Turkey warns US, Russia — Don’t back Kurdish militia

Updated 14 October 2015

Turkey warns US, Russia — Don’t back Kurdish militia

ANKARA: Turkey has warned the United States and Russia it will not tolerate Kurdish territorial gains by Kurdish militia close to its frontiers in northwestern Syria, two senior officials said.
“This is clear cut for us and there is no joking about it,” one official said of the possibility of Syrian Kurdish militia crossing the Euphrates to extend control along Turkish borders from Iraq’s Kurdistan region toward the Mediterranean coast.
Turkey fears advances by Kurdish YPG militia, backed by its PYD political wing, on the Syrian side of its 900 km border will fuel separatist ambitions among Kurds in its own southeastern territories. But Washington has supported YPG fighters as an effective force in combating Daesh.
“The PYD has been getting closer with both the US and Russia of late. We view the PYD as a terrorist group and we want all countries to consider the consequences of their cooperation,” one of the Turkish officials said.
Turkey suspects Russia, which launched air strikes in Syria two weeks ago, has also been lending support to the YPG and PYD.
“With support from Russia, the PYD is trying to capture land between Jarablus and Azaz, going west of the Euphrates. We will never accept this,” the official said.
He said Turkey had raised its concerns at high-level meetings with the US, European Union and Russia.
The officials did not say what action, if any, Turkey might take if YPG forces crossed the Euphrates.


Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

Updated 38 min 39 sec ago

Iraqi protesters shut roads to ports, oil fields

  • Basra saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field

BAGHDAD: Anti-government demonstrators in southern Iraq shut roads to two major ports and a key oil field Wednesday, port officials and AFP correspondents said, leading to a brief operational halt.
Correspondent in oil-rich Basra province saw protesters block access routes to the ports of Khor Al-Zubair and Umm Qasr, as well as Rumailah oil field.
Trucks waiting to load up goods from the ports could be seen waiting empty behind crowds of demonstrators.
Khor Al-Zubair is used for some heavy crude exports but also to import fuel products like benzene, while Umm Qasr is the main entry point for food and medicine into Iraq.
“Export and import activities have stopped because trucks cannot enter Khor Al-Zubair or Umm Qasr ports,” one official at Basra’s port authority said.
A second official later said the route to Khor Al-Zubair had been reopened but Umm Qasr remained shut.
Sit-ins have become a go-to tactic for Iraqis demonstrating against their government since early October.
Protesters have shut the road to Umm Qasr several times, causing a delay in offloading operations that on one occasion forced around a dozen ships to unload their cargo in another country.
Road closures have also impacted heavy crude from the Qayyarah field in northern Iraq from reaching Khor Al-Zubair since earlier this month.
The prime minister’s office has warned security forces “will not allow” protesters near key infrastructure, and riot police have forced roads open in deadly crackdowns.
More than 330 people have been killed since rallies erupted on October 1 in Baghdad and across the south.
In the capital’s main protest camp of Tahrir (Liberation) Square, thousands gathered Wednesday to express their ongoing frustration.
Top leaders and political parties have focused their efforts on hiring drives, more welfare and a new electoral law as immediate measures.
Parliament met late Tuesday to discuss a draft voting law that proposes downsizing the house from 329 seats to 251, shrinking districts and distributing votes according to a complex hybrid system.
But the United Nations mission in Iraq (UNAMI) said the draft law needed more work.
“The draft electoral legislation — currently under review by the Council of Representatives — requires improvements to meet public demands,” it said in an emailed statement on Wednesday.
UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert urged lawmakers to pass legislation that “will reflect the public appetite for a new and different way of conducting politics.”
Protesters have so far been unimpressed by the government’s proposals and large crowds — most of them students — turned out on Wednesday.
“Last night’s session serves their own interests, not those of the people,” said Younes, a 28-year-old protester.
Crowds have spilled over from Tahrir onto three main bridges that lead to the western bank of the Tigris, where key government buildings and embassies are based.
On Tuesday night, they tried to cross two of the bridges to reach the so-called Green Zone but security forces deployed on the bridges fired tear gas to keep them back, a security source told AFP.