The Latest: Russia hopes to keep hotline with US in Syria

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest developments in, and related to, Syria (all times local):

2:10 p.m.

A top Russian official says that Moscow expects that a hotline between Russia and the U.S. military will be kept in place despite the impending U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

President Donald Trump announced last week that the U.S. will withdraw all of its 2,000 forces in Syria, a move that will leave control of the oil-rich eastern third of Syria up for grabs. Russia launched its military operation in Syria in 2015 to back its longtime ally President Bashar Assad.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryakov said in an interview with the RIA Novosti news agency Tuesday that it would be a “big mistake” to dismantle the hotline that Russia and the U.S. use to prevent potential clashes and said he sees no indications that the Americans would do that.

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12:36 p.m.

Turkey says it is working with the United States to coordinate the withdrawal of American forces but remains “determined” to clear U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters from northeastern Syria.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Tuesday that “if Turkey says it will enter, it will.”

For weeks, Turkey has been threatening to launch a new offensive against the Kurdish fighters, who partnered with the U.S. to drive the Islamic State group out of much of northern and eastern Syria. Turkey views the Kurdish forces as terrorists because of their links to an insurgent group inside Turkey.

Cavusoglu says Turkey has the “strength to neutralize” IS on its own.

President Donald Trump announced the planned withdrawal of U.S. forces after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan earlier this month.

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