Libya govt forces overrun Tripoli militia headquarters

A damaged van lies on a road in the Hay Al-Andalus neighborhood of the Libyan capital Tripoli following clashes between rival armed groups. (AFP)
Updated 16 March 2017
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Libya govt forces overrun Tripoli militia headquarters

TRIPOLI: Forces loyal to Libya’s UN-backed unity government seized the headquarters of a rival militia on Wednesday in a third day of intense fighting for control of Tripoli.

The capital has seen exchanges of rocket and artillery fire between unity government forces and a militia loyal to former Prime Minister Khalifa Ghweil.
Since taking power from Ghweil’s administration in March 2016, the Government of National Accord (GNA) has secured the backing of powerful militias in the capital, but some districts remain outside its control.
Ghweil refuses to recognize the GNA’s authority.
Government forces launched an assault on his headquarters in the Guest Palace, a complex of luxury villas in the city center, and overran it after heavy fighting.
“It’s over. Ghweil’s forces have pulled out and GNA forces have taken control of the area,” a witness told AFP.
A security source confirmed the militia’s withdrawal, but had no immediate word on any casualties.
It was the third straight day of fighting between government forces and the militia, who are mainly drawn from Ghweil’s hometown, third city Misrata.
Gunfire and explosions were heard from multiple parts of the capital.
A rocket hit the Al-Khadhra Hospital without causing any casualties, a medic said.
Gunmen stormed the headquarters of Al-Nabaa television, a privately owned channel known for its conservative leanings, witnesses said.
The channel remained off the air on Wednesday. The fighting brought life in the capital to a standstill, with schools and shops closed.
UN Libya envoy Martin Kobler on Tuesday tweeted an appeal for an “immediate cease-fire,” saying the fighting put civilians at “grave risk.”
Clashes erupted in the neighborhoods of Hay Al-Andalus and Gargaresh on Monday evening, prompting the government to deploy tanks.
Tripoli’s GNA-allied police said security forces in Tripoli were battling “outlaw groups that are destabilizing security and inciting chaos.”
“It was our duty to eradicate them and fight them to stabilize the capital,” the police added.
Heavy fighting has also rocked the east of Libya where forces loyal to military strongman Khalifa Haftar announced their recapture of two key oil ports on Tuesday.


Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

Updated 23 January 2019
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Erdogan and Putin vow closer cooperation on Syria at Moscow talks

  • The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict
  • Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria

MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday vowed to coordinate their actions more closely in Syria.
“Cooperation between Russia and Turkey is a touchstone for Syrian peace and stability,” Erdogan said in translated comments at a joint press conference after their talks, which lasted around three hours.
“With our Russian friends we intend to strengthen our coordination even more.”
“We agreed how we’ll coordinate our work in the near future,” Putin said, calling the talks which included the countries’ defense ministers “effective.”
At the start of their meeting in the Kremlin, Putin addressed Erdogan as “dear friend,” saying that their countries “work on issues of regional security and actively cooperate on Syria.”
Erdogan used the same term for Putin and said “our solidarity makes a weighty contribution to the security of the region.”
The two leaders are on opposite sides of the Syria conflict: Russia provides critical support to the Syrian government, while Turkey has backed rebel groups fighting President Bashar Assad’s forces.
Despite this, they have worked closely to find a political solution to the seven-year conflict.
Russia and Turkey have agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria following US President Donald Trump’s shock announcement last month about pulling 2,000 American troops out of Syria.
Putin said that if carried out, the withdrawal of US troops from northeastern Syria “will be a positive step, it will help stabilize the situation in this restive area.”
Turkey has also welcomed Washington’s planned withdrawal, but the future of US-backed Kurdish militia forces labelled terrorists by Ankara has upset ties between the NATO allies.
Erdogan had said on Monday he would discuss with Putin the creation of a Turkish-controlled “security zone” in northern Syria, suggested by Trump.
The US-allied Kurds, who control much of the north, have rejected the idea, fearing a Turkish offensive against territory under their control.
Putin said Wednesday that Russia supports “establishing dialogue between Damascus officials and representatives of the Kurds.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov last week said that Damascus must take control of the north.
The northwestern province of Idlib earlier this month fell under the full control of a jihadist group dominated by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The Russian foreign ministry said earlier Wednesday that the situation in the province remained of “serious concern.”
Putin said that the leaders discussed the situation in Idlib “in great detail today.”
“We have a shared conviction that we must continue jointly fighting terrorists wherever they are, including in the Idlib zone,” the Russian leader said.
Erdogan said that the countries will wage a “lengthy fight” in Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the planned US pullout has led to another key step in Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control.
Kurdish forces who were left exposed by Trump’s pledge to withdraw have asked the Syrian regime for help to face a threatened Turkish offensive.
The Kremlin hailed the entry by Syrian forces into the key northern city of Manbij for the first time in six years after Kurds opened the gates.
Moscow plans to organize a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran early this year as part of the Astana peace process, launched by the three countries in 2017.
Putin said Wednesday the next summit would be held “in the near future” in Russia, saying the leaders still needed to agree the time and location with Iran.
The last meeting between Putin, Erdogan and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani took place in Iran in September last year with the fate of rebel-held Idlib province dominating the agenda.
Ties between Russia and Turkey plunged to their lowest level in years in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian warplane over Syria.
But after a reconciliation deal in 2016, relations have recovered at a remarkable speed with Putin and Erdogan cooperating closely over Syria, Turkey buying Russian-made air defense systems and Russia building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant.