Turkey renames US embassy street amid row over Syria operation

A woman walks in front of the United State Embassy in Ankara. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 19 February 2018
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Turkey renames US embassy street amid row over Syria operation

ANKARA: The street in Ankara where the US embassy is located was renamed after Turkey’s offensive against a Kurdish militia on Monday, just days after the two sides agreed on the need to normalize relations.
Already tense ties were strained further when Ankara started a ground and air offensive dubbed “Olive Branch” last month against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in its enclave of Afrin in western Syria.
Ankara views the YPG as a terrorist offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an insurgency in Turkey which is listed as a terror organization by the US and the European Union.
But in Syria, Washington has been providing arms to the YPG against the Daesh group, much to Ankara’s chagrin in a dispute that has ignited the biggest crisis in bilateral ties since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
The US has previously called on Ankara for restraint and said operation “Olive Branch” risked becoming a distraction from the fight against jihadists in Syria.
The renaming of the street follows a visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to Ankara last week when he met Turkish officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the two sides agreed to cooperate in Syria.
“We are not going to act alone any longer, not US doing one thing, Turkey doing another,” Tillerson said after talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The two sides said they would set up working groups to solve key issues affecting relations.
Ankara mayor Mustafa Tuna mooted the plan to change the name from Nevzat Tandogan (a former Ankara governor) to Olive Branch avenue before Tillerson arrived on Thursday.
City workers switched the actual signs on Monday.
Although the American embassy is located on what is now Olive Branch avenue, the mission’s official address is given as the street behind the building, which is named after Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic.
Renaming streets has become a favored diplomacy tool for Ankara.
Tensions with the UAE flared last month when the emirate’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan retweeted a post on Twitter critical of the former Ottoman rulers of the region.
In response Ankara renamed the street where the UAE embassy is located after the Ottoman governor of the time.


Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

On his first official visit to Israel and Palestine, Prince William is unlikely to talk about politics. Getty Images
Updated 23 June 2018
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Prince William on first official royal visit to Occupied Territories and Israel

  • The second-in-line to the British throne is due to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
  • There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade

LONDON: Prince William will embark on the first official visit to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories by a member of the British royal family on Sunday.

But even with more than 120 Palestinians killed in protests in Gaza during recent weeks and controversy still surrounding the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem, the second-in-line to the throne is not expected to talk politics.
Chris Doyle, director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (CAABU), told Arab News that the four-day tour is likely to focus on making trade deals in preparation for Britain’s departure from the EU next year, rather than on addressing the moribund Middle East peace process.
“There is a pretty naked desire to build relationships and Israel is a warm target for an increase in trade,” he said.
The visit risks “normalizing” the abusive regime under which Palestinians live, he added.
“Of course Prince William has to go to both the Israeli and Palestinian sectors or there would have been outrage. But there is a risk of his visit making it appear more acceptable and normal to carry out abuses of international law like the blockade of Gaza,” Doyle said.
William begins his Middle Eastern tour on Sunday in Jordan, a long-time ally of Britain. On Tuesday he will move on to Jerusalem, where he will visit Yad Vashem, the official memorial to Holocaust victims, meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and later attend a football event with a mixed Arab and Jewish team.
On Wednesday he will meet young activists, both Arab and Jewish, who are involved in education and social programs, and also cross into the Occupied Palestinian Territories to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah before attending an event focusing on Palestinian refugees.
He is due to deliver a speech at a reception hosted by the American consul in Jerusalem. However, protocol prevents him from making any remarks that might be deemed partisan. Doyle told Arab News this was a pity in view of how William’s mother, the late Princess Diana, championed justice for the oppressed.
“It is a pity that someone of his status, who clearly cares about his mother’s legacy, cannot give voice to real major concerns about the treatment of the Palestinians and the human rights abuses that are daily issues for them under Israeli control but which will be airbrushed out,” he said.
“Yes, he will see co-operative programs and Arabs and Jews playing football together, but the reality is that the Palestinian footballers can only travel to matches with Israeli permission.”
William was a surprise choice for the visit. Many expected the task to fall to his father, Prince Charles, who has more experience of countries which are politically extremely sensitive. But it is thought he was chosen because his youth chimes better with young Israelis working in hi-tech fields who he is scheduled to meet. Among Palestinians, his presence will barely register, said Doyle.
“I hope the language can be found for him to say something to his Israeli hosts, that his visit will be more than window-dressing, but the reality is it’s very unlikely. So the visit won’t register as important with Palestinians. They don’t want to be part of some tourist show or box-ticking exercise,” he said.