Erdogan calls on US to quit Manbij

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. (AFP)
Updated 06 February 2018
0

Erdogan calls on US to quit Manbij

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday warned the US to withdraw any American forces from the Syrian town of Manbij, vowing Turkish troops would expand a cross-border military operation to the key strategic hub.
Erdogan blamed Washington for the presence in Manbij of fighters from the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG) and its Democratic Union Party (PYD) political wing, which Ankara sees as terror groups.
Turkey on Jan. 20 launched a major operation aimed at ousting YPG forces from their enclave of the northwestern town of Afrin. However, moving east to Manbij — where unlike Afrin there is a US military presence — would mark a major escalation.
Accusing Washington of breaking past promises, Erdogan said: “They (Americans) told us they will pull out of Manbij. They said they will not stay in Manbij... Why don’t you just go?”
“Who did you bring there? PYD. Who did you bring there? YPG. Who did you bring there? PKK,” he said.
Turkey considers YPG as Syrian offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has waged an insurgency since 1984 and is designated a terrorist outfit by Ankara and its Western allies.
“And then you tell us not to come to Manbij! We will come to Manbij to return it to its original owners,” he added.
Turkey considers towns like Manbij to be originally Arab-majority territory whose ethnic balance was upset in favor of the Kurds during the seven-year civil war.
Turkey’s Western allies, including the US, do not classify the YPG as a terror group and have worked closely with its fighters in the battle against Daesh.
In 2016, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance dominated by the YPG, captured Manbij from Daesh.
In a show of anger at Turkey’s NATO ally, Erdogan asked the US what it was doing in Syria in the first place.
“You do not have a border, you are not a neighbor (of Syria),” he said. “What’s your business there? We have a 911km border.”
Erdogan also accused US President Donald Trump and his predecessor Barack Obama of failing to tell the truth about US support for the YPG.
“They told us many things but unfortunately they did not tell the truth,” Erdogan said. “Mr. Obama did not tell the truth and now Mr. Trump is heading down the same path.”


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
0

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.