Erdogan calls on US to quit Manbij

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


Assad backs down over law to seize refugee homes

Updated 18 October 2018
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Assad backs down over law to seize refugee homes

  • ‘Law 10’ withdrawn, UN humanitarian aid chief Jan Egeland says
  • The law was a major impediment to the return of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who fled their homes

BEIRUT: The Assad regime has withdrawn a law that allowed authorities to seize property left behind by civilians who fled the war in Syria, the UN humanitarian aid chief in the country said on Thursday.

Under Law 10, Syrians had 30 days to prove that they own property in redevelopment zones in order to receive shares in the projects, otherwise ownership was transferred to the local government.

The law was a major impediment to the return of millions of refugees and internally displaced people who fled their homes. Regime officials have insisted the law would not result in the confiscation of property, but was aimed at proving and organizing ownership to combat forgery of documents in opposition-held areas.

Jan Egeland, who heads aid issues in the office of UN Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura, said he had been told of the decision to withdraw the law by Russia, Syrian President Bashar Assad’s key military ally.

“When Russia says that it is withdrawn and there were mistakes made ... it is good news,” Egeland said. “Hopefully this will now be reality on the ground. So diplomacy can win — even in Syria.”

Syrian politician Mohammed Kheir Akkam said the law had issued by presidential decree and he knew of no decree to abolish it. “These claims are not true so far,” he said.

Nevertheless, Syrian refugees across the border in Lebanon welcomed reports that the law had been withdrawn. “We have not heard the news yet, but this is an excellent move,” Abu Mohammed, who is from Al-Qusayr and is the former head the water department in Homs, told Arab News. 

“This move reflects the goodwill of the Syrian regime toward its displaced people abroad. Their discourse is no longer an escalation against us, but an attempt to re-establish trust between Syrian citizens and the Syrian regime.”

Khalid Melhem, from Qalamoun, said the withdrawal of the law was “a gesture of goodwill, on which trust can be built.”

Melhem, an interior designer in Syria, now lives in a tent in Arsal and works as a house painter.  “I own a 300-square-meter house in Damascus, but the authorities demolished it and acquired the land. I could not return to Syria to prove my ownership of the house because they want to lure me into the country and arrest me.”

The regime acquired the property, 600 meters from the barracks of the Scientific Studies and Research Center, in 2017. “They demolished all damaged houses surrounding the barracks and prevented anyone from approaching the property except for a few Alawites, who were allowed to rebuild and reclaim their homes,” Melhem said.