Syria Kurds rout jihadists on Iraq border: activists

Updated 06 November 2013
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Syria Kurds rout jihadists on Iraq border: activists

DAMASCUS: Syrian Kurds drove jihadists from an Iraq border crossing in fierce clashes on Saturday, activists said, as the UN-Arab League envoy took his regional peace mission to regime ally Iran.
Fighters from both sides were killed in the border clashes, which came a day after Syria’s regime and its opponents traded blame for a car bomb attack on a mosque that left dozens dead.
The Kurds “took control of the Al-Yaarubia border crossing with Iraq at dawn after clashes with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), the Al-Nusra Front and other rebels,” the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, citing activists.
The Kurds have been struggling to carve out an autonomous northeastern region similar to one in northern Iraq, further complicating the war pitting Sunni-led rebels against President Bashar Assad’s regime.
The rebels have increasingly turned their guns on each other in the past few months, with jihadists fighting the mainstream Free Syrian Army in the north, where the insurgents control vast swathes of territory.
The loss of Al-Yaarubia crossing would deny ISIL — an Al-Qaeda affiliate that has carried out major attacks on both sides of the border — a vital conduit for fighters and arms.
The Al-Nusra Front, another Al-Qaeda-linked group, meanwhile denied a Syrian state TV report that its leader, Abu Mohammed Al-Jawlani, had been killed.
On other battlefronts, rebels on Saturday seized the town of Tafas, which links the eastern and western sectors of Daraa province along the border with Jordan, the Observatory said.
It also reported fierce clashes between government troops and rebel forces, including jihadists, for control of a large arsenal in Mahin, in the central province of Homs.
The Syrian conflict flared when Assad’s opponents took up arms in response to his regime’s brutal crackdown on Arab Spring-inspired protests that erupted in March 2011.
More than 115,000 people are estimated to have been killed. Millions more have been uprooted from their homes, and a UN official said Friday that hundreds of thousands are trapped by the relentless fighting.

Geneva Talks
As the violence raged on, UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said Saturday in Tehran that Iran’s participation in international peace talks on Syria was “necessary,” Iranian news agencies reported.
“We think the participation of Iran at Geneva 2 is natural and necessary,” Brahimi said at a joint press conference after talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
But he stressed that no invitations have yet been sent out for the proposed international peace conference, which the United Nations hopes to organize for late November.
Zarif, whose country is a top ally of the embattled Damascus regime, said that “if Iran is invited to take part in Geneva 2, we will be there to help find a diplomatic solution.”
But despite pressure from its Western and Arab backers, the fractured Syrian opposition has yet to decide whether to attend Geneva 2.
The opposition has insisted that Assad step down as part of any political settlement, which Damascus says is off the table.
Saturday’s violence comes a day after a car bomb outside a mosque in Suq Wadi Barada, a town near Damascus, killed at least 40 people and wounded dozens more, according to the Britain-based Observatory.
State news agency SANA said “the car exploded while the terrorists were packing it with explosives,” using the regime term for rebels.
The opposition National Coalition blamed the regime for the “massacre” caused by what it said were two car bombs placed outside the Osama Bin Zeid mosque.
Elsewhere, an army ambush killed 24 rebels on the outskirts of Damascus, said the Observatory. SANA put the toll at 40.
The army has closed in on Eastern Ghouta, a ring of rebel-held suburbs it has besieged for months and which was targeted in an August chemical attack that killed hundreds of people and almost led to punitive US strikes.
UN and US officials have expressed concern about Eastern Ghouta and other besieged Damascus suburbs, following reports of severe food shortages and rising malnutrition there.
A UN-commissioned report said more than half of Syria’s population is living in poverty and warned that the economic devastation could last for years.


Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince says Brexit opens UK for greater business opportunities with Kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman
Updated 07 March 2018
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Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince says Brexit opens UK for greater business opportunities with Kingdom

LONDON: People in the UK and Saudi Arabia are much safer if the two countries have a close relationship, the Kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said ahead of his visit to Britain.
Prince Mohammed arrived in the UK from Cairo last night to begin the second leg of his first overseas tour since becoming heir to the throne.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph newspaper, the crown prince said Brexit potentially freed up Britain to do more business with the Kingdom.
“We believe that Saudi Arabia needs to be part of the global economy,” he said. “People need to be able to move freely, and we need to apply the same standards as the rest of the world. After Brexit, there will be huge opportunities for Britain as a result of Vision 2030.”
He said the two countries enjoyed historic ties that dated back more than 100 years to the foundation of the Kingdom.
“We have a common interest that goes back to the earliest days of the relationship,” he said, adding: “Our relationship with Britain today is super.”
The 32-year-old crown prince, who is making his first official visit to Britain, has overseen a raft of reforms to modernize the Kingdom.
During the trip, he will meet with Prime Minister Theresa May, the Queen and other members of the British royal family.
A number of events have been scheduled, including a forum on business partnerships between the two countries and a discussion event at Chatham House.
The visit is expected to focus on defense, security and economic ties. The two sides will also review key bilateral and regional issues.
Billboards highlighting his UK visit have been erected in parts of the capital, Saudi state-news channel Al-Ekhbariya reported.
One shows the flags of the two countries with “United Kingdoms” written across the top. Another shows Crown Prince Mohammed with the slogan: “He is bringing change to Saudi Arabia.”
The Telegraph interview touched on the wide-reaching reforms in the country that include allowing Saudi women to drive, work and run businesses.
He said that while Vision 2030 worked to diversify the economy, the inclusion of women in driving that economy was essential to the long-term success of the project.
The crown prince said that global travel had made Saudis increasingly aware how other countries operated. Such an insight, he explained, had led to a change in the aspirations of the country’s younger population.
Currently, UK trade with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states accounts for 10 percent of total commercial transactions — more than the total amount of trade with China, the newspaper added, citing British diplomats.
Security and intelligence cooperation are expected to feature heavily during talks in the UK.
“The British and Saudi people, along with the rest of the world, will be much safer if you have a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia,” the crown prince said.
He said the job at hand was to promote a “more moderate Islam,” to counter the “extremists and the terrorists (who) are linked through spreading their agenda.”
Economic growth in Saudi Arabia would benefit the rest of the Middle East, which would help to defeat extremism.
He dismissed claims that the Saudi government’s current stance against Iran and Qatar could potentially provoke new regional conflict.
Britain was “very supportive” of the Kingdom’s concerns over Iran and other regional security issues, he said.
Before leaving Egypt, Crown Prince Mohammed visited Al-Azhar, the world’s leading seat of learning for Sunni Muslims.
Accompanied by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam, he was shown the completed restoration work carried out on Al-Azhar Mosque.
The three-year project was financed by a grant from Saudi Arabia. The mosque, built in the 10th century, is now part of a sprawling university, which teaches Islam as well as secular subjects, and a nationwide network of schools.
Hundreds of Al-Azhar students met the crown prince and Egypt’s President, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.
During the trip, Crown Prince Mohammed visited the main Christian cathedral in Cairo and met the head of the Coptic church. He also toured infrastructure projects and the Suez canal and attended a play at Cairo Opera House.
The two countries signed deals linked to investment funds and the building of a project in Sinai connected to Saudi Arabia’s Neom megacity project.