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Sun, 20 Oct 2019 16:19 - Updated Sun, 20 Oct 2019 16:17

The Latest: UK's Johnson speaks to Turkey's Erdogan on Syria

AKCAKALE, Turkey - British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan want to set up a meeting with the leaders of France and Germany to discuss Turkey's military operation in Syria.

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Johnson's office said in a statement Sunday that he and Erdogan "agreed to look for an opportunity to meet alongside President (Emmanuel) Macron and Chancellor (Angela) Merkel to discuss the current situation as well as broader issues including counter-terrorism and migration."

Johnson described the U.S.-brokered cease-fire agreement as a "step in the right direction" but also stressed that "there remains a great deal of concern about Turkey's military operation in northeast Syria."

Turkey launched its offensive against Kurdish-led fighters in northeast Syria on Oct. 9.

The Kurdish forces say Turkish troops and their allied Syrian fighters have continued their offensives over the past 24 hours.

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4:20 p.m.

A local Syrian official says Kurdish fighters and civilians have started evacuating the northern Syrian town of Ras al-Ayn and that the pullout is still ongoing.

The withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from Ras al-Ayn would open the way for them to leave a broader swath of territory along the Syria-Turkey border, as part of an agreement reached between the U.S. and Turkey.

The Kurdish official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to speak about the ongoing evacuation, said it is not clear if the pullout will end Sunday.

Following the evacuation, the Kurdish fighters would redeploy from a zone 120 kilometers (75 miles) wide and 30 kilometers (20 miles) deep between the towns of Ras al-Ayn and Tel Abyad.

—By Bassem Mroue

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Noon

Turkey's defense ministry says one soldier has been killed amid sporadic clashes with Kurdish fighters in northern Syria, despite a U.S.-brokered cease-fire.

Sunday's ministry statement said that Syrian Kurdish fighters have violated the three-day-old cease-fire some 20 times.

The statement said the soldier was killed during an observation shift earlier in the day, in an attack by anti-tank weapons and small arms fire, bringing Turkey's military death toll up to seven soldiers in its wide-ranging offensive against Syrian Kurdish forces.

The ministry also said it allowed a 39-vehicle humanitarian convoy to enter Ras al-Ayn, a key border town that's seen some of the heaviest fighting. It said the convoy evacuated wounded and others.

Turkey considers the Syrian Kurdish groups terrorists for their links to a decades-long Kurdish insurgency inside Turkey.

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