US Moves in Syria Irk Russia, Turkey

US withdrawal from Syria begins after contradictory messages from John Bolton and Mike Pompeo

"Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds", Trump tweeted, while pushing for the creation of a 20-mile "safe zone".

USA officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that equipment was being moved out of Syria, a sign that despite mixed messages from Washington preparations for a withdrawal of troops was proceeding apace.

Mr Pompeo said the withdrawal of USA troops from Syria was a "tactical change" but the mission to destroy Islamic State and counter Iran's influence remained the same.

The president announced the move in December, prompting concerns that Syrian Kurds, who had helped the USA fight Islamic State, would be left at the mercy of neighbouring Turkey, which views some of them as terrorists.

President Trump used Twitter Sunday night to spell out his plans for a pull-out in Syria.

But, he added, "we also know that those are fighting alongside of us for all this time deserve to be protected as well".

Speaking in the United Arab Emirates, Mr Pompeo said he thought it would be possible to reach an agreement which would allow the Turks to defend themselves from terror threats while protecting Kurds - who have been fighting alongside U.S. troops - against the so-called Islamic State group.

He said: "Terrorists can't be your partners and allies. We will continue to fight against them all".

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The PKK is the Kurdistan Workers' Party, the PYD is Democratic Union Party established in Syria, and the YPG are the People's Protection Units - a mainly-Kurdish militia also in Syria.

A US-led coalition of over 70 member-nations has been conducting military operations against the Daesh terror group in Syria and Iraq. Washington and Ankara also sparred over the fate of American Presbyterian minister Andrew Brunson, who was convicted in Turkey of aiding terrorism, and who Ankara was forced to extradite after Trump exerted unprecedented economic pressure.

The withdrawal began with shipments of military equipment, US defense officials said.

Their aim is to guard against any invasion by neighboring Turkey, which views the main Syrian Kurdish group - the YPG - as a national security threat, and to preserve autonomy in northern Syria.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said it was important for Syrian Kurds and the Syrian government to start talking to each other in light of the USA withdrawal plans.

The United Nations said on Friday that overall about 25,000 people have fled the violence over the last six months as the die-hard militants have battled to defend their dwindling bastions.

Around 2,000 civilians remain trapped in the area around the town of Hajin.

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