Erdogan: Assad is ‘a terrorist’

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a meeting at the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. Erdogan is railing against the United Arab Emirates' Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed al Nahyan who re-tweeted a post that accused the Turkish leader's Ottoman "forefathers" of mistreating Arabs and stealing manuscripts from the holy city of Medina.(AP)
Updated 28 December 2017

Erdogan: Assad is ‘a terrorist’

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan labeled Syrian President Bashar Assad “a terrorist” in a news conference in Tunis on Wednesday. He was speaking alongside his Tunisian counterpart Beji Caid Essebsi.
“Assad is definitely a terrorist who has carried out state terrorism,” Erdogan said. “It is impossible to continue with Assad. How can we embrace the future with a Syrian president who has killed close to a million of his citizens?”
Erdogan also said that peace would not come to Syria while Assad remained its president and that the Syrian regime should play no part in designing the country’s political future.
Mete Sohtaoglu, an Istanbul-based researcher of Middle East politics, thinks that Erdogan’s statement is a message for Moscow and Tehran, encouraging them to clarify the schedule for Assad’s removal.
“The key question is: What can Turkey achieve through talking to Assad that it cannot achieve through talking to Iran and Russia?” Sohtaoglu told Arab News. “Talking to Assad would not be a solution to any of Turkey’s problems. It would, instead, lead to Turkey losing all of its trump cards in Syria.
“Establishing a dialogue with Damascus will cause the US to perceive Ankara as part of the Russia-Iran-Syria axis,” he continued. “Then the US and all anti-Assad actors would increase their political support for the Syrian-Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a consequence.”
According to Sohtaoglu, no party will be able to instigate a plan in the region or determine a political direction without the support of Turkey.
“At the end of the day, Russia and Iran will have to give up their support of Assad,” he said.  
Dozens of Syrian opposition parties have refused to take part in the Russian-sponsored Sochi peace talks slated for next month because they believe Moscow has failed to put sufficient pressure on Assad. 
Emre Ersen, a Syria analyst from Marmara University in Istanbul, said the problem of Assad’s political future has always topped the list of Turkey’s disagreements with Russia and Iran.
“President Erdogan’s latest statement proves once again that Turkey’s position on this issue has not changed substantially despite its strategic rapprochement with Moscow and Tehran through the Astana process,” Ersen told Arab News.
Yet, according to Ersen, Turkey currently faces more pressing issues in Syria, including the presence of Kurdish-led Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its armed affiliate the People’s Protection Units (YPG), along with a possible Turkish military operation in Syria’s Afrin district, which is currently under the control of Syrian Kurdish militia.
Ersen believes that Turkey might want to exploit the growing rift between the Assad regime and the PYD/YPG in order to advance its own interests in Syria, as Assad has recently been critical of the PYD/YPG forces, even calling them “traitors” in one of his latest interviews.
Even if that happens, however, Turkey still needs the backing of Russia and Iran for any action it takes against the PYD/YPG.
“Ankara needs the support of Russia and Iran in order to take steps to solve these problems,” Ersen noted. “Therefore, at this stage, the issue of Assad will probably be secondary in Ankara’s negotiations with Moscow and Tehran.”


Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

A Palestinian man facing Israeli soldiers waves a national flag during a protest against Israel's plan to annex parts of the occupied West Bank, near the town of Tulkarm on June 5, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 06 June 2020

Palestinians, Arabs ‘must learn lessons of Naksa’

  • Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause

AMMAN: Leading Palestinian and Arab figures have used the 53rd anniversary of Naksa — the displacement and occupation of Arab territories that followed Israel’s victory in the 1967 war against Egypt, Syria, and Jordan — to highlight political mistakes made during and after the conflict.

Adnan Abu-Odeh, political adviser to Jordan's King Hussein and King Abdullah II, told Arab News that Arab countries and the Palestinian leadership had failed to understand the goals of Zionism.

“Governments that participated in the war were naive, expecting a repeat of the 1956 Sinai invasion when the US ordered an Israeli withdrawal. This was followed by the mistaken belief that we could liberate the land using guerrilla warfare," he said.

Anees Sweidan, director-general of foreign relations in the PLO, told Arab News that the Palestinian cause is undergoing a complicated phase where political opportunities are limited.

“The US bias towards Israel and absence of unity has put the Palestinian movement in a difficult situation. It is harder to generate external support and the financial crunch is causing much suffering despite the fact that we have made important accomplishments in the UN and Europe.”

Abdalqader Husseini, chairperson of the Faisal Husseini Foundation, said that the opportunities the anniversary offers should not be ignored.

“We need to realize that this is an illegal occupation that continues to dig deeper and escalate every day to the degree that the international community has lost interest and world conscience has become numb to Israeli practices. We in Jerusalem have not normalized with the occupiers and we have not accepted the new situation as an inescapable reality that we must accept.”

Jordanian MP Kais Zayadin said that the biggest mistake Arab countries made was to trust that the occupying state would make peace and reach a lasting solution to the Palestinian cause.

“We went to Madrid with hope, the Palestinian leadership went to Oslo with optimism that they could reach a phased solution that would lead to statehood. As we remember this Naksa, we must revisit the path that has allowed the occupying entity to steal our land and cause havoc to our people without any deterrence from the international community," he said.

They (Palestinian youth) personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of PASSIA thinktank

Nibal Thawabteh, director of the Bir Zeit University’s Media Development Center, said the biggest mistake since 1967 was focusing on politics and avoiding community development.

"We don’t have a strong sense of citizenship, some have become accustomed to religious Islam. We need to work more on the citizenship.”

Ahmad Awad, director of the Amman-based Phenix Center for Economic and Informatics Studies, said there is a lack of acknowledgment of the reasons behind the Arab loss.

“Political, economic and cultural factors caused our loss, and we feel that most Arab countries have not learned this lesson. Instead of learning, we are going backwards, failing to defend their existential rights, shifting to isolationism as well as cultural and economic regression in our region."

Instead of looking backward, some Palestinians wanted to look forward.

Mahdi Abdulhadi, head of the PASSIA thinktank in Jerusalem, said that Palestinian youth who never felt the shock of the 1967 defeat but have seen the exposure of Arab regimes in the face of the "deal of the century" will prevail.

“They personify the meaning of steadfastness for dignity, and they have the will to protect our heritage, our identity, and our holy places.”

Lily Habash, a Exeter University political science graduate, told Arab News that things look different on the ground.

“The world is changing and Israel uses geopolitical and regional changes to its advantage,” she said.

Dangers today encourage despair but Palestinians will be steadfast in the long term, she added.

“Some say we need a savior to get us out of this dilemma but I believe we need to trust in ourselves and work on all fronts.”