US says in talks with Turkey on YPG withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij

A picture taken on May 8, 2018 shows vehicles and structures of the US-backed coalition forces in the northern Syrian town of Manbij. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitor with sources on the ground, says around 350 members of the US-led coalition — mostly American troops — are stationed around Manbij. (AFP)
Updated 30 May 2018
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US says in talks with Turkey on YPG withdrawal from Syria’s Manbij

  • The US denies media reports that a deal had been reached between the US and Turkey on a three-step plan for withdrawing the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from Syria’s Manbij.
  • The report comes as differences over Syria policy and Washington’s decision to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem have strained ties between the NATO allies

ANKARA: The US State Department on Wednesday denied media reports that a deal had been reached between the United States and Turkey on a three-step plan for withdrawing the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia from Syria’s Manbij.
“We don’t have any agreements yet with the government of Turkey,” department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement in Washington.
“We’re continuing to have ongoing conversations regarding Syria and other issues of mutual concern,” she said, adding that American and Turkish officials had met in Ankara last week for talks on the issue.
Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday Ankara and Washington had reached a technical agreement on the withdrawal plan, a move Turkey has long sought from the United States.
The report comes as differences over Syria policy and Washington’s decision in December to move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem have strained ties between the NATO allies.
Turkey is outraged by US support for the YPG militia, considering them a terrorist organization. Ankara has threatened to push its offensive in northern Syria’s Afrin region further east to Manbij.
Manbij is a potential flashpoint. The Syrian government, Kurdish militants, Syrian rebel groups, Turkey, and the United States all have a military presence in northern Syria.
Under the terms of the plan to be finalized during a visit by Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu to Washington on June 4, the YPG will withdraw from Manbij 30 days after the deal is signed, Anadolu said, quoting sources who attended meetings at which the decisions were made.
Turkish and US military forces will start joint supervision in Manbij 45 days after the agreement is signed and a local administration will be formed 60 days after June 4, Anadolu said.
Earlier on Wednesday, Cavusoglu told broadcaster AHaber that a timetable for the Manbij plans could be set during talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington, and that it could be implemented before the end of the summer.
Cavusoglu was also quoted by media on his return flight from Germany saying that, if finalized, the plan for Manbij could be applied throughout northern Syria.
However, a local Manbij official later told Reuters that Cavusoglu’s assertions that US and Turkish forces would temporarily control the region were “premature” and lacked credibility.
Relations between Ankara and Washington have hit a low-point due to factors such as the sentencing this month in New York of a former Turkish state bank executive to 32 months in prison for taking part in an Iran sanctions-busting scheme, a case Turkey has called a political attack.
DEFENCE PROCUREMENT
Turkey has also caused unease in Washington with its decision to buy S-400 surface-to-air missiles from Russia and drew criticism over its detention of a US Christian pastor, Andrew Brunson, on terrorism charges.
Brunson faces up to 35 years in prison on charges of links to the network Ankara blames for a 2016 coup attempt. The pastor denied the charges in a Turkish court this month.
A US Senate committee last week passed its version of a $716 billion defense policy bill, including a measure to prevent Turkey from buying Lockheed Martin F-35 jets, citing Brunson and the Russian missile deal.
Cavusoglu, however, said that if the United States blocked Turkey from buying the jets, Ankara would go elsewhere to meet its needs, adding that it was unlikely Washington would be able to back out of the deal.
Turkey has plans to buy more than 100 of the F-35 jets and the Pentagon last year awarded Lockheed $3.7 billion in an interim payment for the production of 50 of the aircraft earmarked for non-US customers, including Ankara.


What led to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottomans

Updated 24 min 49 sec ago
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What led to the genocide of Armenians by the Ottomans

  • Regional affairs expert explains the reasons behind the carnage
  • The Ottoman Empire was known during the 19th and early 20th centuries as the sick man of Europe

RIYADH: Eyad Abu Shakra, a Middle East specialist, said there were three things that needed to be considered when researching how the Ottoman Empire handled Armenia during the First World War. Approaching the subject in this way made it possible to understand the violent repression of non-Muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire, especially the Armenians.

Speaking to Arab News on Tuesday, Abu Shakra said the first point was related to Armenian history and heritage. They were among the first people to convert to Christianity, which was the dominant religion in Anatolia prior to Islam. The majority of Armenians belong to the Armenian Orthodox Church, which is one of the oldest churches in the world. It was founded in the first century A.D. by St. Thaddeus and St. Bartholomew, two of Jesus Christ’s disciples.

Abu Shakra said the second point was related to the “Eastern question,” a reference to the final decades of the Ottoman Empire and the mounting pressure it faced from European powers that were competing to carve out their own territories.

He said the historical roots of the Eastern question dated back to the 16th century, when Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent and Emperor Francis I reached an understanding by which France was granted special status as protector of the non-Muslim minorities in the Ottoman Empire, which was at the time at the height of its power.

But what started as a generous grant bestowed by a powerful state in the 16th century, became in the 19th century a tool of European pressure, and impositions from Christian powers on a weakened Ottoman state. This imbalance was reflected in the military losses of the Ottomans at the hands of the Europeans.

The Ottoman Empire was known during the 19th and early 20th centuries as the sick man of Europe. 

The worst setbacks were during the Russo-Ottoman war of 1768-1774, when the Ottoman Empire lost territories in the northern Black Sea region. The Ottoman decline climaxed by the end of the 19th century, when they lost much of the Balkans to separatist Serbs and Bulgarians.

“The Eastern question was finally answered after the First World War with the total collapse of the Ottoman Empire, which was forced to sign the Treaty of Sevres and then the Treaty of Lausanne. It gave up its claims to the Balkans and the Middle East. New states came into existence, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, and Turkey which was established in Anatolia, Istanbul and the Straits, while other territories came under direct rule of the allied victors,” said Abu Shakra.

The third point, according to Abu Shakra, lay in the Ottoman reforms that started during the reign of Sultan Abdul Majid I and continued until the First World War in 1914. For a long time the Ottoman Empire occupied swathes of territory across the continents of the ancient world. It included diverse populations and religions and this great power had an influential role in world politics. However, from the 18th century onward it became a decaying power.

The European powers, on the other hand, were on the rise despite their rivalries. So while the Ottoman state bureaucracy and military deteriorated, its army suffered from defeats in various wars that it fought on various fronts, draining the empire’s resources. 

These defeats made the Ottoman intelligentsia consider going through reforms to save whatever could be saved and modernize the empire.  This reform movement made important achievements, but it was argued by conservatives that the internal fabric could not withstand the pace of reforms. This tension became a pretext for questioning the validity of the reforms which increased the confidence of non-Muslims (including Armenians), non-Turks (especially Arabs), who started to have a growing sense of identity. This friction was encouraged by the European powers, who had been interfering in the affairs of the Ottoman Empire.

As a result, Sultan Abdul Hamid II came to power representing the conservative nationalist line, which was apathetic to the aspirations of non-Turks, especially the European ones. Although Abdul Hamid was removed from power after 30 years, the theater was prepared for the “Armenian Genocide” during the years of the First World War.