Syrian Kurdish official praises US decision to provide arms

Members of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). (AFP)
Updated 10 May 2017
0

Syrian Kurdish official praises US decision to provide arms

BEIRUT: A top Syrian Kurdish official on Wednesday welcomed the US decision to arm Kurdish fighters with heavier weapons, saying it would “legitimize” the force as it prepares to march on Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Daesh group.
But Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Nurettin Canikli said the decision, announced by the Trump administration Tuesday, was “unacceptable.”
The US said it would provide heavier arms to the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, which have driven Daesh from much of northern Syria with the help of US-led airstrikes, and are among the most effective ground forces battling the extremists.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said he was confident the US would be able to resolve tensions with Turkey over the matter, saying: "We’ll work out any of the concerns."
Ankara says the Kurdish militia known as the YPG, which forms the backbone of the force, is an extension of the Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or PKK, which has been waging a decades-old insurgency in Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by Turkey, the US and other Western countries.
“The Trump administration providing arms to a terrorist organization — either directly or indirectly through the YPG — does not change the fact that this amounts to support to a terror organization.” Canikli told Turkey’s A Haber television.
Ilham Ahmed, a top official in the Syrian Democratic Forces’ political office, said the decision to provide heavier arms carries “political meaning” and “legitimizes the YPG and the Syrian Democratic Forces.”
She said the decision is likely to be met with “aggression” from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is to visit Washington next week.
The SDF’s rapid advance against Daesh last year prompted Turkey to send ground forces across the border for the first time in the more than six-year-old civil war to help allied Syrian forces battle Daesh and halt the Kurds’ progress.
Since then, Turkey is believed to have positioned more than 5,000 troops in northern Syria, and has escalated its airstrikes and cross-border artillery attacks against Kurdish forces.
A Turkish air raid in late April killed 20 YPG fighters and media officials, prompting the US to deploy armored vehicles along the border in a show of support for the group.
Canikli expressed hope that Washington would reverse its decision, saying “there is no truth to the claim that the fight against Daesh can only be successful with the YPG.” Daesh is the Arabic acronym for Daesh.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
0

Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.