Talks crumble to clear last E Ghouta pocket
Turkey snubs French mediation offer with Kurdish militia
US President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that US forces would pull out of Syria "very soon" and lamented what he said was Washington's waste of $7 trillion in Middle East wars.
In a populist address to industrial workers in Ohio, Trump said US forces were close to securing all of the territory that the Islamic State jihadist group once claimed.
"We'll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon. Let the other people take care of it now," he promised, to applause.
Trump did not say who the others were who might take care of Syria, but Russia and Iran have sizable forces in the country to support President Bashar al-Assad's regime.
"Very soon -- very soon we're coming out. We're going to have 100 percent of the caliphate, as they call it -- sometimes referred to as 'land' -- taking it all back quickly, quickly," he said.
"But we're going to be coming out of there real soon. Going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be."
Hundreds more Syrian rebels and civilians yesterday prepared to leave Eastern Ghouta under a negotiated withdrawal, as Russia unilaterally announced a similar deal to empty the final pocket of the battered enclave.
The former rebel bastion on the outskirts of Damascus has been drained by a nearly six-week Syrian government assault and a pair of evacuation deals brokered by regime ally Moscow.
Under such agreements, rebels agree to hand over territory in exchange for safe passage for them and civilians to opposition zones in northwest Syria.
Russia's defence ministry yesterday said it had brokered a deal that would see rebels abandon Douma "shortly", but the fighters there quickly denied it.
“We categorically refuse leaving or being displaced," said Jaish al-Islam's spokesman Hamza Bayraqdar.
"That's an essential demand of the negotiations. We have not reached an agreement yet," he told AFP, adding that talks were ongoing.
Meanwhile, Turkey yesterday rejected a French offer to mediate with the Syrian Democratic Forces which is dominated by a Kurdish militia blacklisted by Ankara, condemning Paris' "wrong stance".