Russia, Turkey, Iran to hold Syria talks

A picture taken in the Yarmuk Palestinian refugee camp in southern Damascus on April 27, 2018 shows smoke billowing in the area during Syrian army shelling and airstrikes. (AFP)
Updated 28 April 2018

Russia, Turkey, Iran to hold Syria talks

MOSCOW: The foreign ministers of Russia, Iran and Turkey were set to hold talks on Syria Saturday in the wake of an alleged chemical attack that has exposed differences between the three powers.
The three nations have been attempting to find a political solution to the Syrian conflict at talks that started last year in Astana, Kazakhstan, in competition with the US and UN-backed Geneva initiative.
The latest talks in Moscow between two of Assad’s key supporters, Moscow and Tehran, and rebel-backer Ankara come as the alleged chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma on April 7 has prompted sharply differing responses from Turkey and Russia.
“I curse those who carried out this massacre,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that he welcomed Western air strikes in retaliation as “appropriate.”
Meanwhile Russia says the attack was staged to discredit its ally President Bashar-al Assad and this week brought a group of Syrians to the global chemical arms watchdog to back its claims.
French President Emmanuel Macron this month suggested the air strikes had driven a wedge between Ankara and Moscow as they have been building increasingly close ties.
This prompted an angry denial from Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, who said the countries’ relations “are not so weak that the French president can break them.”
Alexander Shumilin, a Middle East expert at the Institute for US and Canadian Studies in Moscow, however, said Douma fallout had “caused a crack in the alliance of three countries.”
He added: “If the trio falls apart entirely, the ensuing events could be really bad.”
Turkey has a “completely different attitude” to resolving the conflict and Assad’s fate, he said, while Iran is seeking to destabilize the region to hurt Israel and Russia wants to “stabilize and leave.”
Alexey Malashenko, a specialist in the Syria conflict, was skeptical the meeting would achieve much beyond a show of unity, saying the trio have a “very shaky” alliance.
Their positions on the suspected chemical attack are irreconcilable, he said.
“Turkey has an absolutely honest position: it is against Bashar Assad and here there’s no way they can reach an agreement.”
Nevertheless, the limited nature of US-led strikes suggests the “peak of tensions has passed,” he said.
The Turkish foreign ministry said Saturday’s meeting “will focus on all aspects” of cooperation and “elaborate on the steps that could be taken from now on,” while the Russian foreign ministry said talks would focus on the humanitarian situation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will also hold bilateral talks, including on the “escalating situation” around the Iran nuclear deal, spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
The most recent Syria talks attended by the foreign ministers in Astana were held on March 16. The next are set for May 14.
EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday urged the three powers to do more, saying they “have not only a responsibility but also an interest in making the cease-fire work.”
Eight rounds of talks under United Nations auspices in Geneva have made little headway, with Assad’s government taking little interest.
Both Tehran and Moscow have deployed military forces to Syria to back up Assad in his now seven-year-old war against anti-government rebels.
Ankara has called for Assad’s removal throughout the war, but has worked increasingly closely with Moscow and Tehran in recent months in an attempt to find a solution to the conflict.
In January, Russia held a showpiece conference in the Black Sea resort of Sochi with largely pro-regime delegates, which saw boycotts by rebels and made little progress.
Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a summit on Syria with the Iranian and Turkish presidents in November. They then met again in Ankara this month.


Algerian parliament vote ‘before year’s end’

Algerians walk across from the People's National Assembly (parliament) building during a voting session on constitutional reforms in the capital Algiers, on September 10, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 22 September 2020

Algerian parliament vote ‘before year’s end’

  • The term of the widely discredited current lower house, elected in 2017, was originally set to end in May 2022

ALGIERS: The Algerian president says early legislative elections aimed at opening parliament to civil society will be held before the end of the year to give a new face to a parliament long dominated by a single party.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune did not set a date but indicated on Sunday evening that the parliamentary voting would follow a national referendum on a constitutional revision to be held Nov. 1, a highly symbolic date marking the start of this North African nation’s seven-year war with France for independence that began Nov. 1, 1954.
The next National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, which “will be made up of lawmakers from universities, civil society, will serve as the base of the ‘New Algeria,’” Tebboune said in an interview with two Algerian newspapers.
“If the people want change, it is time to work to not remain in the ambiguity that prevailed earlier.”
Tebboune was referring to the corruption that highlighted the 20 years of power of Abdelaziz Bouteflika, forced to resign in April 2019 amid growing peaceful street protests and a push from the then-Army chief Ahmed Gaid Salah, who died in December.

If the people want change, it is time to work to not remain in the ambiguity that prevailed earlier.

Abdelmadjid Tebboune, President of Algeria

Tebboune was elected promising change, including a new parliament, though the vote was largely boycotted by the protest movement, the Hirak.
The term of the widely discredited current lower house, elected in 2017, was originally set to end in May 2022.
A new electoral law foreseen in the constitutional revision “will put in place safeguards to keep dirty money out of politics,” the president said, adding that with the constitutional revision Algeria would “truly be at the service of the citizen and not at the service of a group exercising domination.”
Numerous business leaders and two prime ministers have been jailed on corruption charges since the downfall of Bouteflika. During a trial last week, lawmaker Baha Eddine Tliba admitted to paying the former chief of the powerful FLN party Djamel Ould Abbas, to be placed on his list of candidates to ensure him a parliamentary seat.