Russia carries out air strikes against militants in Syria’s Idlib

The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Thursday that its planes had carried out four air strikes against militants in Syria's Idlib region. (File/AFP)
Updated 13 June 2019

Russia carries out air strikes against militants in Syria’s Idlib

  • The Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria on Thursday and attacked a Turkish observation post
  • Russia is Damascus’s main ally in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas

MOSCOW: The Russian Ministry of Defence said on Thursday that its planes had carried out four air strikes against militants in Syria's Idlib region, the RIA news agency reported.
The Russian military said that the Turkish army had asked for its help to protect Turkish troops by striking "terrorists in Idlib".

Earlier, the Syrian army and its allies shelled rebel-held areas of northwest Syria on Thursday and attacked a Turkish observation post, Ankara and a monitoring group said, despite Russia saying it and Turkey had brokered a new cease-fire.

However, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Thursday said a ceasefire had not been fully secured in Syria's northwestern Idlib province, despite the announcement by Moscow.
"We are working hard with Russia to stop these attacks. It is not possible to say a complete ceasefire has been secured," Cavusoglu told a press conference with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Syrian government forces carried out what it assessed to be a deliberate attack, firing 35 mortar shells at one of its observation posts in the de-escalation zone in Idlib, wounding three Turkish soldiers and damaging equipment and facilities.
Ankara has made representations to Moscow about the incident, the defense ministry said. It did not say when exactly the attack happened.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said air strikes on rebel-held areas paused overnight, but resumed on Thursday morning. They targeted the area around Khan Sheikhoun, an opposition-held town in southern Idlib province, it said, adding that the insurgents had also fired artillery at government forces.
On Wednesday, the Russian military said that Moscow and Ankara had agreed a full cease-fire in the northwest, centered on Idlib, but it did not say how long the truce would last.
The Syrian government launched its offensive against northwest Syria, the last major stronghold of the rebellion against it, in late April.
Russia is Damascus’s main ally in the civil war between Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels seeking to oust him, using its warplanes to bombard opposition areas. Turkey backs some insurgent groups.
Moscow and Ankara had agreed a partial truce last September that called for an end to bombardment of the area and for Ankara to pull heavy weapons and militant groups from frontline areas.
The fighting has caused hundreds of thousands of people, many of whom had already been displaced, to flee further north and seek shelter along the Turkish border.
Turkey has pushed Russia to rein in the government’s offensive while Russia has said Turkey must curb the militant groups that dominate in Idlib.


Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

Updated 17 August 2019

Sudanese celebrate transition to civilian rule

  • Members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders signed the documents that will govern the 39-month transition
  • Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir is leading Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony

KHARTOUM: Sudan's main opposition coalition and the ruling military council on Saturday signed a final agreement for a transitional government.
The agreement was signed in the presence of regional and international dignitaries including Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir. 
During a ceremony that was held at a hall by the Nile in the capital Khartoum, members of the Transitional Military Council and protest leaders signed the documents that will govern the 39-month transition.
“Today, the country begins its historic transition to democracy,” read the front page of the Tayar newspaper, a headline echoed by most other dailies.
But the road to democracy remains fraught with obstacles, even if the mood was celebratory as foreign dignitaries as well as thousands of citizens from all over Sudan converged for the occasion.
The deal reached on August 4 — the Constitutional Declaration — brought an end to nearly eight months of upheaval that saw masses mobilize against president Omar Al-Bashir, who was ousted in April after 30 years in power.
The agreement brokered by the African Union and Ethiopia was welcomed with relief by both sides — protesters celebrated what they see as the victory of their “revolution,” while the generals took credit for averting civil war.
Hundreds of people boarded a train from the town of Atbara — the birthplace of the protests back in December — on Friday night, dancing and singing on their way to the celebrations in Khartoum, videos shared on social media showed.
“Civilian rule, civilian rule,” they chanted, promising to avenge the estimated 250 allegedly killed by security forces during the protests.

The Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir led Saudi Arabia’s delegation at the ceremony in Khartoum, Saudi Press Agency reported.

Al-Jubeir is being accompanied by the Saudi Minister of State for African affairs Ahmed Abdul Aziz Kattan and the Saudi ambassador to Sudan Ali bin Hassan Jafar.

Saudi Arabia has and will continue to support everything that guarantees Sudan’s security and stability, Al-Jubeir said at the ceremony.

“We look forward to the Sudanese fortifying the partnership agreement and combatting foreign interference.”

Al-Jubeir also said that Saudi Arabia actively participated in supporting efforts to reach the agreement in Sudan.

After Saturday’s signing, Sudan kicks off a process that includes important first steps.
The composition of the civilian-majority transition ruling council is to be announced on Sunday.
On Thursday, former senior UN official Abdalla Hamdok, a veteran economist, was designated as transitional prime minister.
He is expected to focus on attempting to stabilize Sudan’s economy, which went into a tailspin when the oil-rich south seceded in 2011 and was the trigger that sparked the initial protests.
At Khartoum’s central market early Saturday, shoppers and stallholders interviewed by AFP all said they hoped a civilian government would help them put food on the table.
“Everybody is happy now,” said Ali Yusef, a 19-year-old university student who works in the market to get by.
“We were under the control of the military for 30 years but today we are leaving this behind us and moving toward civilian rule,” he said, sitting next to tomatoes piled directly on the ground.
“All these vegetables around are very expensive but now I’m sure they will become cheaper.”
While it remains to be seen what changes the transition can bring to people’s daily lives, residents old and young were eager to exercise a newfound freedom of expression.
“I’m 72 and for 30 years under Bashir, I had nothing to feel good about. Now, thanks to God, I am starting to breathe,” said Ali Issa Abdel Momen, sitting in front of his modest selection of vegetables at the market.
But many Sudanese are already questioning the ability of the transitional institutions to rein in the military elite’s powers during the three-year period leading to planned elections.
The country of 40 million people will be ruled by an 11-member sovereign council and a government, which will — the deal makes clear — be dominated by civilians.
However, the interior and defense ministers are to be chosen by military members of the council.
Observers have warned that the transitional government will have little leverage to counter any attempt by the military to roll back the uprising’s achievements and seize back power.
Saturday’s official ceremony is to be attended by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and several other regional leaders.
Security forces deployed across the city for the biggest international event to be held in a long time in Sudan, which had become something of a pariah country under Bashir’s rule.
One of the most immediate diplomatic consequences of the compromise reached this month could be the lifting of a suspension slapped on Sudan by the African Union in June.
Bashir, who took power in a 1989 coup and is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide in the Darfur region, had been slated to appear in court Saturday on corruption charges.
But his trial has been postponed to an as yet undetermined date.