Russia, Turkey to coordinate on Syria after US pullout

Turkish-backed Syrian fighters wave Turkish and opposition flags as they gather in the north of Aleppo province before heading to the Kurdish-controlled town of Manbij, on December 29, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 29 December 2018
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Russia, Turkey to coordinate on Syria after US pullout

  • Russian and Turkish ministers agreed to maintain cooperation in northern Syria as US forces prepare to withdraw
  • Turkey will continue coordinating their steps “on the ground” under new conditions

MOSCOW: Russia and Turkey on Saturday agreed to coordinate ground operations in Syria after the shock announcement of a US military withdrawal, Moscow’s top diplomat said.
President Donald Trump’s move has already hastened a shift in alliances with Syrian troops deployed Friday in support of Kurdish forces around a strategic northern city. The Kurds, under threat from Ankara, had been supported by US forces.
“Of course we paid special attention to new circumstances which appeared in connection with the announced US military pullout,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said after talks with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
The Syrian deployment pleased ally Russia but upset Turkey ahead of Saturday’s talks in Moscow.
“An understanding was reached of how military representatives of Russia and Turkey will continue to coordinate their steps on the ground under new conditions with a view to finally rooting out terrorist threats in Syria,” Lavrov said.
Cavusoglu confirmed the two countries would coordinate Syria operations, adding they also discussed plans to help refugees to return home.
“We will continue active work (and) coordination with our Russian colleagues and colleagues from Iran to speed up the arrival of a political settlement in the Syrian Republic,” he said in remarks translated into Russian.
“We have the common desire to cleanse Syrian territory of any terrorist organization, Cavusoglu added.
Lavrov said he was “optimistic” following the talks which included Russian and Turkish defense ministers Sergei Shoigu and Hulusi Akar.
Trump last week said he was pulling all 2,000 troops from Syria, declaring that Washington had achieved its objective as Daesh had been “knocked” out.
The extremist movement has lost nearly all its territory, although thousands of its militants are thought to remain in war-battered Syria.
Nearly eight years into Syria’s deadly conflict, the US pullout has led to another key step in President Bashar Assad’s Russian-backed drive to reassert control over the country.
The Syrian army announced its return to Manbij, a strategic city close to the Turkish border where Kurdish forces have been deployed since 2016 and where US-led coalition forces are also stationed.
A US withdrawal will leave them exposed to an assault by Turkey, which has thousands of proxy fighters in northern Syria and wants to crush Kurdish forces it considers terrorists.
The Syrian army’s arrival creates a regime buffer arching across northern Syria that fully separates the Turkish army and its proxies from the Kurds.
Ankara reacted to the deployment by warning “all sides to stay away from provocative actions.”
On Friday, Russia said it would host a three-way summit with Turkey and Iran on the Syrian conflict early next year following their last such meeting in September.


Brother of 2017 Manchester bomber being extradited from Libya to Britain

Updated 41 min 33 sec ago
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Brother of 2017 Manchester bomber being extradited from Libya to Britain

  • Salman Abedi blew himself up at the end of a show by US singer Ariana Grande in 2017, killing 22 people
  • London requested the extradition of his brother Hashem after police issued an arrest warrant against him

TRIPOLI: The brother of a suicide bomber suspected of helping plan a 2017 attack on a concert in the British city of Manchester is being extradited from Libya, according to the force that was holding him in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old Briton born to Libyan parents, blew himself up at the end of a show by US singer Ariana Grande in the deadliest militant attack in Britain for 12 years.
The blast killed 22 people and injured more than 500.
London requested the extradition of his brother Hashem after police issued an arrest warrant against him for murder, attempted murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion.
But Tripoli had long stalled on the request.
“I confirm to you that Hashem is now in the air on his way to the UK ... he is extradited in accordance with a court verdict,” said a spokesman for the Tripoli-based Special Deterrence Force (Rada), who asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the case.
“We received an official letter from the head of the attorney general’s investigations department, telling us to extradite Hashem Abedi to UK authorities based on a verdict by Tripoli’s court of appeals.”
Rada, a counter-terrorism and anti-crime group aligned with the government in Tripoli, arrested Hashem shortly after the bombing on suspicion he had helped plan the attack.
Rada said at the time that Salman and Hashem flew together to Libya in April 2017, before Salman returned to Britain to carry out the attack at the Manchester Arena in May.