Turkish military seize control of Jinderes town in Syria’s Afrin region

Turkish-backed Syrian rebels advance during the fight to seize control of the town of Jindires from Kurdish forces, in Syria’s Afrin region, near the Turkish border. ( AFP)
Updated 08 March 2018
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Turkish military seize control of Jinderes town in Syria’s Afrin region

ISTANBUL: Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies seized control of the town of Jinderes on Thursday, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported, giving them control of one of the largest settlements in the northwest Afrin region.
Turkey’s armed forces and its allies from Free Syrian Army (FSA) factions pushed the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia forces out of the town center on Thursday after capturing a hill overlooking the town a day earlier, Anadolu said, adding that operations to secure the area were continuing.
Ankara launched operation “Olive Branch” against the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) on January 20, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing it would be “finished in a very short time.”
The operation in the northern Afrin region has been a watershed in Turkey’s modern relations with the West, pitting the Turkish army against a militia force allied with fellow NATO member the United States in the battle against Islamic State (IS) jihadists.
But Turkey initially made slow progress, with the battle hardened YPG putting up fierce resistance and the army making only the most gradual of indents inside the border toward Afrin town, the main target of the campaign.
Forty-two Turkish soldiers have been killed, each one hailed as a martyr and buried with full honors in a campaign where the support of the Turkish public is crucial.
But the capture of Jinderes, the key town in the district after Afrin itself, is a major success for Turkey and gives the army and allied Syrian rebels a clear shot at Afrin town to the east.


Erdogan: Turkish court will decide fate of detained US pastor

Updated 25 min 48 sec ago
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Erdogan: Turkish court will decide fate of detained US pastor

  • ‘This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges’
  • ‘Let’s wait and see what the court will decide’

NEW YORK: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said a Turkish court, not politicians, will decide the fate of an American pastor whose detention on terrorism charges has roiled relations between Ankara and Washington.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Monday he was hopeful Turkey would release evangelical pastor Andrew Brunson this month. He was moved to house arrest in July after being detained for 21 months.
In an interview on Tuesday while he was in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly meetings, Erdogan said any decision on Brunson would be made by the court.
“This is a judiciary matter. Brunson has been detained on terrorism charges ... On Oct 12 there will be another hearing and we don’t know what the court will decide and politicians will have no say on the verdict,” Erdogan said.
If found guilty, Brunson could be jailed for up to 35 years. He denies the charges.
“As the president, I don’t have the right to order his release. Our judiciary is independent. Let’s wait and see what the court will decide,” Erdogan said.
US President Donald Trump, infuriated over Brunson’s detention, authorized a doubling of duties on aluminum and steel imported from Turkey in August. Turkey retaliated by increasing tariffs on US cars, alcohol and tobacco imports.
The Turkish lira has lost nearly 40 percent of its value against the dollar this year on concerns over Erdogan’s grip on monetary policy and the diplomatic dispute between Ankara and Washington.
“The Brunson case is not even closely related to Turkey’s economy. The current economic challenges have been exaggerated more than necessary and Turkey will overcome these challenges with its own resources,” Erdogan said.
Turkey’s central bank raised its benchmark rate by a hefty 625 basis points this month, boosting the lira and possibly easing investor concern over Erdogan’s influence on monetary policy.
Erdogan said the decision was a clear sign of the central bank’s independence, adding that as president he was against increasing rates.
He also said Turkey will continue to purchase Iranian natural gas, despite US sanctions on Tehran.
Erdogan said it was impossible for Syrian peace efforts to continue with Syrian President Bashar Assad in power, adding that the withdrawal of “radical groups” had already started from a new demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib region.