Syria’s Afrin urges Russia to oppose Turkish-led assault

Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters gesture prior to be driven to the Turkish-Syrian border in Kilis, on January 30, 2018, as part ot the operation "Olive Branch". (AFP)
Updated 04 February 2018
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Syria’s Afrin urges Russia to oppose Turkish-led assault

AFRIN: Local authorities in Syria’s Afrin called on Sunday for world powers to intervene to halt a Turkish-led assault on their region, accusing Russia of complicity in civilian deaths there.
Ankara and allied rebels launched operation “Olive Branch” on January 20 against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which Turkey has blacklisted as “terrorists.”
Afrin’s local administration — the semi-autonomous government in place since 2013 — shot back the accusation on Sunday and urged Moscow to take a firm stand.
“We ask the Russian federation in particular to rescind its support for the Turkish state’s terrorism against the people of Afrin,” it said in a statement.
“It bears responsibility for the massacres the fascist Turkish state is carrying out against innocent civilians.”
Russia, which intervened militarily in Syria’s war in 2015, had troops positioned in Afrin but withdrew them as Turkey launched the assault.
The YPG and Afrin officials say that withdrawal amounted to tacit approval of the Turkish offensive.
Officials on Sunday also called for the United States, European Union, United Nations Security Council and the US-led coalition fighting jihadists to “immediately intervene to stop Turkey’s aggression.”
Ankara says it launched the operation to protect its southern border and insists that it is doing everything it can to avoid civilian casualties.
But the campaign has sparked mass protests, including in Afrin on Sunday.
Thousands of people marched in downtown Afrin with YPG flags and posters of Abdullah Ocalan, the jailed leader of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Turkey is vehemently opposed to the YPG because of its ties to the PKK, which has waged a three-decade insurgency against Turkish forces.
“We’re holding the whole world responsible because we fought terrorism on behalf of everyone, but today the world agreed to kill Syrians,” said Ali Mahmoud, 45.
Other demonstrators clutched olive branches, a symbol of Afrin which is known for its abundant olive groves but also now associated with the name Turkey gave its offensive.
“They named their attack ‘Olive Branch’. It’s a thorn in their hand, but in our hands, it’s a gun,” said Fikrat Afdal, 33.
At least 68 civilians, including 21 children, have died in Turkish shelling as part of the assault, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
More than 100 pro-Ankara rebels and a similar number of YPG fighters have also died, the British-based monitor says.


Turkey’s election board rejects objection for ‘dismissed voters’

Updated 36 sec ago
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Turkey’s election board rejects objection for ‘dismissed voters’

  • Based on initial results and a series of recounts, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the mayoralty in Istanbul

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s high election board has rejected part of an effort by President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party to have a rerun of elections in Istanbul, dismissing an appeal regarding voters who were dismissed by decrees from government jobs after an attempted coup in 2016, state news agency Anadolu said.

In a petition submitted to cancel and rerun the city elections that it lost three weeks ago, Erdogan’s AK Party cited thousands of ballots cast by people it said were ineligible to vote due to previous government decrees.

Based on initial results and a series of recounts, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) won the mayoralty in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city, with a margin of some 13,000 votes.

The new CHP mayor, Ekrem Imamoglu, took office on Wednesday, despite a formal request submitted a day earlier by the AK Party to annul and repeat the mayoral elections over what it said were irregularities.

The high election board, the YSK, has not yet ruled on the appeal to annul and rerun the elections due to voting irregularities including faulty entering of voting data, a wider issue that has been described by the AK Party as organized fraud.

The YSK also ruled to investigate the status of 41,132 voters, including people who according to the AK Party were dead, ineligible or voted twice, and to look into some ballot box council attendants.