Russia’s Putin predicts global ‘chaos’ if West hits Syria again

Russian President Vladimir Putin gestures while speaking during a meeting of the State Council at the Kremlin in Moscow, in this April 5, 2018 photo. (AFP)
Updated 16 April 2018
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Russia’s Putin predicts global ‘chaos’ if West hits Syria again

  • We will do more damage to the USA and Europe
  • Further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs

MOSCOW/DAMASCUS: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that further Western attacks on Syria would bring chaos to world affairs, as Washington prepared to increase pressure on Russia with new economic sanctions.
In a telephone conversation with his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani, Putin and Rouhani agreed that the Western strikes had damaged the chances of achieving a political resolution in the seven-year Syria conflict, according to a Kremlin statement.
“Vladimir Putin, in particular, stressed that if such actions committed in violation of the UN Charter continue, then it will inevitably lead to chaos in international relations,” the Kremlin statement said.
Meanwhile, US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” program that the United States would announce new economic sanctions on Monday aimed at companies “that were dealing with equipment” related to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s alleged chemical weapons use.
On Saturday, the United States, France and Britain launched 105 missiles targeting what the Pentagon said were three chemical weapons facilities in Syria in retaliation for a suspected poison gas attack in Douma on April 7.
The Western countries blame Assad for the Douma attack that killed dozens of people. The Syrian government and its ally Russia have denied involvement in any such attack.
The bombings marked the biggest intervention by Western countries against Assad and ally Russia.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that he had convinced Trump, who has previously said he wanted to take US forces out of Syria, to stay for “the long term.”
The United States, France and Britain have said the missile strikes were limited to Syria’s chemical weapons capabilities and not aimed at toppling Assad or intervening in the civil war. Macron said in an interview broadcast by BFM TV, RMC radio and Mediapart online news that he had convinced Trump to focus on the chemical weapons sites.

’HARD FOR US, BUT WILL DO MORE DAMAGE TO THE USA’
Responding to Haley’s remarks about the plans for new sanctions, Evgeny Serebrennikov, deputy head of the defense committee of Russia’s upper house of parliament, said Moscow was ready for the penalties, according to RIA news agency.
“They are hard for us, but will do more damage to the USA and Europe,” RIA quoted Serebrennikov as saying.
In Damascus, Syria’s deputy foreign minister, Faisal Mekdad, met inspectors from the global chemical weapons watchdog OPCW for about three hours in the presence of Russian officers and a senior Syrian security official.
The inspectors were due to attempt to visit the Douma site. Moscow condemned the Western states for refusing to wait for the OPCW’s findings before attacking.
Mekdad declined to comment to reporters waiting outside the hotel where the meeting took place.
Assad told a group of visiting Russian lawmakers that the Western missile strikes were an act of aggression, Russian news agencies reported.
Russian agencies quoted the lawmakers as saying that Assad was in a “good mood,” had praised the Soviet-era air defense systems Syria used to repel the Western attacks and had accepted an invitation to visit Russia at an unspecified time.
Trump had said “mission accomplished” on Twitter after the strikes, though US Lt. Gen. Kenneth McKenzie at the Pentagon acknowledged elements of the program remain and he could not guarantee that Syria would be unable to conduct a chemical attack in the future.
Russian and Iranian military help over the past three years has allowed Assad to crush the rebel threat to topple him.
Though Israel has at times urged stronger US involvement against Assad and his Iranian and Lebanese Hezbollah reinforcements in Syria, it voiced backing for Saturday’s air strikes by Western powers.

RISK OF WIDER CONFRONTATION
The leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah said on Sunday that Western strikes on Syria had failed to achieve anything, including terrorizing the army, helping insurgents or serving the interests of Israel.
Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said the US military had kept its strikes limited because it knew a wider attack would spark retaliation from Damascus and its allies and inflame the region.
“The American (military) knows well that going toward a wide confrontation and a big operation against the regime and the army and the allied forces in Syria could not end, and any such confrontation would inflame the entire region,” Nasrallah said.
The heavily armed, Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah movement, which fights alongside the Syrian army and is represented in the Beirut government, has been a vital ally of Damascus in Syria’s seven-year war.
France, the United States and Britain circulated a draft resolution to UN Security Council late on Saturday that aims to establish a new independent inquiry into who is to responsible for chemical weapons attacks in Syria. The mechanism would look at cases where the OPCW fact-finding mission has established chemical weapons were used or likely used.
Diplomats said negotiations on the draft resolution would begin on Monday and it was not immediately clear when the United States, France and Britain wanted to put it to a vote.


Speculation mounts over Abdullah Gul’s election ambitions

Former Turkish President Abdullah Gul, left, is seen with Saadet Party leader Temel Karamollaoglu during a ceremony in Istanbul on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 27 April 2018
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Speculation mounts over Abdullah Gul’s election ambitions

  • Gul and Erdogan have mostly followed the same political paths and a religiously conservative ideology
  • A split between the two men recently erupted when Gul criticized the controversial state of emergency decree law

 ANKARA: Rumors are rife in Turkey that former President Abdullah Gul could emerge as a possible contender against his once close political ally President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the June elections.

Gul, who along with Erdogan was among the founders of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2001, has met with opposition leaders amid speculation he could run as a presidential candidate for the main opposition alliance.

Erdogan called the snap election, which will select the president and Parliament members, last week, catching opposition parties off guard. 

Gul and Erdogan have mostly followed the same political paths and a religiously conservative ideology.

However, Gul, who served as Turkey’s president from 2007 to 2014, has increasingly criticized Erdogan’s handling of the aftermath of an attempted coup in 2016. 

A split between the two men recently erupted when Gul criticized the controversial state of emergency decree law that exempted civilians who fought against the coup attempt in 2016 from criminal liability. 

Slams Erdogan

He also openly slammed the repeated extension of the state of emergency in Turkey, which has been in place since the coup, and called for normalization in the country.

With his conciliatory approach to politics and leadership in the rapprochement process with Armenia and the Kurds in Turkey, Gul was widely respected by the international community as president.

Asked about speculation on Gul’s candidacy, Erdogan said on Tuesday: “I don’t have a problem with that.”

“Alliances with the sole motivation of hostility toward Erdogan are being formed,” he added. 

If nominated by the opposition camp, Gul is expected to announce a manifesto that promises a return to the parliamentary system by abolishing the executive presidential changes to the constitution approved by a controversial referendum last year. 

He is also said to be announcing a new constitutional draft and suggesting an alternative council of ministers focused on improving the Turkish economy.

The deadline to submit applications for the presidential candidacy is May 4.

Gul held talks with the leader of the Islamist Felicity Party (SP), Temel Karamollaoglu, on Wednesday and met former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Ankara a day earlier, according to Turkey’s pro-government daily Haber Turk.

Other opposition figures are also meeting to discuss alliances for the election on June 24. Karamollaoglu met Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Meral Aksener, who heads the right-wing nationalist Good Party (Iyi Parti).

Electoral opportunity

Kilicdaroglu has described the upcoming elections as an opportunity to salvage the country from what the opposition claims is Erdogan’s increasingly draconian rule. 

“Abdullah Gul’s name is not on the CHP agenda,” said Ozgur Ozel, parliamentary group leader of CHP. But the SP still insists on his candidacy. 

According to experts, for the other candidates to surpass Erdogan they will need the votes of all the other opposition parties and some of the AKP constituencies.

Polls show that Erdogan, who has dominated the top rungs of power in the country for more than 15 years, enjoys about 50 percent of voter support. 

“This means that a candidate would need to appeal to Turkish nationalists, Kurdish nationalists, Islamists and secularists in order to get more votes than Erdogan who has a much more solid base,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News. 

Gul appears to be the best alternative in this regard, experts said.

However, the decision by the newly founded Iyi Party on whether they would join other opposition parties to nominate Gul as the opposition block candidate would be critical. 

If Erdogan does not win the presidency in the first round of voting — by securing at least 50 percent plus one vote — then a second round will be held within two weeks. 

If the race is between more than two candidates, Erdogan would win the presidency again, said Dr. Emre Erdogan, co-founder of an Istanbul-based research company, Infakto Research Workshop.

“Hence, the calculus of Gul’s move is simple: Exchanging mid-to-long-term uncertain gains, with certain short-term victories, namely being the next president of Turkey,” he told Arab News.

Nominating conservative Gul will cost the CHP some ultra-secular votes, but considering the discipline of its voters, the price will be minuscule and easily compensated by Kurdish voters who favor Gul, Dr. Emre Erdogan said.

“Among all alternative scenarios, only the nomination of Gul seems to be the one with the highest potential to influence the outcome,” he said.