French groups protest Qatar’s bid for top UNESCO post

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Demonstrators protest against Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, Qatar's candidate for UNESCO chair outside the UN agency's headquarters in Paris on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (Social media photo)
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Demonstrators protest against Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari, Qatar's candidate for UNESCO chair outside the UN agency's headquarters in Paris on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (Social media photo)
Updated 12 October 2017
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French groups protest Qatar’s bid for top UNESCO post

PARIS: A number of religious associations and peace-loving bodies in France have gathered in front of the UNESCO office to protest Qatar's nomination to run for the UN agency, hours before near the final round on Wednesday evening.
After the third round voting, Qatar's candidate, former Culture Minister Hamad Bin Abdulaziz Al-Kawari, was tied with France's candidate Audrey Azoulay at 18 votes each.
Thirty votes are needed to clinch the nomination to head the Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The winner will replace outgoing UNESCO director-general Irina Bokova.
The body’s 58 board members have been gathered in the French capital since Friday selecting a candidate.
Outside the UNESCO headquarters, the protesters urged the UN agency not to accept Qatar to head the organization, accusing Doha of sponsoring global terrorism.
They stressed that Qatar was doing its best to buy votes.


Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

Updated 23 September 2018
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Turkey, Russia discussing Idlib airspace control: Sources

  • Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces
  • After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Putin and Erdogan, agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15

ANKARA: The partial transfer of control of the airspace over the de-escalation zone in Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib from Moscow to Ankara is being discussed by the two sides, Russian sources said. 

The aim is to enable Turkey to conduct an aerial campaign against Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which Ankara recently designated a terrorist organization. 

A former Al-Qaeda affiliate, HTS is the strongest armed group in Idlib, the last stronghold of Syrian anti-government rebels. 

In February, HTS claimed responsibility for the downing of a Russian warplane in Idlib using a surface-to-air missile.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are monitoring the de-escalation zone in the province as part of a trilateral agreement. 

Turkey has set up observation posts in Idlib in a bid to prevent clashes between rebels and government forces.

“Discussions are ongoing about the details of this transfer (of airspace control). I guess it will be limited to the buffer zone in Idlib for now,” Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, told Arab News.

“If Russia is taking steps to allow Turkey to use Idlib’s airspace, it will give Turkey more room for maneuver in the region.”

But airstrikes by Ankara against HTS might create another refugee influx into Turkey, which already hosts more than 3 million Syrian refugees, Barmin said. 

Idlib is home to more than 1 million displaced Syrians, and its population exceeds 3 million. Turkey is concerned that the creation of a humanitarian crisis near its border would further swell its own refugee population. 

After a meeting on Sept. 17 between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the two countries agreed to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib by Oct. 15.

The deal requires that all radical groups, including HTS, withdraw from the area and that all heavy weapons be removed.

Russian and Turkish troops will conduct coordinated patrols to ensure that all armed groups respect the deal.

Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst at Marmara University in Istanbul, said a transfer of airspace control would mean that Ankara and Moscow are determined to implement their latest agreement regarding Idlib. 

“Until now, Idlib’s airspace has been fully controlled by Russia, which weakened Turkey’s hand in trying to convince rebel groups in the region to abandon their arms,” he told Arab News.

Transferring airspace control “would give Ankara additional diplomatic leverage in its dealings with HTS,” he said. 

“If Ankara fails to persuade HTS to comply with the Putin-Erdogan deal regarding Idlib, it’s almost certain that Russia and Syrian government forces will start a military operation in the region.”

So Turkey is sending a message to HTS that if carrots do not work, it has some sticks at its disposal, Ersen said.