Turkish army says 31 soldiers killed in Syria operation

The coffin of Koray Karaca, a soldier who was killed during Turkey’s military action in Syria’s Afrin region, is carried by a ceremonial guard of honor during his funeral ceremony in Istanbul. (Reuters)
Updated 13 February 2018
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Turkish army says 31 soldiers killed in Syria operation

ANKARA: The Turkish army on Monday said 31 soldiers had been killed since Ankara launched its offensive against a Kurdish militia in Syria last month.
Another 143 Turkish soldiers were wounded in the operation dubbed “Olive Branch” which began on January 20 against the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia in the western region of Afrin, a statement said.
While the United States has given armed support to the YPG against the Daesh group in Syria, Turkey says the militia is a “terrorist” offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK, proscribed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies, has waged a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state.
Turkey has been supporting Syrian rebels with ground troops and air strikes during the operation which Ankara has threatened to extend eastwards toward other YPG-held towns.
Turkey suffered its bloodiest day on Saturday when 11 military personnel were killed, including two after a helicopter taking part in the offensive was downed.
Some 1,369 “terrorists” had been neutralized during the operation, the army said, referring to those killed but also those captured or wounded.
It was not immediately possible to verify this figure.
But according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, 152 YPG fighters and 165 Turkey-backed Syrian rebels have died in the operation.
The Observatory said at least 74 civilians have been killed in the operation so far.
Turkey has repeatedly insisted it is taking all the necessary precautions to avoid harming civilians and says there have been no civilian casualties to date.
At least seven civilians have been killed in Turkish border towns after rockets were sent from Syria in attacks Ankara blames on the YPG.


Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

Updated 21 May 2019
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Beirut praises ‘progress’ on maritime border dispute

  • Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Lebanon insists that the area lies within its economic zone and refuses to give up a single part of it

BEIRUT: Lebanon has hinted that progress is being made in efforts to resolve its maritime border dispute with Israel following the return of a US mediator from talks with Israeli officials.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield returned to Lebanon following talks in Israel where he outlined Lebanese demands regarding the disputed area and the mechanism to reach a settlement.

The US mediator has signaled a new push to resolve the dispute after meetings with both Lebanese and Israeli officials.

Israel and Lebanon both claim ownership of an 860-square-kilometer area of the Mediterranean Sea. Lebanon hopes to begin offshore oil and gas production in the offshore Block 9 as it grapples with an economic crisis.

A source close to Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, who met with Satterfield on Monday after his return to Lebanon, told Arab News that “there is progress in the efforts, but the discussion is not yet over.” He did not provide further details.

Sources close to the Lebanese presidency confirmed that Lebanon is counting on the US to help solve the demarcation dispute and would like to accelerate the process to allow exploration for oil and gas to begin in the disputed area.

Companies that will handle the exploration require stability in the area before they start working, the sources said.

Previous efforts by Satterfield to end the dispute failed in 2012 and again last year after Lebanon rejected a proposal by US diplomat Frederick Hoff that offered 65 percent of the disputed area to Lebanon and 35 percent to Israel. Lebanon insisted that the area lies within its economic zone and refused to give up a single part of it.

Satterfield has acknowledged Lebanon’s ownership of around 500 sq km of the disputed 850 sq km area.

Lebanon renewed its commitment to a mechanism for setting the negotiations in motion, including the formation of a tripartite committee with representatives of Lebanon, Israel and the UN, in addition to the participation of the US mediator. Beirut also repeated its refusal to negotiate directly with Israel.

Two months ago, Lebanon launched a marine environmental survey in blocks 4 and 9 in Lebanese waters to allow a consortium of French, Italian and Russian companies to begin oil and gas exploration in the area.