Erdogan: Assad is ‘a terrorist’

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. Erdogan is railing against the United Arab Emirates' Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan who re-tweeted a post that accused the Turkish leader's Ottoman "forefathers" of mistreating Arabs and stealing manuscripts from the holy city of Medina.(AP)
Updated 28 December 2017

Erdogan: Assad is ‘a terrorist’

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled Syrian President Bashar Assad “a terrorist” in a news conference in Tunis on Wednesday. He was speaking alongside his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi.
“Assad is definitely a terrorist who has carried out state terrorism,” Erdogan said. “It is impossible to continue with Assad. How can we embrace the future with a Syrian president who has killed close to a million of his citizens?”
Erdogan also said that peace would not come to Syria while Assad remained its president and that the Syrian regime should play no part in designing the country’s political future.
Mete Sohtaoglu, an Istanbul-based researcher of Middle East politics, thinks that Erdogan’s statement is a message for Moscow and Tehran, encouraging them to clarify the schedule for Assad’s removal.
“The key question is: What can Turkey achieve through talking to Assad that it cannot achieve through talking to Iran and Russia?” Sohtaoglu told Arab News. “Talking to Assad would not be a solution to any of Turkey’s problems. It would, instead, lead to Turkey losing all of its trump cards in Syria.
“Establishing a dialogue with Damascus will cause the US to perceive Ankara as part of the Russia-Iran-Syria axis,” he continued. “Then the US and all anti-Assad actors would increase their political support for the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a consequence.”
According to Sohtaoglu, no party will be able to instigate a plan in the region or determine a political direction without the support of Turkey.
“At the end of the day, Russia and Iran will have to give up their support of Assad,” he said.  
Dozens of Syrian opposition parties have refused to take part in the Russian-sponsored Sochi peace talks slated for next month because they believe Moscow has failed to put sufficient pressure on Assad. 
Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst from Marmara University in Istanbul, said the problem of Assad’s political future has always topped the list of Turkey’s disagreements with Russia and Iran.
“President Erdogan’s latest statement proves once again that Turkey’s position on this issue has not changed substantially despite its strategic rapprochement with Moscow and Tehran through the Astana process,” Ersen told Arab News.
Yet, according to Ersen, Turkey currently faces more pressing issues in Syria, including the presence of Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed affiliate the People’s Protection Units (YPG), along with a possible Turkish military operation in Syria’s Afrin district, which is currently under the control of Syrian Kurdish militia.
Ersen believes that Turkey might want to exploit the growing rift between the Assad regime and the PYD/YPG in order to advance its own interests in Syria, as Assad has recently been critical of the PYD/YPG forces, even calling them “traitors” in one of his latest interviews.
Even if that happens, however, Turkey still needs the backing of Russia and Iran for any action it takes against the PYD/YPG.
“Ankara needs the support of Russia and Iran in order to take steps to solve these problems,” Ersen noted. “Therefore, at this stage, the issue of Assad will probably be secondary in Ankara’s negotiations with Moscow and Tehran.”

Assad backs down over law to seize refugee homes

Updated 18 October 2018

Assad backs down over law to seize refugee homes

  • ‘Law 10’ withdrawn, UN humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland says
  • The law was a major impediment to the return of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who fled their homes

BEIRUT: The Assad regime has withdrawn a law that allowed authorities to seize property left behind by civilians who fled the war in Syria, the UN humanitarian aid chief in the country said on Thursday.

Under Law 10, Syrians had 30 days to prove that they own property in redevelopment zones in order to receive shares in the projects, otherwise ownership was transferred to the local government.

The law was a major impediment to the return of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who fled their homes. Regime officials have insisted the law would not result in the confiscation of property, but was aimed at proving and organizing ownership to combat forgery of documents in opposition-held areas.

Jan Egeland, who heads aid issues in the office of UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, said he had been told of the decision to withdraw the law by Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s key military ally.

“When Russia says that it is withdrawn and there were mistakes made ... it is good news,” Egeland said. “Hopefully this will now be reality on the ground. So diplomacy can win — even in Syria.”

Syrian politician Mohammed Kheir Akkam said the law had issued by presidential decree and he knew of no decree to abolish it. “These claims are not true so far,” he said.

Nevertheless, Syrian refugees across the border in Lebanon welcomed reports that the law had been withdrawn. “We have not heard the news yet, but this is an excellent move,” Abu Mohammed, who is from Al-Qusayr and is the former head the water department in Homs, told Arab News. 

“This move reflects the goodwill of the Syrian regime toward its displaced people abroad. Their discourse is no longer an escalation against us, but an attempt to re-establish trust between Syrian citizens and the Syrian regime.”

Khalid Melhem, from Qalamoun, said the withdrawal of the law was “a gesture of goodwill, on which trust can be built.”

Melhem, an interior designer in Syria, now lives in a tent in Arsal and works as a house painter.  “I own a 300-square-meter house in Damascus, but the authorities demolished it and acquired the land. I could not return to Syria to prove my ownership of the house because they want to lure me into the country and arrest me.”

The regime acquired the property, 600 meters from the barracks of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, in 2017. “They demolished all damaged houses surrounding the barracks and prevented anyone from approaching the property except for a few Alawites, who were allowed to rebuild and reclaim their homes,” Melhem said.