Turkey ‘will go it alone’ with Syria security zone

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

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.


Lebanon’s president expresses hope for Israel border talks

Updated 02 December 2020

Lebanon’s president expresses hope for Israel border talks

Lebanon’s president expresses hope for Israel border talks
  • President Michel Aoun was in Beirut for discussions with Lebanese leaders
  • The negotiations are the first non-security talks to be held between the two countries

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s president said Wednesday he wants maritime border talks with Israel to succeed and that disagreements during the last round of negotiations can be resolved based on international law.
President Michel Aoun spoke during a meeting with John Desrocher, the US mediator for the negotiations, who was in Beirut for discussions with Lebanese leaders.
The fourth round of talks, which was scheduled to take place Wednesday, was postponed until further notice, officials in the two countries said.
The negotiations are the first non-security talks to be held between the two countries, which have no diplomatic relations and are technically in a state of war following decades of conflict. Resolving the border issue could pave the way for lucrative oil and gas deals on both sides.
Israel and Lebanon each claim about 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of the Mediterranean Sea. During the second round of the talks the Lebanese delegation — a mix of army officers and experts — offered a new map that pushes for an additional 1,430 square kilometers (550 square miles).
Israel’s Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview with Army Radio last week that “the Lebanese presented positions that are a provocation,” but he added that all negotiations start with “excessive demands and provocations.”
“I hope that in a few months we’ll be able to reach a breakthrough,” he added.
A statement released by Aoun’s office quoted him as telling Desrocher that Lebanon wants the talks to succeed because “this will strengthen stability in the south and allow us to invest in natural resources of oil and gas.”
He said difficulties that surfaced during the last round can be solved through discussions based on the Law of the Sea. Aoun said if the talks stall then “other alternatives can be put forward,” without elaborating.
The last round of talks were held in November and hosted by the United Nations in a border post between the two countries.
Israel has already developed offshore natural gas rigs, producing enough for domestic consumption and export abroad. Lebanon hopes that its own oil and gas discoveries will help alleviate its long-running economic troubles.