Erdogan: US move ‘plays into hands’ of terrorists

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, shakes hands with Jordan's King Abdullah II after a joint press conference at the presidential complex in Ankara on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 07 December 2017
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Erdogan: US move ‘plays into hands’ of terrorists

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday strongly warned the US against recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, saying the move would help terror groups.
“Such a step will only play into the hands of terror groups,” Erdogan said at a joint news conference in Ankara after talks with Jordan’s King Abdallah.
“This mistaken step... will lead to public outrage in the entire Islamic world, dynamite the ground for peace and ignite new tensions and clashes in our region,” he said.
King Abdallah, who had been personally informed by Trump of the move by telephone, backed Erdogan’s warnings and said East Jerusalem must be the capital of a future Palestinian state. “There is no alternative to a two-state solution,” Abdallah said, speaking in English.
He cautioned that “Jerusalem is key to any peace agreement (between Israel and the Palestinians) and is key to the stability of the entire region”.
Abdallah said he had told Trump of “our concerns” over the decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem during their telephone call.
He added that it was “imperative now to work fast” to reach a final status solution and a peace agreement between Palestinians and Israelis.
“This must allow the Palestinians to establish an independent state side by side with Israel and its capital in East Jerusalem.”
He also warned that ignoring Muslim rights in Jerusalem “will only fuel further extremism and undermine the war against terrorism.”
The two countries, which are celebrating their 70 years of diplomatic relations, focused on regional developments with a special emphasis on the de-escalation zones in Syria.
Sharing borders with Syria and Iraq, Ankara and Amman accord high importance to the ongoing developments in Syria as they host millions of Syrian refugees, while Jordan supports Turkey’s mediation initiatives in Syria for a cease-fire and peace settlement for the seven-year civil war.
Last month, Jordan, Russia and US agreed on setting up a temporary de-escalation zone in southern Syria, while Turkey, along with Russia and Iran, implemented a de-escalation zone in the northern part of the war-torn country since October.
“It is very important to have one more regional power on board for solving the Syrian conflict because there is a substantial lack of common position in Syria,” Nursin Atesoglu Guney, dean of the faculty of economics, administrative and social sciences at Bahcesehir Cyprus University, told Arab News.
Guney thinks that the Jerusalem decision, over which regional countries showed an outcry of opposition, will be a wake-up call to the Muslim world about the need for unity on regional issues.
“The problem here is not only the violation of the international law, but it will also push the world towards a new chaos that may start by a revenge campaign in Gaza,” she said.
“Considering the significant Palestinian community in Jordan, King Abdallah cannot keep himself away from the sensitivity of such a looming crisis,” Guney added.
According to Guney, taking initiatives on sensitive regional issues such as Palestinian conflict, Jerusalem issue and de-escalation zones in Syria, both countries aim for being real power brokers in the region and they intend to raise awareness of the international community about some acute challenges from a humanitarian perspective.
“In this way, they show that the US is not the only actor in the region, but they are many counterweight forces that balance it,” she added.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will convene for an extraordinary meeting in Istanbul on Dec. 13 to present a joint response to the US’ decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.


Displaced huddle in a basement as winter grips Syria

Updated 16 December 2018
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Displaced huddle in a basement as winter grips Syria

  • Some 40 families have found their way to Al-Bab after fleeing from their homes, a rebel-controlled area near the border with Turkey
  • Their food and other basic needs are provided for by local charities

AL-BAB, Syria: After washing up her family’s dishes over a plastic basin, 11-year-old Cedra sits on the floor of the dank basement in Syria to tackle her day’s studies.
A dark staircase leads from a street in the town of Al-Bab to the gloomy space the young girl, her blind father and some 40 other families have the misfortune of calling home.
“There’s a single room which we use as a kitchen, a bathroom and a bedroom,” said Cedra.
She scribbled in her notepad, while crouched against a wall of bare cinder blocks and under a line of laundry trying to dry in the humid cellar.
The residents of this underground camp were displaced by the Syrian war, sometimes several times, mostly from the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
Cedra’s family fled the city of Deir Ezzor in 2012, in the early stages of Syria’s conflict.
They took refuge in Raqqa, further west, but the city soon became the Syrian capital of the Daesh group’s self-proclaimed “caliphate.”
The subsequent bombardment of Raqqa, which was almost completely levelled, killed her mother and brother.
The girl and her father fled once more and eventually found their way to Al-Bab, a rebel-controlled area near the border with Turkey.
Cedra does not go school because she needs to help her blind father, but one of the other adults living in the basement has organized classes for her and a few other children.
The war has set her back years in her education.
“I’m learning how to write the letters, it’s only been a few days,” said the girl, wearing a thick, red sweatshirt and a black headscarf.
Each morning, Cedra makes the bed, tidies the room, makes tea and prepares breakfast before studying.
Then it’s time to prepare lunch, after which she plays with the other children before getting to work on dinner.
Blankets are piled up near a flimsy foam mattress in one corner of the small room. A handful of cooking utensils and a plastic broom are tucked away nearby.
“Life in this basement is not easy,” said her father, Mohammed Ali Al-Hassan, who hopes to return to Deir Ezzor.
“There is nothing to do here and no money,” said the greying father, who used to sustain his family by selling fruit and vegetable from a street cart.
A resident of Al-Bab made his basement available to the displaced in mid-2017. The space is now divided in 42 tiny “studios,” one for each family.
Their food and other basic needs are provided for by local charities.
“The initial idea was to have a temporary shelter for people while they look for a housing solution,” said Abu Abdel Rahman, who was also displaced from Deir Ezzor and acts as a kind of supervisor.
The place soon filled up and few of the families ever moved out for lack of affordable options.
“The smallest possible accommodation involves a rent of 100 dollars. Those you see here are those who can’t pay that amount.
“Here, everyone is experiencing a disastrous situation,” said the 59-year-old, who used to work in a textile factory.
Kneeling in front of a white board, a woolly hat pulled tightly down on his head, Abu Omar forms the letters of the Arabic alphabet, which his pupils recite in unison.
He lost a hand and the bones in his left leg were smashed to pieces after an air strike hit his home in Deir Ezzor.
Abu Omar’s disabilities left him unable to work but he teaches 13 of the basement’s children.
He said that number has dropped steadily.
“Many of them just have to go out and work. Because of their social condition, many families have to interrupt their children’s education,” he explained.
Umm Ghassak’s childhood came to an abrupt end when the war erupted and now, at 23, she is already a widow.
Her husband died of injuries sustained two years ago during bombardment on Albu Kamal, a former IS stronghold on the border with Iraq.
“We didn’t have enough money to treat him,” she said.
The young woman and her four-year-old daughter are totally reliant on the assistance they receive. “If nobody helps us, we just don’t eat.”