Turkey ‘will go it alone’ with Syria security zone

Turkey expects a "safe zone" to be in place in Syria along the Turkish border within a few months and only Ankara can establish it, President Tayyip Erdogan said. (Reuters)
Updated 25 January 2019

Turkey ‘will go it alone’ with Syria security zone

  • Erdogan in new threat to drive Kurdish YPG fighters back 32km from border
  • Ankara has been threatening for months to launch an offensive in northern Syria to drive out US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters

JEDDAH: Turkey may establish its own 32km security zone in northern Syria to keep Kurdish militias away from its border, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday.
The threat by Ankara to “go it alone” with a buffer zone follows silence from Washington on US involvement in the plan.
President Donald Trump proposed the border zone, but has not specified who would create, enforce or pay for it, or where exactly it would be.
“We expect the promise of a security zone, a buffer zone aimed at protecting our country from terrorists, to be fulfilled in few months,” Erdogan said on Friday. “Otherwise we will establish it ourselves.
“Our only expectation from our allies is that they provide logistical support to Turkey's effort. Our patience has a limit. We will not wait for ever for the fulfilment of the promises given to us.”
Erdogan said neither the UN nor the international coalition formed to protect the Syrian people were capable of creating a safe zone or maintaining security in the region.
“The only power that can in a true sense establish the safety and functioning of this region on our Syrian border is Turkey,” he said. “We are closed to all proposed solutions besides this.”
He said Turkey had the right to enter Syrian territory when it was threatened under a 1998 agreement with Damascus after Syria expelled the Kurdish militant leader Abdullah Ocalan, now jailed in Turkey.
Ankara regards the Syrian Kurdish YPG as an extension of Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has fought a decades-long insurgency in southeast Turkey.
The YPG has played a key role in the US-led coalition against Daesh. Trump had previously warned Ankara not to attack Kurdish fighters in Syria, and threatened retaliation against Turkey’s economy.
US special Syria envoy James Jeffrey held talks in Ankara on Friday with Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and armed forces chief Gen. Yasar Guler. Akar told him Turkey expected the US to end its support for the YPG and complete the road map which the two countries agreed upon for the Syrian town of Manbij to the west of the Euphrates. 
Military operations against Daesh in Syria are wrapping up and the last pockets of the self-proclaimed “caliphate” will be flushed out within a month, a top commander said.
“The operation of our forces against Daesh in its last pocket has reached its end and Daesh fighters are now surrounded in one area,” said Mazloum Kobani, head of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
With backing from the US-led coalition, the SDF are in the last phase of an operation started on Sept. 10 to defeat the jihadists in their Euphrates Valley bastions in eastern Syria.

Former European leaders slam Trump peace plan

Updated 19 min 10 sec ago

Former European leaders slam Trump peace plan

  • The letter expresses deep concern over the plan

LONDON: The Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu) has gathered 50 former European leaders and foreign ministers to jointly sign a letter condemning US President Donald Trump’s peace plan for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

British signatories include former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, former International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, and former Foreign Ministers Sir Alan Duncan, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Peter Hain and Ben Bradshaw.

The sharply critical letter, published in British newspaper The Guardian, expresses deep concern over the plan, saying that “instead of promoting peace, it risks fueling the conflict.”

The signatories note that the plan has been met with “widespread opposition in the region, in Europe and in the US.”

The plan “allows for annexation of large and vital parts of the occupied Palestinian territory and legitimizes and encourages illegal Israeli settlement activity,” the letter reads.

The plan “is not a roadmap to a viable two-state solution, nor to any other legitimate solution to the conflict.”

The letter adds: “The plan envisages a formalization of the current reality in the occupied Palestinian territory, in which two peoples are living side by side without equal rights. Such an outcome has characteristics similar to apartheid — a term we don’t use lightly.”

The signatories believe that the annexation could lead to Palestinian enclaves reminiscent of South Africa’s bantustans during the apartheid era.

The letter follows increased tensions between the White House and the Palestinian Authority, with Washington threatening to withhold aid as part of a diplomatic pressure campaign at the UN.

Chris Doyle, director of Caabu, told Arab News: “We’re delighted to see so many distinguished former European political figures signing up to what is historically a very strong letter about the plans for annexation. It also clearly references that it would produce apartheid-like conditions.”

He said: “That brings into sharp focus exactly how disastrous this plan is. Even if it isn’t implemented as per the document, the plans on the ground have already been enacted effectively.”

He added: “The only way forward are talks based on international resolutions and consensus that envisage a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines with a shared capital in Jerusalem and fair resolution of the refugee issue.”