Syria says it does not want to fight with Turkey

Idlib, which is the last remaining stronghold of the rebels, witnessed heavy unrests recently. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Syria says it does not want to fight with Turkey

  • Turkey and Russia co-sponsored a deal to de-escalate the unrest in the area
  • Turkey supports Syrian rebels who remain in Idlib

BEIJING: Syria does not want to see fighting with Turkey, its foreign minister said on Tuesday, after Turkey said one of its posts in Syria’s Idlib region was attacked from an area controlled by Syrian government forces.
Russia, which supports Syrian President Bashar Assad in his country’s civil war, and Turkey, long a backer of rebels, co-sponsored a de-escalation pact for the area that has been in place since last year.
But the deal has faltered in recent months, forcing hundreds of thousands of civilians to flee. Idlib is the last remaining bastion of anti-government rebels after eight years of civil war.
“We hope that our military and the Turkish military do not fight. This is our principled stance,” Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Moualem told reporters in Beijing, standing alongside the Chinese government’s top diplomat, State Councillor Wang Yi.
“What we are fighting is terrorists, especially in Idlib, which is Syrian territory, part of our country,” Moualem said in Arabic comments translated into Chinese.
The dominant force in the Idlib region is Tahrir Al-Sham, the latest incarnation of the former Nusra Front that was part of Al-Qaeda until 2016. Others, including some with Turkish backing, also have a presence.
“The question now is, what does Turkey want to do in Syria? Turkey is occupying part of Syrian soil, and has a military presence in certain parts of Syria,” Moualem added.
“Are they protecting the Nusra Front? Are they protecting certain terrorist forces including the East Turkestan Islamic Movement?” he said, referring to an extremist group China blames for attacks in far western Xinjiang with operations elsewhere.
“This question needs to be asked of Turkey, what are their actual aims? We are fighting those terrorist groups and organizations. The whole world believes those people we are fighting are terrorists.”
Since April, Syrian government forces have stepped up shelling and bombing of the area, killing scores of people.
The rebels say the government action is part of a campaign for an assault that would breach the de-escalation pact.
The government and its Russian allies say the action is in response to rebel violations, including the presence of fighters in a demilitarised zone.


Turkey blocked from US F-35 program after Russian missile purchase

Updated 20 min 49 sec ago
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Turkey blocked from US F-35 program after Russian missile purchase

  • “The US and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program"

WASHINGTON: The United States said on Wednesday that it was removing Turkey from the F-35 fighter jet program, a move that had been long threatened and expected after Ankara began accepting delivery of an advanced Russian missile defense system last week.
The first parts of the S-400 air defense system were flown to the Murted military air base northwest of Ankara on Friday, sealing Turkey’s deal with Russia, which Washington had struggled for months to prevent.
“The US and other F-35 partners are aligned in this decision to suspend Turkey from the program and initiate the process to formally remove Turkey from the program,” said Ellen Lord, the under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.
“The United States is spending between $500 and $600 million in non-recurring engineering in order to shift the supply chain,” she said.
Used by NATO and other US allies, the F-35 stealth fighter jet is the world’s most advanced jet fighter. Washington is concerned that deploying the S-400 with the F-35 would allow Russia to gain too much inside information of the stealth system.
“The F-35 cannot coexist with a Russian intelligence collection platform that will be used to learn about its advanced capabilities,” the White House said in a statement earlier on Wednesday.
Washington has long said the acquisition may lead to Turkey’s expulsion from the F-35 program.
The Pentagon had already laid out a plan to remove Turkey from the program, including halting any new training for Turkish pilots on the advanced aircraft.
“The situation with Turkey is a government-to-government matter and we’ll comply with any guidance issued by the United States Government,” said a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin Corp. , the prime contractor on the jet.