Turkish president heads to Italy to discuss Jerusalem with pope

Pope Francis is welcomed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he arrives for a meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 04 February 2018
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Turkish president heads to Italy to discuss Jerusalem with pope

VATICAN CITY: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan flew to Italy on Sunday ahead of talks with Pope Francis that are expected to centre on Jerusalem after U.S. President Donald Trump recognised the holy city as the capital of Israel.
Jerusalem is home to sites holy to the Muslim, Jewish and Christian religions, and Trump's recent announcement that he would move the U.S. embassy to the city alarmed many allies, who say the decision could doom Middle East peace efforts.
Erdogan previously clashed with the pope when Francis, in 2015, became the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to publicly call the 1915 killing of as many as 1.5 million Armenians "genocide" -- something Turkey has always denied.
But the two men have found common ground over Jerusalem, speaking by phone after Trump made his announcement in December and agreeing that any change to the city's status should be avoided.
Before leaving Turkey, Erdogan said the United States had isolated itself over Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want to share with the Israelis as their future capital.
"In the process ahead, come on and accept Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine. This is the point that is to be reached. We are now working for this," he told reporters in Istanbul.
Erdogan is due to see the pope on Monday in what will be the first visit to the Vatican by a Turkish president in 59 years.
The two men are also expected to discuss the situation in Syria and Iraq as well as humanitarian aid and refugees.
Turkey last month sent troops into neighbouring Syria to attack Kurdish YPG fighters near its southern border. Turkey sees the militia as a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and has shrugged off criticism at home and abroad over the operation.
Demonstrations are expected in Rome to mark Erdogan's visit and some 3,500 police and security forces will be on duty. In an interview with La Stampa newspaper, Erdogan dismissed the likely protests.
"I don’t speak to people who support terrorism. I only speak to those who fight it," he was quoted as saying.
The Turkish leader is also due to meet Italian President Sergio Mattarella and Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni on Monday, as well as local business leaders.
"You are only 11th when it comes to the number of foreign companies active in Turkey, we need to improve that," he told La Stampa.


Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

Updated 8 min 35 sec ago
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Daesh defeated, ‘caliphate’ eliminated: US-backed SDF

  • The victory marks the end of the militants’ self-declared “caliphate”
  • The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks

BEIRUT: Daesh has been defeated at its final shred of territory of Baghouz in Syria, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said on Saturday, announcing the end of its self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.
The SDF declared the “total elimination of (the) so-called caliphate,” Mustafa Bali, head of the SDF media office, wrote on Twitter.
“Baghouz has been liberated. The military victory against Daesh has been accomplished,” he wrote.
The SDF has been battling to capture Baghouz at the Iraqi border for weeks.
“We renew our pledge to continue the war and to pursue their remnants until their complete elimination,” he wrote.
Though the defeat of Daesh at Baghouz ends the group’s grip over the extremist quasi-state straddling Syria and Iraq that it declared in 2014, it remains a threat.
Some of its fighters still hold out in Syria’s remote central desert and in Iraqi cities they have slipped into the shadows, staging sudden shootings or kidnappings and awaiting a chance to rise again.
The US believes the group’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, is in Iraq. He stood at the pulpit of the great medieval mosque in Mosul in 2014 to declare himself caliph, sovereign over all Muslims.