Ankara has right to defend itself, says NATO chief

NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg speaks during a news conference at the Ministry of Defence in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday. (REUTERS)
Updated 26 January 2018
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Ankara has right to defend itself, says NATO chief

BRUSSELS: NATO Secretary- General Jens Stoltenberg said that member state Turkey had a right to act in self-defense as Ankara presses a military operation against Kurdish-held positions in northern Syria.
“All nations have the right to defend themselves, but this has to be done in a proportionate and measured way,” Stoltenberg said in a statement issued by his office.
Turkey launched an offensive against the Kurdish YPG (people’s protection units) militia on Saturday in their enclave of Afrin, supporting Syrian opposition with airstrikes and ground troops.
The assault has raised fears among NATO member states that the fight against extremists in Syria might be impacted by Turkey’s push.
“Turkey has also briefed allies at NATO this week on their operation in northern Syria,” Stoltenberg said.
“Turkey is one of the NATO nations that suffers the most from terrorism.”
The NATO chief added that the alliance was providing air defense support for Turkey “against missiles fired from Syria” but stressed it had no forces on the ground in the nation.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday threatened to expand the offensive and vowed to “clean up” the Syrian city of Manbij.
Erdogan vowed in a speech in Ankara that Turkey would “continue our fight until there is no terrorist on our border.”
He said the operation would last until “we reach our goals,” adding: “Afterwards we will, as promised, clean up Manbij of terrorists.”
But Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Friday insisted Turkey was not intending to occupy Afrin and would return the region to its “real” owners.
According to Anthony Skinner, director of MENA at global risk consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, “direct military conflict” between Turkish and US forces is possible because of Erdogan’s threats to expand the campaign to Manbij.
“Turkish-US relations are teetering on the brink of a precipice,” Skinner added.
The EU has also expressed concern over the Turkish intervention in Syria, which is further complicating the war that has claimed more than 340,000 lives since 2011.


Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

Destroyed buildings following an explosion on Aug. 12 at an arms depot in a residential area in Syria’s Idlib province city of Sarmada. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Jordan weighs up Russian offer for voluntary return of Syrian refugees

  • Russia has offered to repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 but Jordan does not want to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland
  • Jordan would benefit from reopening its border with Syria, but also carried risks of terrorists enter the country with fake IDs

AMMAN: Russia will help Jordan repatriate more than 150,000 Syrian refugees who fled fighting with the Assad regime in the country’s south, a Jordanian official said.

The official said Russia will repatriate the Syrians by the end of 2018 following the establishment of a center near the border with Syria to process their paperwork.

Jordan’s Minister for Media Affairs Jumana Ghneimat said the Russian proposal has been under discussion.

The Jordanian government refused to force displaced Syrians to return to their homeland, she said.

“It is up to the refugee to decide whether he wants to return, although the presence of large numbers of Syrians has become a burden for Jordan.”

The refugees are mainly from the war-ravaged provinces of Daraa, Quneitra and Sweida, the scene of fierce clashes between rebels and Assad government forces. 

Ghneimat said the establishment of a processing center nine kilometers from the border with Syria was part of Russia’s larger proposal for the return of the refugees.

Asked about the reopening of the Nassib border crossing, the minister said it was up to Syria to decide if the crossing would be operational.

The Assad regime had not asked Jordan to reopen the border, she said.

The Jordanian border crossing of Jaber is ready to operate and roads leading to the site are secure, Ghneimat said.

A technical team, including several ministry representatives, visited the crossing last week on a tour of inspection.

Jordan would benefit from reopening the border, which is an important avenue for trade with Syria, Lebanon, Turkey and several European countries, a transport ministry official said.

But reopening the border carried risks, including a fear that terrorists would enter the country with fake IDs, the official said.

The closure of the Jordan-Syrian border had severely affected Jordan’s transport sector, the head of the Syndicate of Jordanian Truck Owners said.

But he said that Jordanian trucks are ready to carry goods to Syria as soon as the border crossing is reopened. Before the Syrian crisis erupted in 2011, about 7,000 trucks drove through the crossing each day.