Biden orders Syrian Kurds to pull back; Assad govt slams Turkish incursion

Turkish army tanks move toward the Syrian border as pictured from Karkamis, Turkey, on Wednesday. The operation was launched hours before Vice President Joe Biden was due in Ankara for talks that include developments in Syria. (AP Photo)
Updated 24 August 2016
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Biden orders Syrian Kurds to pull back; Assad govt slams Turkish incursion

ANKARA, Turkey: US Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Syrian Kurdish forces to move back across the Euphrates River, telling them they will lose US support if they don’t.
Speaking at a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday, Biden said Kurdish forces “must move back across the Euphrates River.”
He said “they cannot — will not — under any circumstance get American support if they do not keep that commitment.”
Biden indirectly expressed support for the Turkish operation launched Wednesday to clear Daesh militants from the town of Jarablus and deter Kurds from further expanding in northern Syria. Turkish tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed into Syria earlier in the morning, under the cover of US-led coalition airstrikes.
Turkish state media says Syrian opposition forces backed by Turkey have reached the “entrance” of Jarablus, which lies on the last main supply line between Daesh territory and the border.
The US-backed Kurdish forces seized the border town of Manbij from Daesh militants earlier this month. Turkey said they had to retreat after clearing it from Daesh.

'Blatant violation'

Syria’s government has denounced Turkish military incursion, describing it as Turkey’s “blatant violation” of Syrian sovereignty.
In a statement reported by state-run news agency SANA on Wednesday, the government says that “any move to combat terrorism on Syrian territories should have been coordinated with the Syrian government and army.”
The statement also calls for an immediate end to the Turkish “aggression,” which it says is being carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
It says: “Fighting terrorism cannot be undertaken by ousting Daesh and replacing it with other terrorist organizations directly backed by Turkey.” Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for Islamic State.
Turkey’s state-run news agency says Syrian rebels have captured a village from the Daesh group near the Daesh-held border town of Jarablus in a joint push with Turkey’s military.
The Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed military officials, said the Syrian opposition fighters took the village of Kaklijeh with the support of Turkish armored units.
Anadolu said the village is some 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away from the Turkish border. It said Turkish warplanes and artillery were also pressing ahead with their attacks against Daesh targets.
The report also said the rebel forces are expected to advance toward Jarablus backed by the Turkish armored units.

Daesh militants rounded up

Turkey’s state-run news agency says that police teams have mounted simultaneous raids at multiple locations in Istanbul to detain several suspected members of the Daesh group.
The Anadolu Agency reported the operations took place early on Wednesday in two Istanbul districts and were coordinated by a helicopter flying overhead.
The operation comes days after a suspected Daesh bombing at a wedding in southeast Turkey killed at least 54 people. It also coincides with a Turkish military incursion into Syria to clear a border town of the Daesh group.
Several suspects were detained and their addresses searched. Authorities did not disclose the number of those detained.


Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process in Sudan. (Reuters)
Updated 24 July 2019
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Sudan is heading in the right direction but much work remains, says US envoy

CHICAGO: US Special Envoy for Sudan Donald E. Booth on Tuesday said that leaders of the military government and the opposition in the African nation are moving toward a reconciliation, but added “there is a lot” that still needs to be done.
Booth, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in June, is charged with leading the US efforts to support a political solution to the current crisis that reflects the will of the Sudanese people.
Both sides in Sudan agreed a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new “Sovereign Council,” before constitutional changes can be made. Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.
“That political declaration really addresses the structure of a transitional government and not the entire structure,” Booth said. “(The July 17 agreement) has put off the question of the legislative council. It is a document that is the beginning of a process. We welcome the agreement on that but there are still a lot of negotiations to be conducted on what the Sudanese call their constitutional declaration.”
The envoy said he expects the Sovereign Council “will have to address what the functions of the different parts of the transitional government will be,” such as the roles and powers of “the sovereign council, the prime minister, the cabinet and, ultimately, the legislative cabinet. Who will lead that transitional government is still undecided.”
The crisis in Sudan came to a head in December 2018 when President Omar Al-Bashir imposed emergency austerity measures that prompted widespread public protests.
He was overthrown by the Sudanese military in April 2018 as a result of the unrest but the protests continued. Demonstrations in Khartoum turned violent on June 3 when 150 civilians were killed, sparking nationwide protests in which nearly a million people took part.
Booth said these protests had changed the dynamics in Sudan, forcing the military to negotiate with the people.
“The 3rd of June was a signal of the limits of people power,” he said. “But then there was the 30th of June, in which close to a million people took to the streets outside of Sudan and I think that demonstrated the limits of the military power over the people.”
Some have asked whether individuals might face prosecution for past human-rights violations, including Lt. Gen. Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, better known as Gen. Hemeti, who was appointed head of the ruling transitional military council in April after Al-Bashir was removed from power. Booth said this would be a decision for the new transitional government.
“One has to recognize that General Hemeti is a powerful figure currently in Sudan,” he said. “He has considerable forces loyal to him. He has significant economic assets as well. So, he has been a prominent member of this transitional military council. But he has been one of the chief negotiators for the forces of Freedom and Change.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Both sides in Sudan agreed on a political power-sharing deal on July 17 that set out a 39-month period of transition, led by Sudan’s new ‘Sovereign Council,’ before constitutional changes can be made.

• Under the agreement, a military general will lead the council for the first 21 months, a civilian for the following 18 months, and then elections will be held.

• We will have to wait and see what type of agreement Sudanese will come up with, says US envoy.

“We will have to wait and see what type of agreement they will come up with…we don’t want to prejudge where the Sudanese will come out on that. It is their country and their decision on how they move forward. Our goal is to support the desire for a truly civilian-led transition.”
Booth noted that although sanctions on Sudan have been lifted, the designation of the nation as a state sponsor of terrorism remains in force. He also said he expects the pressures and restrictions on journalists covering Sudan’s transition to ease as progress continues toward redefining Sudan’s government.
“As you can see, there is still a lot that the Sudanese need to do,” said Booth. “But we fully support the desire of the Sudanese people to have a civilian-led transitional government that will tackle the issues of constitutional revision and organizing elections, free and fair democratic elections, at the end of the transitional period.”
He added that the US is working with other governments in the region to build support for the transitional process, including expanded religious freedoms, an end to the recruitment of children for military service, and improving Sudan’s economy.
“I think it is important we give the Sudanese space to negotiate with each other, and to continue to express our support to get to the civilian-led transition government that will be broadly supported by the Sudanese people,” said Booth.