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.


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
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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.