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Kurds agree to Russian-brokered plan to allow Assad into their territoryThe West’s Kurdish allies on Sunday night announced they had agreed to a Russian-brokered deal to allow the Assad regime into their territory in a bid to spare their cities from a Turkish assault after they were abandoned by Donald Trump.  Hours after the US said it was withdrawing all of its troops from northern Syria, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said it had reached an agreement to allow Bashar al-Assad’s troops into their territory.  “If we have to choose between compromises and the genocide of our people, we will surely choose life for our people,” said Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the commander of the SDF.  It was not immediately clear if the agreement with Assad would bring a halt to the Turkish offensive or if the Turkish military and its Syrian rebel allies would continue to advance.  But the deal appeared to strike a death knell for Kurdish hopes of maintaining autonomy from Damascus in their own semi-state in northeast Syria.  Read more | Syria crisis The announcement marked a stunning fall for the SDF, who just a week ago could count on the support of the US military in deterring Turkey from taking action.  That security came to an end last Sunday night when Mr Trump told Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s president, the US would not interfere in a Turkish attack on northeast Syria. “The betrayal process is officially completed," an SDF official said of the US withdrawal.    Turkish warplanes thundered into Syrian airspace while Turkish-backed rebel forces advanced against the SDF on the ground and on Sunday night Kurdish commanders decided they had to strike a deal to prevent annihilation.  While the formal details of the agreement were not announced, Syrian regime forces appeared poised to enter many of the key Kurdish-held cities along the Turkish-Syrian border, including Kobani, Manbij and Qamishli.  Many of the areas hold vast symbolic importance for the Kurds, who have lost 11,000 men fighting against the Islamic State (Isil) in the last five years to free those cities from jihadist rule.   A woman sits in the back of a truck as they flee Ras-al-Ain The announcement came after Mark Esper, the US defence secretary, said he and Mr Trump had decided to withdraw all 1,000 US troops from northern Syria because the Turks “likely intend to expand their attack further south than originally planned”.  “We have American forces likely caught between two opposing advancing armies and it's a very untenable situation,” he said on Sunday morning.   While Mr Trump said last week he was removing around 50 US commandos from a 120km section of the Turkey-Syria border, hundreds of other American soldiers remained near Kurdish key cities like Kobani and Qamishli.  News of the US retreat sparked panic across northern Syria as civilians, who believed their towns might be spared from Turkish onslaught by the presence of American forces, started fleeing their homes. At least 200,000 people have been displaced so far, aid groups said, and the number is likely to rise. The town of Ras-al-Ain in flames The decision came as civilian casualties mounted and Islamic State prisoners took advantage of the chaos to mount a mass escape. Kurdish authorities said early on Sunday around 785 women and children escaped from a camp in Ain Issa when it came under attack from Turkish shelling. Isil inmates “attacked the camp guard and opened the gates” while Kurdish forces were under fire, authorities said.  Tooba Gondal, a notorious British Isil recruiter from Walthamstow, and her two children, may have been among those who fled and her whereabouts were unknown on Sunday night. Ms Gondal travelled to Syria to join Isil in 2015 and has been accused of grooming other young British women, including Shamima Begum, to follow her. There were unconfirmed reports last night that Ms Gondal had contacted family back in Britain to tell them she had escaped the camp.   The Telegraph understands at least three other British women, and reportedly three British orphans, were held in Ain Issa camp before the break-out. British Isil recruiter Tooba Gondal pictured inside Ain Issa camp The SDF warned the West the breakout may be the first of many and that the resurgent jihadists “will come knocking on your doors” if the Turkish offensive is not stopped. Mr Trump said on Sunday night that Turkey and the Kurds must not allow Isil prisoners to escape and blamed the terror risk on Europe for not taking them back. "The US has the worst of the ISIS prisoners. Turkey and the Kurds must not let them escape," he tweeted. "Europe should have taken them back after numerous requests. They should do it now. They will never come to, or be allowed in, the United States!" The SDF said Turkish-backed rebel fighters intercepted a car carrying Hevrin Khalaf, a Kurdish political leader with the Future Syria Party, and shot her to death along with her driver and an aide on Saturday. Video footage showed her black SUV riddled with bullet holes while Arabic-speaking Syrian fighters cheered. Turkey has said such fighters, known as the National Army, would be at the forefront of anti-Isil operations once the Kurds were defeated.  While US officials insisted America was opposed to the Turkish invasion, Mr Trump struck a laissez-faire note in a series of Sunday morning tweets. Plight of the Kurds | Timeline of Western involvement “The Kurds and Turkey have been fighting for many years,” he noted. “Others may want to come in and fight for one side or the other. Let them!” The US has yet to slap any sanctions on Turkey for the assault, despite White House warnings that it would target the Turkish economy if the offensive led to a humanitarian crisis or disrupted anti-Isil operations.  Both outcomes have already happened. At least 60 civilians have been killed in northern Syria and 18 civilians have died from Kurdish shelling in southern Turkey since last Wednesday, according to the Syrian Observatory.  France and Germany both announced they were halting arms sales to Turkey but the UK did not match their announcements. Britain approved military export licenses worth £583m to Turkey in 2017, including licenses for attack aircraft and helicopters.


10/13/2019 5:38:58 PM

HK leader ditches meeting Ted Cruz, says the U.S. senatorHong Kong leader Carrie Lam scrapped a scheduled meeting with U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, the highest profile U.S. politician to visit the city since anti-government protests broke out more than four months ago, the senator said on Saturday. Lam had requested that the afternoon meeting be completely confidential and Cruz refrain from speaking with the media about it, Cruz told journalists in Hong Kong. "She seems to misunderstand how free speech operates, and also how freedom of the press operates," said Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas.


10/12/2019 4:53:29 AM

Brexit Deal in Sight as Negotiators Wrestle With the Details(Bloomberg) -- Follow @Brexit, sign up to our Brexit Bulletin, and tell us your Brexit story. The U.K. and European Union signaled a Brexit deal is in sight, with negotiators heading into intensive talks in Brussels as a potential compromise over the Irish border starts to emerge.With EU officials saying Boris Johnson had indicated a possible path to detailed talks, the U.K. prime minister planned to update his Cabinet on Sunday on progress toward a Brexit deal. Speculation that Britain will avoid dropping out of the EU without a divorce accord lifted the pound last week to its biggest two-day gain in a decade, though both sides cautioned that much work remains to be done for Britain to leave by Johnson’s Oct. 31 deadline.At issue are the prime minister’s plans to take Northern Ireland out of Europe’s customs union and give Stormont, its power-sharing assembly, a veto over the arrangement. The first would trigger the return of checks on goods crossing the frontier, something the Irish government and the EU oppose. The second would hand Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party an effective veto over the deal, something unacceptable south of the border.DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds rejected any weakening of Northern Ireland’s custom ties with the U.K. and said his party is awaiting the outcome of the talks in Brussels, Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper quoted him as saying in an interview.A possible compromise is a British idea for Northern Ireland to technically leave Europe’s customs union but for the province to adhere to EU customs rules and tariffs, according to two officials. This would have the twin benefit of preventing a border on the island of Ireland and enabling the U.K. to strike trade deals around the world.It’s similar to a “customs partnership” plan the EU rejected in 2018, and would leave Northern Ireland with a different customs regime to the rest of the U.K. British authorities would have to collect tariffs on behalf of the bloc on goods crossing the Irish Sea. EU officials said the proposal is extremely complicated and needs work before it could be considered to be a solution, but didn’t rule out that it could emerge as the compromise.“Getting Brexit done by 31 October is absolutely crucial, and we are continuing to work on an exit deal so we can move on to negotiating a future relationship based on free trade and friendly cooperation with our European friends,” Johnson said in a statement.BackstopEU officials view the only sure-fire solution as an arrangement that keeps Northern Ireland in the customs union, the so-called backstop. While there’s no discussion yet of putting a time limit on that arrangement, something the EU has previously rejected, one EU official said that it could yet be considered.Any agreement would have to be backed by Parliament in London, where Johnson is reliant on the DUP. The party staunchly opposes subjecting Northern Ireland to different customs rules than the rest of the U.K.After EU officials said Johnson indicated he was prepared to make sufficient concessions to allow detailed talks to begin, teams from both sides started work Saturday to explore whether they can arrive at the basis of an accord ahead of a summit of EU leaders that begins Thursday.Can Johnson Get a Deal Through Parliament? Silence Is GoldenIn a meeting with envoys of the bloc’s remaining 27 countries on Friday, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, suggested that Johnson is softening his stance on both customs and Stormont’s consent. In what would potentially be a significant climb-down, Johnson acknowledged there should be no customs border on the island of Ireland, two officials said. When asked in a pooled interview for British television, Johnson declined to say whether Northern Ireland will leave the EU’s customs union.“There is a joint feeling that there is a way forward, that we can see a pathway to a deal,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. There’s work to be done.”Ship of StateIn an article for the Sunday Telegraph, Jacob Rees-Mogg -- whose hardcore anti-EU stance has peppered the airwaves since the 2016 referendum -- suggested that some Brexiteers will have to come around to accepting Johnson’s compromises.“As a Leaver, Boris can be trusted,” Rees-Mogg wrote. “If he thinks the ship of state is worth an extra ha’porth of tar, he deserves support.”While negotiations are heading into a new intensive phase, they aren’t headed into the full “tunnel,” the formal Brussels process by which the actual legal text of an agreement is thrashed out in secret.This suggests that the EU still has reservations about the chances of getting a deal done, and that member states are unwilling to outsource the process entirely to Barnier and his team.The European Commission will update the EU’s national envoys Sunday, with the aim of having something concrete for EU affairs ministers to look at when they meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday to prepare for the summit.sDUP Leader Arlene Foster fired a warning shot against trying to keep Northern Ireland in the EU customs union, though she stopped short of explicitly withholding support from the prime minister.“Those who know anything about Northern Ireland will appreciate that these issues will only work with the support of the unionist as well as the nationalist community,” she said in a statement.For all the optimism, there’s still a long way to go.European Council President Donald Tusk said the U.K. hadn’t yet “come forward with a workable, realistic proposal.”But there are “promising signals,” he said.(Updates with DUP leader’s comments in fourth paragraph, Johnson comments in seventh)\--With assistance from Dara Doyle, Nikos Chrysoloras and Alexander Weber.To contact the reporter on this story: Ian Wishart in Brussels at iwishart@bloomberg.netTo contact the editors responsible for this story: Ben Sills at bsills@bloomberg.net, James LuddenFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com©2019 Bloomberg L.P.


10/12/2019 3:00:10 PM

Serial killer's victim portraits could help crack cold casesMost of the women in Samuel Little's hand-drawn portraits seem to be frowning. Little, whom the FBI identified this month as the most prolific serial killer in U.S. history, produced startlingly detailed likenesses of dozens of women he says he strangled over the course of more than three decades. Now the FBI is publicizing his portraits — hoping that someone, somewhere, will recognize the face of a long-lost loved one in an image drawn by the killer himself.


10/13/2019 12:37:18 PM

BEHOLD: Is China's DF-26 Missile a Real Threat to U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers?Will Beijing's strategy work?


10/12/2019 10:00:00 AM

Harry Dunn: US woman allegedly involved in crash does not have diplomatic immunity, says Foreign OfficeThe US diplomat’s wife allegedly involved in a crash which killed a teenager does not have diplomatic immunity, the Foreign Office has said.A letter, that appears to have been sent by foreign secretary Dominic Raab to Harry Dunn’s parents, Charlotte Charles and Tim Dunn, says: “The question remains when such immunity comes to an end, regardless of any waiver.


10/12/2019 8:54:00 AM

Canada vote pitches Trudeau into fight of his political lifeThe gloves have come off as Justin Trudeau struggles to hold onto his parliamentary majority heading into the last week of a tight campaign before Canada's October 21 general election. The latest polls put his Liberals in a dead heat with the Conservatives, led by Andrew Scheer. Barring a trip-up over the coming days, whoever wins the most votes may have to seek the backing of one or more minor parties to form the next government.


10/12/2019 7:37:36 PM

Girl scales replica of Trump’s 'un-climbable' border wallAn 18-foot replica of President Trump’s border wall has been climbed in a matter of seconds by an 8-year-old girl and a man who returned for another attempt while juggling with one hand.


10/12/2019 12:35:24 PM

Norwegian Cruise Line passengers demand refunds after ship skips several scheduled stopsNorwegian Cruise Line passengers voiced their anger after disembarking from the ship Friday after several port stops were canceled due to weather.


10/12/2019 12:31:10 PM

Kurdish general to U.S.: Either protect us, or 'move aside so we can let in the Russians'Gen. Mazloum Kobani Abdi, the commander of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, did not mince words when meeting with William Roebuck, the Deputy Special Envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS on Thursday, CNN reports. "You have given up on us," Mazloum said, referring to President Trump's decision to pull U.S. troops out of northern Syria, giving Turkey an opening to invade, which they have. "You are leaving are leaving us to be slaughtered."An internal U.S. government readout obtained by CNN also revealed that Mazloum told Roebuck he has considered gaining the support of another foreign power in place of the U.S. "I've been holding myself for two days from going to the press and saying that America abandoned us and that I would like you to get out of our areas now so that I can invite Russia and regime planes to take over this airspace," Mazloum said. "Either you stop this bombing on our people now or move aside so we can let in the Russians."Roebuck reportedly then suggested Mazloum not make any "immediate decisions," but instead give him time to relay the message to the State Department. Read more at CNN.


10/12/2019 11:54:37 AM

 

 

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