Turkey accelerates Idlib military deployment

Turkish soldiers stand near armored vehicles during a demonstration in support of the Turkish Army’s Idlib operation near Reyhanli, Hatay, on the Turkey-Syria border. (AFP)
Updated 12 October 2017
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Turkey accelerates Idlib military deployment

ANKARA: Turkey is accelerating its military buildup around Idlib with the deployment of more units and drones to determine surveillance points in the Syrian province.
The deployment is part of the de-escalation deal brokered in Astana last month between Ankara, Tehran and Moscow.
On Wednesday, armored personnel carriers and other military vehicles were transferred to border units to increase preparedness, while additional reconnaissance teams entered Syria.
Idlib is mainly controlled by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), which rejects the Astana process. Turkey’s operation is mainly aimed at clearing out HTS and implementing a de-escalation zone in the province.
Another Turkish priority is to contain territorial contiguity between the Syrian regions of Afrin and Kobane, which are controlled by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist organization with links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging an insurgency against the Turkish state for more than three decades.
Turkish media report that the army will determine 14 locations in Idlib to establish surveillance points to deploy Turkish soldiers.
Experts are conducting feasibility studies, with unmanned drones flying over the area. Spots where the Turkish military may be vulnerable to attack will also be determined.
Reconnaissance teams are working closely with local forces, and Turkish military units will be stationed on Syrian soil once the feasibility studies are complete, the Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.
Following Operation Euphrates Shield, this is the second time in a year that Turkey’s military has crossed into northern Syria.
“Idlib is important for several reasons,” Oytun Orhan, a researcher on Syria at the Ankara-based think tank Orsam, told Arab News.
“By solving or at least freezing the problem in Idlib, Turkey will avoid the risk of a refugee influx. By deploying the Turkish military on the borders of the de-escalation zone in Idlib, Turkey will prevent a possible YPG advance from Afrin. Also, Ankara will prepare suitable conditions for a future attack on Afrin.”
Given that Turkey’s Idlib operation is in coordination with Russia and Iran, Orhan said it has indirect consent from the Syrian regime.
“So there will be no negative reaction to Turkey’s move. The long-term plan is to divide the radicals from the moderates, then find a political solution to the Syrian conflict. Then Turkey will probably leave Idlib in the context of a political solution.”
Cengiz Tomar, professor of international relations at Marmara University, told Arab News: “The Turkish Army will bear a kind of peacekeeping mission in the region.”
But he does not expect an operation in Afrin anytime soon. “Afrin is under US protection, while Russia still maintains contact with the YPG in the region,” Tomar said.
“HTS has about 10,000 fighters in Idlib. There might be an understanding between it and Turkish forces to pull back to another region because HTS isn’t likely to prefer clashing with them.”


Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

On his first official visit to Israel and Palestine, Prince William is unlikely to talk about politics. Getty Images
Updated 23 June 2018
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Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

  • The second-in-line to the British throne is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade

LONDON: Prince William will embark on the first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British royal family on Sunday.

But even with more than 120 Palestinians killed in protests in Gaza during recent weeks and controversy still surrounding the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the second-in-line to the throne is not expected to talk politics.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Arab News that the four-day tour is likely to focus on making trade deals in preparation for Britain’s departure from the EU next year, rather than on addressing the moribund Middle East peace process.
“There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.
The visit risks “normalizing” the abusive regime under which Palestinians live, he added.
“Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza,” Doyle said.
William begins his Middle Eastern tour on Sunday in Jordan, a long-time ally of Britain. On Tuesday he will move on to Jerusalem, where he will visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.
On Wednesday he will meet young activists, both Arab and Jewish, who are involved in education and social programs, and also cross into the Occupied Palestinian Territories to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before attending an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.
He is due to deliver a speech at a reception hosted by the American consul in Jerusalem. However, protocol prevents him from making any remarks that might be deemed partisan. Doyle told Arab News this was a pity in view of how William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, championed justice for the oppressed.
“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.
“Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”
William was a surprise choice for the visit. Many expected the task to fall to his father, Prince Charles, who has more experience of countries which are politically extremely sensitive. But it is thought he was chosen because his youth chimes better with young Israelis working in hi-tech fields who he is scheduled to meet. Among Palestinians, his presence will barely register, said Doyle.
“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.