Head of pro-Kurdish party wants Turkey to end Syria offensive

Turkish troops and pro-Turkey Syrian fighters trying to take control of Bursayah hill, which separates the Kurdish-held enclave of Afrin from the Turkey-controlled town of Azaz, Syria. (AP)
Updated 15 February 2018
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Head of pro-Kurdish party wants Turkey to end Syria offensive

ANKARA: Turkey should accept the territorial gains of Syrian Kurdish forces at its southern border, end its military operation against them and instead resolve problems through dialogue, the new leader of Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party said.
Pervin Buldan’s argument is likely to hold little sway with Turkish President Tayyip Tayyip Erdogan, who launched “Operation Olive Branch” in Syria’s Afrin region last month to sweep the Syrian Kurdish YPG forces away from Turkey’s southern border.
Buldan, elected on Sunday as the new co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), is already being investigated for terrorism for making critical remarks of the Syria incursion. Since the operation began, authorities have detained more than 600 people for protesting or criticizing it on social media.
Critics say the moves are emblematic of a wider crackdown launched after a 2016 failed putsch against Erdogan’s government. More than 50,000 people have been detained, including the previous leaders of the HDP.
“The reasonable thing to do is to find a solution through dialogue, and the only possible solution is through agreement. Turkey needs to tolerate the achievements of Kurds in Syria,” she told Reuters in an interview late on Tuesday.
Since the onset of Syria’s civil war in 2011, the YPG and its allies have seized swathes of land and set up autonomous cantons in northern Syria, including Afrin.
Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Erdogan has been infuriated by US support for the YPG against Daesh.
Ankara also accuses Buldan’s party of links to the PKK, which has waged a deadly insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast for three decades. The HDP, Parliament’s second-largest opposition party, denies this.
The investigation against Buldan was launched a day after she was elected, with a prosecutor citing her comments against the offensive in Syria, which she has described as an attack on civilian Kurds.


New envoy stresses need for UN-backed solution to Syria war

Updated 59 min 22 sec ago
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New envoy stresses need for UN-backed solution to Syria war

  • Pedersen is the fourth UN envoy to seek a solution to Syria's conflict
  • Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since the war started with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011

DAMASCUS: The new UN envoy to Syria ended his first visit to the war-torn country Thursday, stressing the need for a UN-brokered political solution to the eight-year conflict.
Geir Pedersen, a seasoned Norwegian diplomat, concluded his three-day visit and headed to the Lebanese capital Beirut, a UN source told AFP.
The new envoy on Twitter late Wednesday said he had a "constructive meeting" with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem during his stay in Damascus.
During it, he stressed the need for a "Syrian-led and -owned political solution facilitated by the UN", he added.
Pedersen, who started his new job last week, is the fourth UN envoy to seek a solution to Syria's conflict, after endless rounds of failed UN-brokered peace talks.
In recent years, UN-led efforts have been overshadowed by separate negotiations led by regime allies Russia and Iran, as well as rebel backer Turkey.
After Damascus, Pederson said he was off to meet the Syrian Negotiations Committee, Syria's main opposition group.
But he "agreed to come back to Damascus on a regular basis to discuss commonalities and progress on points of disagreement", he added.
On Tuesday, Muallem expressed Syria's "readiness to cooperate with him... in his mission to facilitate Syrian-Syrian dialogue with the objective of reaching a political solution to the Syrian crisis", a foreign ministry statement said.
Pederson takes over from Staffan de Mistura, a Swiss-Italian diplomat who stepped down at the end of last year over "personal reasons".
Officials in the government of President Bashar al-Assad had set the tone for the new envoy's tenure shortly after his appointment was announced in October.
"Syria will cooperate with the new UN envoy Geir Pedersen provided he avoids the methods of his predecessor," Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Meqdad said.
De Mistura ended his four-year tenure with an abortive push to form a committee tasked with drawing up a post-war constitution.
Syria's war has killed more than 360,000 people and displaced millions since the war started with the repression of anti-government protests in 2011.
With key military backing from Russia, Assad's forces have retaken large parts of Syria from rebels and extremists, and now control almost two-thirds of the country.
A drive to bring the Syrian regime back into the Arab fold also seems underway, with the UAE reopening their embassy in Damascus last month.