Turkey separating moderate rebels from radicals in Idlib: Report

A general view shows tents housing internally displaced people in Atma camp, near the Syrian-Turkish border in Idlib Governorate. Turkey on Saturday said it is separating moderate opposition groups from those listed by the international community as terrorist groups in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 03 December 2017

Turkey separating moderate rebels from radicals in Idlib: Report

ANKARA: In Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, Turkey is separating moderate opposition groups from those listed by the international community as terrorist groups, a Foreign Ministry official said, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported. 
As part of this policy, Ankara has separated some moderate groups from the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance, which is blacklisted by the UN, the official added. 
HTS’ main faction Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) holds significant territory in Idlib, is one of the most powerful terrorist groups in Syria, and was affiliated with Al-Qaeda before it changed its name. 
“When Russia started airstrikes in Syria two years ago to prop up the Assad regime, it came under heavy criticism from the West and Turkey, mainly because it targeted not only Daesh but also rebel groups fighting the regime,” Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst from Marmara University in Istanbul, told Arab News. 
“But as Moscow turned the strategic balance in the regime’s favor, its stance on the issue started to soften.” 
Just before it launched the Astana process with Iran and Turkey, Russia said groups such as Ahrar Al-Sham and Jaish Al-Islam, which it previously viewed as terrorist groups, could be included in the peace process as members of the moderate opposition, Ersen said. 
“One of the major goals of establishing a de-escalation zone in Idlib is to weaken the influence of HTS there,” he added.
“Turkey plays a key role in this regard as it has close relations with most of the rebel groups in Idlib,” Ersen said.  
“Russia believes Turkey can be influential in convincing some of the groups affiliated with HTS to distance themselves from this group and start supporting the Astana process,” he said.
“The Turkish observer mission in Idlib not only monitors the cease-fire there, but also plays a crucial diplomatic role in realizing this objective.”
Mete Sohtaoglu, an Istanbul-based researcher on Middle East politics, told Arab News: “Groups that would contribute to a political settlement are prioritized, with particular emphasis on those that aren’t in conflict with the Assad regime.” 


Syria Kurds hand over four Daesh-linked children to Germany

Updated 24 min 54 sec ago

Syria Kurds hand over four Daesh-linked children to Germany

  • They included a boy and two sisters who had lost both parents, and a fatherless girl infant
  • A spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry confirmed the handover to staff from its consulate

SIMALKA CROSSING: The Kurdish authorities in northeast Syria on Monday handed over four children linked with the Daesh group to Germany, their first such repatriation to the European country, an official said.
“The autonomous region handed over four children from Daesh families to a delegation from Germany,” said Fanar Kaeet, a foreign affairs official with the Kurdish authorities.
They included a boy and two sisters who had lost both parents, and a fatherless girl infant who was repatriated for health reasons, Kurdish authorities said.
All are under 10 years old, they said.
A spokeswoman for the German foreign ministry confirmed the handover to staff from its consulate in neighboring Iraqi Kurdistan at the Simalka border crossing.
“I can confirm that four children who were in custody in northern Syria were able to leave Syria,” she said.
“The children were received on the Iraqi-Syrian border by staff of the consulate in Irbil and will be given to family members,” the spokeswoman said.
“From there, the children and their family members will, we believe, travel to Germany.”
Syria’s Kurds have spearheaded the US-backed fight against Daesh in Syria, and in March expelled the extremists from their last patch of territory in the war-torn country’s far east.
Even as they fight remaining sleeper cells, thousands of alleged Daesh fighters and family members are being held in their custody.
These include hundreds of suspected foreign fighters in their jails, and thousands of their alleged family members in overcrowded camps.
Western countries have been largely reluctant to repatriate their nationals.
But France and Belgium have brought a handful of orphans home, while the United States last year repatriated a woman with her four children.
Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kosovo have repatriated dozens of women and children.
Daesh overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014, proclaiming a “caliphate” there, but offensives in both countries have seen them lose that territory.
A dozen children of alleged jihadist fighters have been repatriated from Iraq to Germany since March.