Turkey intensifies operation in Syria’s Idlib

Children wave Turkish national flags near soldiers during a demonstration on Tuesday in support of the Turkish army’s Idlib operation near the Turkey-Syria border near Reyhanli, Hatay. (AFP)
Updated 11 October 2017
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Turkey intensifies operation in Syria’s Idlib

ANKARA: There was fierce fighting on Tuesday between Turkish-backed units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) and Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) in Syria’s north-western province of Idlib.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his country’s military operations in jihadist-controlled Idlib aim to prevent a potential influx into Turkey.
Defense Minister Nurettin Canikli said Turkish soldiers would remain in Idlib until threats against Turkey are dealt with.
While Ankara had long supported rebels fighting the Syrian regime, it is now concentrating on securing Turkey’s southern border against possible terrorist infiltration, and on thwarting territorial gains by the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey and has waged a bloody war against the state for more than three decades.
On Sunday, a team from the Turkish Army entered Idlib to carry out reconnaissance activities and determine the location of surveillance posts before the creation of a “de-escalation zone,” the Turkish military said.
After Operation Euphrates Shield to clear the border of Daesh and roll back Syrian-Kurdish territorial gains, this is the second time the Turkish Army conducts an operation in Syria, this time with Russian air support.
Ankara is determined to prevent Syrian Kurds from creating a strategic corridor between the cantons of Kobani and Afrin.
In the framework of the Astana peace talks — brokered on Sept. 15 between Turkey, Russia and Iran to establish de-escalation zones — Ankara will create control points in Idlib for future deployments.
The presence of observers is expected to prevent violations of the cease-fire agreement, and to pacify internal conflicts between militant groups and civilians. HTS is spearheaded by a former Al-Qaeda affiliate, and is not party to the deal.
Turkish opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu on Tuesday announced a six-point summary of the stance of his Republican People’s Party on the Idlib operation, and emphasized the need to protect the lives of Turkish soldiers in Syria.
Mete Sohtaoglu, an expert on extremist movements, said Turkey’s efforts in Idlib are unlikely to go smoothly.
“There are various and competing armed groups in Idlib whose only common denominator is standing against the Assad regime,” he told Arab News.
“No armed resistance occurred during the entry of Turkish troops into Idlib, but these groups don’t want to see in Idlib any rebel faction that fought alongside Turkey in Euphrates Shield.”
Sohtaoglu said the establishment of the de-escalation zone in Idlib aims to provide safety for about 2 million civilians in the region.
“In contrast to Euphrates Shield, this cross-border deployment intends to persuade various armed groups to halt fighting and restore peace,” he added.
“The fate of Afrin, which is controlled by the YPG, will be determined by the joint efforts of Russia and Iran,” he said.
“Moscow is trying to create a pro-regime regiment to counterbalance the YPG presence there,” Sohtaoglu added.
“Turkey’s only contribution on this issue has been preventing Syrian Kurds from reaching the Mediterranean.”
Mehmet Seyfettin Erol, head of the Ankara-based think tank ANKASAM, said the Idlib operation reflects Turkey’s determination and common stance with neighboring countries to bring stability and peace to Syria
“The next step is Afrin. With these operations, Turkey intends to end the civil war in Syria, which requires the eradication of the Syrian branch of a potential Kurdish state,” Erol told Arab News.
“In that regard, the Idlib operation doesn’t only mean eliminating a terror corridor along Turkey’s southern border. It’s also a step to terminating a greater project to destabilize the region.”


Arab delegations arrive in Beirut for economic summit

Updated 8 min 8 sec ago
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Arab delegations arrive in Beirut for economic summit

  • Hariri expresses regret over Libya’s absence and confirms that fraternal relations remain stronger than ever
  • Lebanon has reportedly invested $10 million into the event even as it grapples with dire economic woes

BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri expressed deep regret for the absence of a Libyan delegation at an Arab Economic Summit taking place in Lebanon later this week.

Hariri was speaking at the Union of Arab Chambers (UAC) headquarters in Beirut on Wednesday.

“Good ties with brothers must prevail,” he said. “We are hoping for this summit to result in practical recommendations for promoting and raising living standards among all Arabs. What makes the summit on Sunday very important is that it will be the first to be held after the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.”

Libya boycotted the summit after it said members of the Amal militia had disrespected the Libyan flag.

Addressing representatives from several Arab countries, Hariri called for updating decades-old local laws and enabling citizens to travel freely between Arab countries.

He also shed light on the importance of women taking part in politics and national economic development, “as they are capable of mitigating political conflicts.”

Lebanon has reportedly invested $10 million into the event even as it grapples with dire economic woes. 

Among the talking points of this year’s summit was poverty.

“The summit is being held amid an atmosphere of change, shifting alliances, a worrying global economic scene and tough local economic conditions,” said Mohammed Choucair, president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture.

He called for “immunizing the Arab economy through implementing signed projects, facilitating trade and investment among Arab countries and encouraging creative initiatives.” Many, however, feel the country is not in any position to be funding nor hosting such an event.

“It has been eight months almost and still we have no government,” said Omar Itani, a small corner shop owner feeling the pinch as a result of the economic downturn plaguing the country.

“They spend all this money on hosting a summit, while our homes are getting flooded and roads being pulled apart by these storms. Wouldn’t it be better to use the money to help us citizens?”

Economy and Trade Minister Raed Khoury called on enhancing private sector participation and growth rates.

“The public sector must involve companies from the private sector, as well as banks and funds, in the financing process to help raise growth rates, which slowed considerably in the wake of the Syrian refugee influx,” he said.

Kamal Hassan Ali, assistant secretary-general at the Arab League, and Mohammed Abdo, UAC president, also spoke at the event.

Delegations of Arab ambassadors and delegates had begun arriving into the capital ahead of the weekend summit, including a Saudi delegation headed by Hussein Al-Shawish, economic adviser at the Finance Ministry, a Kuwaiti delegation and a Moroccan delegation, headed by the Moroccan Ambassador to Egypt Ahmed Al-Tazi, who said that Morocco would be represented by Foreign Minister Nasser Bourita.

Lebanon hosted two Arab League summits in 1956 and 2002. Economic and social development summits previously took place in Kuwait in 2009, Sharm El-Sheikh in 2011 and Riyadh in 2013. The 2015 summit, which was scheduled to take place in Tunis, was canceled amid security concerns.

Early in the third quarter of 2018, there were reports that Lebanon was teetering on the brink of economic collapse. Economists said the catalyst was the failure to form a government.

Lebanon’s Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said the country would launch an electronic platform to enhance share and goods trading, “thus promoting the market to attract liquidity from Lebanon and abroad.”

He said: “We will continue supporting the digital economy, for it is an important sector with a bright future and it highly benefits Lebanon. In 2018, our studies showed that the economic growth was between 1 and 1.5 percent, while in the region, it was at 2 percent. We would have been able to reach the 2-percent rate if the government had been formed on time.”