Donald Trump urges Turkey to limit military actions in Syria

US President Donald Trump urged Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to curtail a military operation against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria. (AP)
Updated 24 January 2018
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Donald Trump urges Turkey to limit military actions in Syria

WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump urged Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday to curtail a military operation against a Kurdish militia in northern Syria and avoid actions that risk conflict with American forces in the region, the White House said.
The two leaders spoke on the day Erdogan announced that Turkey would extend its military operation to the Syrian town of Manbij, a move that could bring Turkish forces into possible confrontation with those of their NATO ally the United States.
“President Trump relayed concerns that escalating violence in Afrin, Syria, risks undercutting our shared goals in Syria,” the White House said in a statement.
Those goals include defeating Islamic State and bringing more than 100,000 Syrian refugees back to their home country, Trump told Erdogan.
“He urged Turkey to deescalate, limit its military actions, and avoid civilian casualties and increases to displaced persons and refugees,” it said. “He urged Turkey to exercise caution and to avoid any actions that might risk conflict between Turkish and American forces.”
Erdogan told Trump in the call that the United States must halt weapons support to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, Erdogan’s office said.
Turkey’s air and ground “Operation Olive Branch” in the Afrin region of northern Syria is now in its fifth day, targeting YPG fighters and opening a new front in Syria’s multi-sided civil war.
The operation intended to “purge terrorist elements” from Afrin for Turkey’s national security and was conducted on the basis of international law, the Turkish president’s office said in a statement.
The United States has around 2,000 special forces troops in Syria who were deployed in March.
The Turkish incursion could threaten US plans to rebuild a large area of northeast Syria beyond President Bashar Assad’s control.
Turkey sees the YPG — the most powerful faction within the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces rebel group — as an extension of a Kurdish group that has waged a decades-long insurgency in southeastern Turkey. Ankara says it will not allow the Kurdish fighters to control a strip of Syrian territory on its southern border.
“President Trump also expressed concern about destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey, and about United States citizens and local employees detained under the prolonged State of Emergency in Turkey,” the White House said.
The United States has expressed concern over the detention of locals employed at diplomatic missions in Turkey and the fate of US citizens, including a Christian missionary, detained since a failed coup in July 2016.


Lebanese seek to save landmark concrete park from crumbling

Updated 3 min 7 sec ago
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Lebanese seek to save landmark concrete park from crumbling

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Close to the seafront in Lebanon’s Tripoli, giant curves of concrete stand testimony to dreams before the civil war, etchings of an exhibition park never finished but already cracking.
This month, a rare exhibition is being held at the site designed by legendary Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in a desperate call to save it from ruin.
Inside the vast grey grounds of the Tripoli International Fair in northern Lebanon, a palm tree throws its dark silhouette onto a giant concrete dome.
A thin arch sweeps high over a narrow footbridge, and a steep staircase spirals up vertically, onto a circular cement platform perched on a curvaceous pillar.
“It’s a futurist paradigm that is unique in Lebanon and the region,” said Lebanese architect Wassim Naghi.
“In its modernity, in its reliance on curves, it sums up the progress of architecture over a hundred years,” he said.
And with buildings dotted over an area the size of 70 rugby pitches, it’s among “Niemeyer’s largest works outside Brazil,” he said.
The Brazilian architect designed landmarks around the globe during a decades-long career that started in the 1930s and ended in the 21st century.
When he died six years ago aged 104, he left behind hundreds of buildings, in Brazil as well as in the United States, France, Malaysia, Algeria and Cuba.


But today his work in Lebanon is in urgent need of restoration.
“These buildings of reinforced concrete need to be restored rapidly. There are buildings being eaten away at, blocks falling down, and many cracks,” Naghi warned.
“We fear there will be unpleasant surprises, especially during the rainy season,” he said.
Until October 23, a show titled “Cycles of Collapsing Progress” seeks to celebrate the era that gave rise to the fairground, but also sound the alarm.
In the halls under the perched platform, visitors can admire a seabed of snaking rebar, or even an elongated white space rocket hanging from the cieling.
The show “documents a golden age in Lebanon’s modern history — the architectural, scientific and cultural dreams of the time,” said curator Karina Al-Helu.
During the 1960s, the tiny Mediterranean country had its own space program, successfully launching a small unmanned rocket into space.
When Niemeyer was first asked to design the outdoor space in 1962, there were plans for the rooms under the circular platform to house a space museum.
But dreams of outer-space exploration, and any museum to commemorate it, were indefinitely put on hold with the outbreak of the 1975-1990 civil war.
The exhibition aims to remind Lebanese visitors of this chapter of the country’s recent past, Helu said, but also shine a light on a landmark about to collapse.


In a country whose history goes back millennia to the Phoenician period, she urged the authorities to give equal attention to modern architecture.
“It’s great to restore buildings that show Lebanon’s ancient history, but we should also care about the landmarks of this country’s modern history,” she said.
Architect Naghi said he was not optimistic about any immediate intervention by the government.
“The current atmosphere of crisis in the country doesn’t bode well,” he said, referring to a months-long deadlock over forming a cabinet.
Any renovation should involve in-depth studies and specialized companies, he said, “and that would require a lot of money, as well as a government decision.”
Instead, Naghi and others hope that the site can be added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Brazil’s capital Brasilia and an outdoor center in the south of the country, both of which were designed by Niemeyer, are already featured on it.
Sahar Baassiri, Lebanon’s delegate to UNESCO, said efforts were now being made toward adding the concrete park to the list’s contemporary architecture section.
Akram Oueida, president of the fairground, said Lebanese officials have made promises of assistance, but none have yet materialized.
Getting the concrete park listed by UNESCO may help, Oueida said: “That could open the door to funding from donors.”