Riyadh to host Syrian opposition conference this month

A Syrian man carries a child following a reported airstrike on the rebel-held town of Atareb in Syria's northern Aleppo province. Riyadh is to host a conference of Syrian opposition leaders on Nov.22 to 24. (AFP)
Updated 14 November 2017
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Riyadh to host Syrian opposition conference this month

RIYADH: The Saudi capital will host a conference of Syrian opposition leaders from Nov. 22 to 24, in an attempt to unify their ranks ahead of resuming direct negotiations in Geneva under the supervision of the UN, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Tuesday.
The Syrian opposition reportedly requested that this crucial meeting be held in Riyadh, having held a similar meeting there in August.
“Saudia Arabia is concerned about the ground situation, peace and stability in Syria. It is hosting more than 1 million Syrians, since 2011, and as it is supporting the moderate Syrian opposition groups, the meeting that will be held in Riyadh will help these groups to unite and come out, hopefully, with a good agenda for the next crucial meeting under UN supervision that should decide the future of their country,” said Mohamed Alkhunaizi, a senior member of the Kingdom’s Shoura Council, on Tuesday.
“I hope they will fulfill their purpose, thus making way for peace and stability in Syria,” he told Arab News.
The Saudi-backed High Negotiation Committee (HNC), which has represented the Syrian opposition at the Geneva talks previously, met representatives from Egypt and Russia to discuss key issues for a solution to the Syrian conflict under UN Security Council Resolution 2254, which laid out a road map for the peace process in Syria, while setting a timetable for talks between government and opposition members.
It further sought an inclusive and Syrian-led political process that meets the aspirations of the Syrian people as the only sustainable solution to the ongoing crisis.
Saudi Arabia supports an international agreement on the future of Syria while maintaining that Syrian President Bashar Assad should step down and play no role in any future government. Assad’s regime has the support of both Russia and Iran.
In early September, UN Special Envoy for Syria Staffan de Mistura told the Security Council: “The time has come for the focus to return to Geneva, and the intra-Syrian talks under the auspices of the United Nations.” He urged the government and the opposition to assess the situation pragmatically, to recognize their responsibility to the Syrian people, and to participate in the talks without preconditions.
The UN envoy said the Syrian government should show a genuine interest in negotiations for a credible, inclusive form of local and central governance, a schedule and process for a new constitution, and UN-supervised elections.
For its part, he continued, the opposition needed to display unity and a willingness to speak with one voice. He urged opposition groups to seize the opportunity presented by the Riyadh conference.
Intra-Syrian talks are focused on four main areas: A credible non-sectarian transitional government, a future constitution, early and free parliamentary elections and a united war against terrorism within Syria.


Trump: Turkey making ‘terrible mistake’

Turkish government officials did not comment on Trump’s remarks when they spoke after prayers to mark the start of the festival. (AFP)
Updated 22 August 2018
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Trump: Turkey making ‘terrible mistake’

  • Turkey has demanded that the US hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup attempt
  • A Turkish court last week rejected Brunson’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from Trump

ISTANBUL: The lira weakened against the dollar on Tuesday after US President Donald Trump said he would give Turkey no concessions in return for the release of a detained American pastor, the latest salvo in a worsening rift between the NATO allies.
In an interview with Reuters on Monday, Trump criticized Ankara over the detention of the evangelical Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, and said he was not concerned that his tough stance against Turkey could end up hurting European and emerging market economies.
Brunson, who is originally from North Carolina and has lived in Turkey for two decades, has been detained for 21 months on terrorism charges, which he denies. The pastor has become an unwitting flashpoint for the diplomatic tension, which has accelerated the crisis in the lira.
Trump said that, after he helped persuade Israel to free a detained Turkish citizen, he thought Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan would then release Brunson.
“I think they’re making a terrible mistake. There will be no concessions,” Trump said.
The lira weakened to 6.0925 against the US currency by 1111 GMT, from a close of 6.0865 on Monday, when Turkish markets began a holiday to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Adha festival that continues for the rest of this week.
Trade was thinner than usual and probably mainly offshore, with local markets closed for the holiday. The currency has lost 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year. However, selling on Tuesday was limited due to a broadly weaker dollar.
Turkish government officials did not comment on Trump’s remarks when they spoke after prayers to mark the start of the festival.
Devlet Bahceli, leader of a nationalist party allied with Erdogan’s AK Party, told reporters: “We have no business with those who love Brunson more than us.”

Prayers and gifts
Erdogan, who had been expected to speak to reporters after morning prayers, made no public statement.
He has repeatedly cast the currency crisis as an attack on Turkey but has stopped short of singling out any one country.
He prayed on Tuesday morning at a mosque near the tourist resort of Marmaris on the south coast and then handed out gifts to local children, the Milliyet newspaper reported.
He also spoke by phone to soldiers stationed near the border with Iraq, sending them greetings for Eid Al-Adha.
“I believe that as long as you stand tall our flag will not fall, our call to prayer will not fall silent and this homeland of ours will not be divided,” the Hurriyet newspaper reported him as saying.
On Monday, he appealed to Turks’ religious and patriotic feelings ahead of the holiday, promising they would not be brought “to their knees” by the economic crisis.
Turkey has demanded that the US hand over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in the US and who Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup attempt, but Washington has balked at this.
A Turkish court last week rejected Brunson’s appeal for release, drawing a stiff rebuke from Trump. The US president — who counts evangelical Christians among his core supporters — has said he would double previously announced tariffs on Turkish steel and aluminum imports.
On Monday Turkey initiated a dispute complaint with the World Trade Organization over the tariffs.
Separately, ratings agency Fitch said on Tuesday that tight liquidity amplified risks for Turkish companies.
Another ratings agency, DBRS, said European banks with Turkey exposure face a manageable capital impact.
Underlining the increased diplomatic tensions between Turkey and the US, the US Embassy in Ankara came under gunfire on Monday. Nobody was injured and Turkish authorities later detained two men over the incident.