Turkey calls for Assad’s ouster, says supports US missile strike

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, Turkey, March 30, 2017. (REUTERS)
Updated 07 April 2017

Turkey calls for Assad’s ouster, says supports US missile strike

ANKARA: Turkey called for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s immediate ouster on Friday, voicing support for a US missile strike on one of his air bases and saying the creation of safe zones to protect civilians was now more important than ever.
Turkey, a NATO member and part of the US-led coalition against Daesh, has long argued there can be no peace in Syria under Assad. But following a rapprochement with Russia, it had appeared in recent months to accept the possibility of the Syrian leader staying on in a transitional role.
“It is necessary to oust this regime as soon as possible from the leadership of Syria,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters on Friday, in a hardening of Turkey’s tone.
“If he doesn’t want to go, if there is no transition government, and if he continues committing humanitarian crimes, the necessary steps to oust him should be taken.”
His comments came after the United States fired cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase from which, it said, a deadly chemical weapons attack was launched this week. It was the first direct US assault on Assad’s government in six years of war.
President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said the US action marked “an important step to ensure that chemical and conventional attacks against the civilian population do not go unpunished” and said a no-fly zone should be enforced.
Erdogan himself has yet to comment on the US missile strike but was quoted late on Thursday, before the US action, as saying Turkey would welcome US military action in Syria and would be ready to assist if needed.
The stance could complicate Turkish efforts to repair ties with Russia, damaged in November 2015 when Turkey shot down a Russian fighter jet near the Syrian border.
Relations have gradually been repaired since August, and Russia and Turkey jointly brokered a cease-fire in the Syrian city of Aleppo at the end of last year.
“There is a struggle for power between Russia and the United States over the future of Syria and Turkey is stumbling back and forth between the two,” said Metin Gurcan, a former military officer and security analyst at the Istanbul Policy Center.
“This is a period where Turkey shouldn’t make sharp U-turns ... sometimes we’re extremely pro-Washington and sometimes pro-Moscow. That could lead to Turkey being perceived as an inconsistent, unpredictable and therefore unreliable actor.”
Cavusoglu said the coalition had been informed of the US missile strike and that he had spoken by phone with the French and German foreign ministers, although he did not say when.
He also said contacts had been initiated with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Egypt receives new batch of Russian railroad cars

Updated 33 min 34 sec ago

Egypt receives new batch of Russian railroad cars

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Transport Kamel Al-Wazir announced that the Alexandria Port would be receiving a new batch of 22 passenger railroad cars, bringing the total of Russian railroad cars so far to 103 vehicles, as part of a deal to manufacture and supply 1,300 new passenger railroad cars.

The deal, signed between the Egyptian Railways Authority and Russian-Hungarian company Transmashholding, is the largest in the history of Egypt’s railways, with a value of €1.16 billion ($1.8 billion).

Al-Wazir confirmed that the 22 railroad cars that arrived are third-class vehicles with dynamic ventilation.

The deal includes 800 air-conditioned vehicles, 500 third-class air-conditioned vehicles (a new service offered to passengers for the first time in the history of Egyptian railways), 180 second-class vehicles, 90 first-class vehicles, 30 air-conditioned buffet vehicles and 500 dynamic ventilated third-class vehicles.

Al-Wazir indicated that 35 vehicles have arrived during the current month, which is the average monthly supply agreed upon with the manufacturer, pointing out that this rate enables the railway authority to form three new trains consisting of tractors and all-new cars that are entered monthly to become part of the line.

Al-Wazir said that the deal contributes to raising the efficiency of the Egyptian railways’ daily operations and schedules. This coincides with the Egyptian Railway Authority’s projects to modernize infrastructure, including signaling systems, crossings, stations and other aspects.

All these projects that the ministry implemented contributed to increasing safety and security in train operations and improving the level of service.

Egypt is seeking to develop its railways, the second oldest in the world, after witnessing unfortunate accidents during the past two decades.

Over the past few years, railways in Egypt have undergone major development, represented by the modernization of the fleet of tractors and vehicles of various classes and the maintenance of trains and old railways.

According to official data, Egypt spent EGP 40 billion ($2.5 billion) on railway development projects during the past six years. Projects at a cost of EGP 86 billion are currently under way, and there is a plan to start implementing others at a cost of EGP 55 billion.