Erdogan at odds with Russia over control of Syria-Turkey safe zone

A Turkish military convoy moves at Kirikhan of Hatay region in Syria’s border. (AFP)
Updated 24 February 2019
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Erdogan at odds with Russia over control of Syria-Turkey safe zone

  • ‘If there is to be a safe zone along our border then it must be under our control. Because that is my border’
  • Turkey has no right to set up the zone without seeking consent from Syrian President Assad — Russian FM

JEDDAH:  Moscow and Ankara are at odds over who would control a proposed "safe zone" along Turkey’s border with Syria, with Russia's foreign minister saying on Sunday that Russian forces could do the policing.

Sergei Lavrov was quoted by Russian news agencies saying that Turkey had no right to set up the zone without seeking and receiving consent from Syrian President Bashar Assad.

On Saturday, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said any safe zone along Turkey’s border with Syria must be under Turkish control, 

“If there is to be a safe zone along our border then it must be under our control. Because that is my border,” Erdogan said in an interview with broadcaster CNN Turk.

He was speaking after a senior US administration official said on Friday Washington would leave about 400 US troops in Syria, a reversal by President Donald Trump that could pave the way for US allies to keep troops there.

Ankara regards the Kurdish YPG militia, which controls that region and has been a key US ally against Daesh, as a terrorist group. Turkey has repeatedly threatened to intervene militarily against the YPG east of the Euphrates river where the safe zone is planned.

Lavrov was cited as saying on Sunday that the format of the safe zone was in the process of being finalized by military leaders, and that any decision would take the interests of Damascus and Ankara into account as far as possible.

“We have experience in combining cease-fire agreements, safety measures and the creation of de-escalation zones with the roll-out of Russian military police,” Lavrov was cited as saying. “Such a possibility is being kept open for this buffer zone.” 

Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 US troops from Syria in December after saying they had defeated Daesh, a decision criticized by allies and US lawmakers.

He was persuaded on Thursday that about 200 US troops should join what is expected to be a total commitment of some 800 to 1,500 troops from European allies to set up a safe zone in northeastern Syria, a US administration official said.

Ankara regards the Kurdish YPG militia, which controls that region and has been a key US ally against Daesh, as a terrorist group. Turkey has repeatedly threatened to intervene militarily against the YPG east of the Euphrates river where the safe zone is planned.

 

(With Reuters)

 


Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

Updated 22 May 2019
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Sabotage of oil tankers stirs concerns over Gulf shipping

  • The acts of sabotage near the UAE coast highlight new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies
  • Experts say increased threat to navigation and global oil supplies not limited regionally but has global dimension

DUBAI: Amid rising tensions between the US and Iran, sabotage attacks on four commercial vessels off the coast of the UAE’s Fujairah port have raised serious questions about maritime security in the Gulf.

The incidents, which included attacks on two Saudi oil tankers, were revealed by the UAE government on May 12, drawing strong condemnation from governments in the Middle East and around the world as well as the Arab League.

Now experts have warned that the sabotage attacks highlight a new threat to maritime traffic and global oil supplies.

A Saudi government source said: “This criminal act constitutes a serious threat to the security and safety of maritime navigation, and adversely affects regional and international peace and security.”

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the incidents threatened international maritime traffic.

While crimes on the high seas, including piracy, have tapered off in recent years, the attacks on the ships, three of which are registered to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have called into question common assumptions about the Gulf’s stability.

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Theodore Karasik, a senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington D.C., said governments of the Gulf region are mandated to watch over oceans and waterways. “On top of this requirement is the need for a new regime of maritime coordination to prevent attacks on shipping because of the repercussions for logistical chains, corporate strategies and insurance rates,” he told Arab News.

The sabotage attacks took place east of Fujairah port, outside the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway through which most Gulf oil exports pass and which Iran has threatened to block in the event of a military confrontation with the US.

Johan Obdola, president of the International Organization for Security and Intelligence, said the recent attacks underscore the need for closer intelligence-coordinated capabilities among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, including satellite communication and maritime or vessel security technology.

“The threats to oil tankers are not limited to the Gulf, but have a global dimension,” he said.

According to Obdola: “A coordinated joint task force integrating oil, intelligence security and military forces should be (established) to project and prepare (for potential future attacks). This is a time to be as united as ever.”

GCC countries have intensified security in international waters, the US navy said. Additionally, two US guided-missile destroyers entered the Gulf on May 16 in response to what the US called signs of possible Iranian aggression.

“The attack has brought (the region) a bit closer to a possible military confrontation amid the escalation in tensions between the US and Iran,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a former chairman of the Arab Council for Social Sciences, told Arab News.

He said Iran is purposely dragging Saudi Arabia, the UAE and possibly other Gulf countries into its fight with the US. “The credibility of the US is at stake and Trump has said he will meet any aggression with unrelenting force. If Iran continues on this path, we might see some kind of a military showdown on a limited scale.”

Given the importance of the region’s oil supplies to the US, Abdulla said “it’s not just the responsibility of Arab Gulf states but an international responsibility” to keep the shipping lanes safe.