Turkey separating moderate rebels from radicals in Idlib: Report

A general view shows tents housing internally displaced people in Atma camp, near the Syrian-Turkish border in Idlib Governorate. Turkey on Saturday said it is separating moderate opposition groups from those listed by the international community as terrorist groups in Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province. (REUTERS file photo)
Updated 03 December 2017

Turkey separating moderate rebels from radicals in Idlib: Report

ANKARA: In Syria’s rebel-held Idlib province, Turkey is separating moderate opposition groups from those listed by the international community as terrorist groups, a Foreign Ministry official said, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported. 
As part of this policy, Ankara has separated some moderate groups from the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) alliance, which is blacklisted by the UN, the official added. 
HTS’ main faction Jabhat Fatah Al-Sham (formerly Al-Nusra Front) holds significant territory in Idlib, is one of the most powerful terrorist groups in Syria, and was affiliated with Al-Qaeda before it changed its name. 
“When Russia started airstrikes in Syria two years ago to prop up the Assad regime, it came under heavy criticism from the West and Turkey, mainly because it targeted not only Daesh but also rebel groups fighting the regime,” Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst from Marmara University in Istanbul, told Arab News. 
“But as Moscow turned the strategic balance in the regime’s favor, its stance on the issue started to soften.” 
Just before it launched the Astana process with Iran and Turkey, Russia said groups such as Ahrar Al-Sham and Jaish Al-Islam, which it previously viewed as terrorist groups, could be included in the peace process as members of the moderate opposition, Ersen said. 
“One of the major goals of establishing a de-escalation zone in Idlib is to weaken the influence of HTS there,” he added.
“Turkey plays a key role in this regard as it has close relations with most of the rebel groups in Idlib,” Ersen said.  
“Russia believes Turkey can be influential in convincing some of the groups affiliated with HTS to distance themselves from this group and start supporting the Astana process,” he said.
“The Turkish observer mission in Idlib not only monitors the cease-fire there, but also plays a crucial diplomatic role in realizing this objective.”
Mete Sohtaoglu, an Istanbul-based researcher on Middle East politics, told Arab News: “Groups that would contribute to a political settlement are prioritized, with particular emphasis on those that aren’t in conflict with the Assad regime.” 


Nile dam dispute spills onto social media

Updated 10 July 2020

Nile dam dispute spills onto social media

CAIRO: As Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan struggle to resolve a long-running dispute over Addis Ababa’s dam megaproject on the Nile, some of their citizens are sparring online over their rights to the mighty waterway.
For nearly a decade, multiple rounds of talks between Cairo, Addis Ababa and Khartoum have failed to produce a deal over the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Anxiety has mounted in downstream Sudan and Egypt, which fear for their vital water supplies after upstream Ethiopia declared plans to start filling Africa’s largest dam reservoir in July.
As tensions have run high in the political arena, they have also amped up online.
In one widely viewed video originally shared on TikTok, an Ethiopian woman pours water from a pitcher into two cups representing Egypt and Sudan.
She fills Sudan’s cup to the brim but only pours a trickle of water into Egypt’s, before emptying the water back into the pitcher.
“This is my water. When I give you water, it’s my call, not yours,” she says.
In response, an Egyptian woman created a compilation of the video and one of her own in which she knocks down a dam-shaped block structure with the Ethiopian flag superimposed on it before triumphantly downing a cup of water.
The video had been viewed more than 55,000 times on Instagram by Wednesday.
Social media “platforms are powerful,” said Wubalem Fekade, communications head at the intergovernmental ENTRO-Nile Basin Initiative.
“People on the social media platforms aren’t accountable, so it’s easy to disseminate unverified, incorrect, false, even conspiracy theories,” he said.
But, he added hopefully, “when used creatively and judiciously, they can help defuse tensions.”
The online row over the dam has been particularly heated between Egyptian and Ethiopian social media users.
Egypt has long enjoyed the lion’s share of the Nile water under decades-old agreements that were largely viewed by other Nile basin countries as unfair.
On Twitter, Egyptians echoed authorities’ fears that Ethiopia’s dam would severely cut their country’s supply of water from the Nile, which provides 97 percent of the arid nation’s water needs.
“We will never allow any country to starve us” of water, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris wrote on Twitter.
“If Ethiopia doesn’t come to reason, we, the Egyptian people will be the first to call for war,” he threatened.
Egyptian cartoonist Ahmed Diab has weighed in with a drawing of an outsized Egyptian soldier, rifle slung over his shoulder, facing a diminutive Ethiopian man with the dam in the background.
“You idiot, try to understand that I care for you ... ever heard about the Bar Lev Line?” the soldier tells the Ethiopian, alluding to Egypt’s military strength in referring to the Egyptian destruction of an Israeli defense line along the Suez canal in 1973.
Diab called the cartoon part of a “psychological war.”
“Besides a show of military might and strong media discourse, arts can boost people’s morale,” he said.
For their part, Ethiopians have rallied behind their country’s mega project, set to become Africa’s largest hydroelectric installation.
On social media, they have rejected any conditions of reaching a deal before filling the dam.
Filling the dam should not be held “hostage” to an agreement with Cairo, Ethiopian activist Jawar Mohamed wrote on Twitter.
“If agreement is reached before the filling begins in the coming days, it’s great. If not, the filling should begin and the negotiation shall continue,” he said.
Ethiopia, one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, insists the dam will not affect the onward flow of water and sees the project as indispensible for its national development and electrification.
Khartoum hopes the dam will help regulate flooding, but in June it warned that millions of lives will be at “great risk” if Ethiopia unilaterally fills the dam.
In a letter to the UN Security Council, Sudan raised concerns that water discharged from the GERD could “compromise the safety” of its own Roseires Dam by overwhelming it and causing flooding.
Omar Dafallah, a Sudanese artist, depicted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed overseeing the water flowing from the dam through a faucet to fill a jug held by Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok.
The drawing also shows Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi with a large water container, waiting in line.
Last month, Egypt also appealed to the UNSC to intervene in the crisis — a move El-Sisi said underlined his country’s committment to a political solution.
Egyptian lawmaker Mohamed Fouad views the online debate as a way to “break the stalemate” in the diplomatic talks, “so long as they remain within the boundaries of healthy discussions.”