military action.

“He urged the president to end the operation and enter into dialogue, and said the UK and international partners stand ready to support negotiations towards a ceasefire.”

It came after France announced it would stop selling weapons to Turkey that could be used in the conflict, also calling for an urgent meeting of the coalition against Islamic State extremists.

People take part in a demonstration at the Human Rights plaza in Paris on October 12, 2019, to support Kurdish militants as Turkey kept up its assault on Kurdish-held border towns in northeastern Syria today, on the fourth day of an offensive that is drawing growing international condemnation, even from Washington

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People in Paris protested against Turkey’s action against the Kurds

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The UN has estimated more than 100,000 people have been forced to flee the fighting and Turkey is reported to have taken Ras al Ain, a key border town, although this is disputed by the Syrian Kurdish forces.

Mr Erdogan says the military action is necessary for national security, arguing that the Kurds in northeast Syria are linked to a terrorist insurgency in Turkey.

Earlier on Saturday, he said: “We will never stop this step we have taken… We will not stop it no matter what anyone says.”

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Trump ‘fully prepared’ to use military force against Turkey to protect Kurds in Syria

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Donald Trump is “fully prepared” to use military force if “needed” against Turkey after Ankara launched an offensive against America’s allies in Syria.

“We prefer peace to war,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told CNBC.

“But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action.”

He declined to say where Mr Trump’s red line would be to prompt a US military response, and the State Department refused to comment.

The comments from the president’s top diplomat came as skirmishes between Turkish and Kurdish forces continued despite a five-day ceasefire brokered by the US, which is due to end on Tuesday.

CEYLANPINAR, TURKEY - OCTOBER 18: A Turkish soldiers preparer the tanks as they secures the road before army tanks start moving towards the Syrian border on October 18, 2019 in Ceylanpinar, Turkey. Turkish forces appeared to continue shelling targets in Northern Syria despite yesterday's announcement, by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, that Turkey had agreed to a ceasefire in its assault on Kurdish-held towns near its border. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

Turkish soldiers prepare to move their tanks over the border into Syria

Mr Trump said the ceasefire was holding, dismissing the clashes.

The president has been criticised by Democrats and Republicans for suddenly announcing he was withdrawing US troops from Syria, leaving their allies, the Kurds, to fend off Turkey who sees them as being linked to terrorists.

On Monday he announced not all troops would be leaving straight away, despite saying he did not want to leave any in Syria.



Syrians threw potatoes and yelled at U.S. armoured vehicles as U.S. troops drove through the northeast border town of Qamishli.

Potatoes thrown at withdrawing US troops

He said some troops would remain in the country and others currently in Syria would be redeployed to Iraq instead of going home.

Speaking at a meeting with his cabinet, Mr Trump said: “We never agreed to protect the Kurds for the rest of their lives.”

He added that he was achieving a campaign promise to disengage from international conflicts as he looks ahead to next year’s election.

The president said a small number of US troops would stay “in a little different section to secure the oil,” as well as in “a totally different section of Syria near Jordan and close to Israel”.

“That’s a totally different mindset,” he said.

“Other than that, there’s no reason for US troops to remain. They’re going to be sent initially to different parts.

“Ultimately, we’re bringing them home.”

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain during Turkey's military offensive

Smoke rises over the Syrian town of Ras al-Ain during Turkey’s military offensive

He added that Israel and Jordan asked him to keep some troops in Syria.

US defence secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon was considering keeping some US troops near oilfields in northeastern Syria alongside Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to ensure Islamic State (IS) militants cannot get to the oil.

As the ceasefire comes to an end, Germany suggested a security zone in northern Syria was created to protect displaced civilians and ensure the fight against IS insurgents continues.

German defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said the zone should involve Turkey and Russia to protect at least 160,000 Syrian Kurds who the UN says have fled their homes since the Turkish assault started.

It is the first time the German government has proposed a military mission in the Middle East, with Berlin expected to send soldiers to Syria if it is backed by Turkey and Russia, who see the Kurds as enemies.

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Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu abandons attempt to form government | World News

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Benjamin Netanyahu has abandoned his attempt to form a new coalition in a development that plunges Israel into further political uncertainty.

The long-serving prime minister fell short of securing a 61-seat parliamentary majority in last month’s election.

President Reuven Rivlin gave him the first opportunity to form a government because he had the support of 55 politicians in the Knesset – one more than his main rival, ex-military chief Benny Gantz.

Mr Netanyahu, 70, had hoped to form a broad “unity” government with Mr Gantz of the Blue and White party.

However, on Monday evening Mr Netanyahu announced he had failed – two days before the deadline to present a coalition.

In a statement, Mr Netanyahu said: “Since I received the mandate, I have worked tirelessly both in public and behind the scenes to establish a broad, national unity government. That’s what the people want.

“During the past few weeks, I made every effort to bring Benny Gantz to the negotiating table. Every effort to establish a broad national unity government, every effort to prevent another election.

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“To my regret, time after time he declined. He simply refused.”

Benny Gantz will now try to form a government

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Benny Gantz will now try to establish a ruling coalition

Mr Rivlin said he would give 60-year-old Mr Gantz a chance to form a government – and has 28 days to entice potential allies – but if Mr Gantz fails, Israel could hold its third election in less than a year.

Mr Netanyahu’s Likud party was second in the September election, winning 32 seats compared with Mr Gantz’s Blue and White party’s 33.

Mr Netanyahu remains leader of the Likud party but having failed a second time this year to form a coalition and with Israel’s attorney general set to decide in the coming weeks on whether to indict him in a series of corruption cases, the country’s leader could come under heavy pressure to step down.

He is Israel’s longest-serving leader, having served from June 1996 until July 1999 and from March 2009 until now.

Because Israel uses a proportional representation model it has always been governed by coalitions.

This means the larger parties depend on smaller parties to form what is usually either a right-wing or left-wing governing partnership.

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Imran Khan ‘shocked’ by how Diana’s death affected Pakistan | World News

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Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan says he was “shocked” and “amazed” by the effect Princess Diana’s death had on people in his country.

He was speaking after meeting her son Prince William and Kate during their royal tour last week.

Mr Khan revealed how Pakistanis reacted with sorrow after the princess died in a car crash in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi.

Imran Khan and his then wife Jemima Khan attended Diana's funeral in September 1997

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Mr Khan and his then wife Jemima Khan attended Diana’s funeral in September 1997

He told CNN: “I was touring my constituency when I heard of the accident, and I can tell you that the impact it had on the people shocked me.

“I mean, these were rural peasants. I wouldn’t have even thought they would have heard of Princess Di.

“But when they heard of accident and her death… I was amazed at how Princess Diana had penetrated, even in these rural constituencies.”

The prime minister also spoke to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge about his path to becoming Pakistan’s top politician, having first met the prince in the 1990s, not long after he started his party.

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Prince William and Kate with Imran Khan in Pakistan

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Prince William and Kate with Imran Khan in Islamabad, Pakistan

The former international cricketer said: “It’s 23 years since I started my political movement and I assumed that it would be very easy, here’s my party and I would go out and people would vote for me.

“Little did I realise what I would go through to get here.”

Mr Khan met the royal couple on their five-day tour, during which they enjoyed a wide range of locations, cultures and occasions.

On the tour, a young girl at a government-run school said she was a “big fan” of the late princess.

William and Kate also went to the Hindu Kush mountain range where they learned about climate change and glacial melting.

Prince William presented with handmade bracelet by little girl in Lahore, Pakistan

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Prince William was presented with a handmade bracelet by a little girl in Lahore, Pakistan

On Friday, they made an unexpected return visit to an orphanage, where a young girl presented the duke with a handmade bracelet.

William and Kate visited the SOS Children’s Village for the second time in two days after their RAF plane, which was heading to the capital Islamabad, encountered bad weather and returned to Lahore.

The couple also painted with children from the orphanage, which houses more than 150 orphans.

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