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Syria: Over 600 evacuated from last ISIS stronghold

By: Middle East Eye Source: Middle East Eye More than 600 people were evacuated on Saturday from the Islamic State (ISIS) group’s remaining holdout in eastern Syria, a monitor said, as US-backed fighters prepared for a final assault on the area. “More than 600 people, mainly women and children, were evacuated on 25 buses sent” by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said several dozen militants were among those evacuated to areas held by the Kurdish-Arab alliance. The SDF, backed by air strikes from a US-led coalition, in September launched an offensive to oust ISIS from the rump...

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Turkey to host Pakistan-Afghanistan-Taliban peace talks

By: RFE/RL Source: RFE/RL Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his country will host the leaders of Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of efforts to end the Afghan Taliban’s 17-year insurgency. Erdogan, speaking at a joint news conference with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on January 4, said the trilateral meeting would take place in Istanbul after local elections in March. Khan told reporters he hoped the meeting would bring “badly needed peace” to Afghanistan. “Pakistan is already helping dialogue between Taliban and [the] Americans,” said Khan, who was making his first visit to Turkey since he came to power in August. “I look forward to the...

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Turkey pledges to take over ISIS fight after US withdrawal

By: Reuters Source: Jordan Times ISTANBUL/BEIRUT – Turkey will take over the fight against ISIS militants in Syria as the United States withdraws its troops, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday, in the latest upheaval wrought by Washington’s abrupt policy shift. The surprise announcement by US President Donald Trump this week that he would withdraw roughly 2,000 troops has felled a pillar of American policy in the Middle East. Critics say Trump’s decision will make it harder to find a diplomatic solution to Syria’s seven-year-old conflict. For Turkey, the step removes a source of friction with the United States. Erdogan has long castigated his NATO ally over its support for...

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