Turkey: Syria road map to ‘rebuild mutual trust’ with US

Members of the Manbij military council wait prior to a press conference in Manbij on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 07 June 2018
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Turkey: Syria road map to ‘rebuild mutual trust’ with US

  • The YPG, which forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has received extensive American backing, said on Tuesday it would withdraw.
  • Turkey has repeatedly accused the YPG of unbalancing the pre-war ethnic balance of towns like the former Daesh de-facto capital of Raqqa which were predominantly Arab.

ANTALYA/BEIRUT: A road map agreed with Washington for the withdrawal of a US-backed Kurdish militia despised by Ankara from a flashpoint Syrian town will help rebuild trust between the two NATO allies, Turkey’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his Turkish counterpart Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu earlier this week reached a deal on the withdrawal of People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters from the town of Manbij which lies west of the River Euphrates close to the Turkish border.

The YPG, which forms the backbone of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the Kurdish-Arab alliance that has received extensive American backing, vowed on Tuesday it would withdraw.

Cavusoglu told AFP in an interview that the move was a key part of rebuilding ties with Washington damaged by a string of rows including Syria and also issues such as American citizens detained in Turkey.

“The US couldn’t keep its promises in the past. But I think they also understood that it is a very critical issue, and this is why we agreed to work,” Cavusoglu told AFP in his home southern region of Antalya where he is campaigning for Turkey’s June 24 elections.

“The implementation of this roadmap will help us actually to rebuild the mutual trust between two allies,” he added.

But he warned that the plan now had to be implemented on the ground. “If not, there will be a lack of trust,” he said. Tensions between Washington and Ankara have so far scotched expectations of a strong alliance emerging between President Donald Trump and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Cavusoglu expressed skepticism over the vow to withdraw by the YPG, who Turkey accuses of being the Syrian branch of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“I’m not sure they are leaving,” said Cavusoglu.

In a related development, the dominant US-backed Syrian Kurdish party that controls large swaths of oil-rich territory in northeastern Syria is prepared to hold talks with the Syrian regime over the future of the area, a senior Kurdish official said Wednesday.

The proposition came a day after Turkey and the US agreed on the “roadmap” to resolve a dispute over the northern Syrian town of Manbij, which is controlled by the US-backed Kurdish fighters, Washington’s main ally in Syria.

He said the aim of the roadmap is to ensure that the YPG leaves Manbij and then have the US and Turkey work together to establish a local security structure and “decide together who is going to govern Manbij.

“This is the aim, so now it is time to implement it,” he said.

He said the assurance of stability in the area would encourage the return home of Syrian refugees, some 3.5 million of whom live in Turkey.

Turkish forces earlier this year ousted the YPG from the Afrin region of northern Syria in a military operation.

But Cavusoglu indicated that he wanted similar agreements with the US to prise the YPG from towns it had seized from Daesh militants with American backing close to the Turkey border.

Turkey has repeatedly accused the YPG of unbalancing the pre-war ethnic balance of towns like the former Daesh de-facto capital of Raqqa which were predominantly Arab.

“Eventually they should also leave from other areas... because Raqqa for instance is a 90 percent Arab city,” said Cavusoglu.

Ankara has long opposed the YPG controlling a continuous stretch of territory on its border up to Iraq, fearing the creation of an autonomous region or even independent entity that could embolden Turkey’s own Kurds.


Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

Updated 14 December 2018
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Israel locks down Ramallah after two soldiers shot dead

  • The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians
  • Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third

AMMAN: Israel was accused on Thursday of humiliating Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas by placing Ramallah on virtual lockdown amid a 24-hour outbreak of violence in which five people died.

The bloodshed began when Israeli forces shot dead two Palestinians suspected of earlier attacks. Salah Barghouti, 29, was accused of shooting seven Israelis on Sunday at a bus station near the Ofra settlement. Ashraf Naalwa, 23, shot two Israelis dead in the Barkan industrial zone settlement in October.

Hours later, a Palestinian gunman killed two Israeli soldiers and wounded a third when he opened fire at the Ofra bus station.

Israeli forces chased the gunman into Ramallah, where they set up road blocks, launched raids and placed the town under virtual siege. In the hunt for the gunman, a Palestinian was shot dead in Al-Bireh neighborhood of Ramallah.

Abbas Zaki, a leading Fatah official, told Arab News Palestinian frustration was being fueled by Israel. “They barged into Ramallah in violation of existing agreements and came very close to the home of President Abbas.

“What more do people need to see to let them give up on a process when Israelis are willing to humiliate in such a way the father of Palestinian peace?”

Abbas himself condemned the anti-Israeli attacks but blamed Israeli raids as a potential cause.

“The climate created by the policy of repeated intrusions into the cities, the provocations against the sovereignty of the president and the lack of a horizon for peace are what led to this unacceptable violence that we condemn and reject,” he said.