Egypt mourns scientists killed in Ethiopian crash

Foreign investigators examine wreckage at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff on Sunday killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, or Debre Zeit, south of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia Tuesday, March 12, 2019. (AP)
Updated 12 March 2019

Egypt mourns scientists killed in Ethiopian crash

  • Other victims of the crash included Egyptian translators Susan Abu Faraj and Esmat Aransa
  • Friends on social media described Al-Azb as one of Egypt’s top programmers

CAIRO: Egypt is mourning the deaths of some of its leading scientists on board the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737-800 that crashed on Sunday near the capital Addis Ababa, killing 157 people.

The group included Dr. Ashraf El-Turki, head of the Department of Pesticide Research at Egypt’s Agricultural Research Center, and a leading researcher in Africa and the Middle East. El-Turki had responsibility for the largest insect collection in the Middle East, which housed more than 6,000 species, and had carried out dozens of important studies related to agricultural quarantines and crop development in Egypt.

Also on the flight were assistant researcher Abdul Hamid Farraj and engineer Du’aa Atif Abdul Salam. Both were traveling to Nairobi on an assignment dealing with genetic research to improve animal and plant production. 

Other victims of the crash included Egyptian translators Susan Abu Faraj and Esmat Aransa, who were planning to join an official African Union mission in the Kenyan capital. The two had also worked as translators for several major international bodies.

The sixth victim was Nassar Al-Azb, a programmer in the computer department of Egyptian bank Banque Misr, who was on his way to Nairobi to attend a conference. 

Friends on social media described Al-Azb as one of Egypt’s top programmers.

Prof. Mahmoud Saqr, head of Egypt’s Academy of Scientific Research and Technology, told Arab News that he received the news of the crash of the Ethiopian flight “with great sadness.”

Meanwhile, a lawyer, Amr Abdelsalam, has urged the Attorney General Nabil Sadek to open an investigation into the crash of the Ethiopian Airlines flight, focusing on the deaths of the Egyptian scientists.

Abdelsalam said in a statement that El-Turki and two of the other victims “were on a private and official task assigned by the state for the improvement of animal and vegetable production in light of Egypt’s efforts to help in central Africa.”


Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

Updated 15 October 2019

Scramble for Syria after US withdrawal

  • Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades

ANKARA: As Ankara pressed on with its offensive in northeastern Syria amid international criticism, Washington announced some 1,000 soldiers were withdrawn from the zone.

With the US departure, the attention turns to how the regional actors, especially Turkey and Syria, will operate in their zones of influence in the war-torn country where the possible escape of Daesh fighters from prisons could result in more chaos.

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Turkey considers the SDF and YPG to be terrorists allied with the PKK, who have been involved in a bloody campaign for autonomy against Turkish states for decades. The PKK is listed as a terror group by Turkey, the EU and the US.

But, whether some 50,000 YPG fighters will be integrated into the Syrian Army or will try to maintain their autonomy is still a matter of concern.

Mazloum Abdi, commander-in-chief of the SDF, recently wrote for Foreign Policy that the Kurds are finally ready to partner with Assad and Putin.

Yury Barmin, an analyst at the Russian International Affairs Council, said: “Damascus and the SDF struck a deal at the Russian base in Hmeymim to let the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) enter the Kurdish-controlled area in the northeast and deploy at the Syrian-Turkish border. The SAA is set to take control over Manbij, Kobane and Qamishli.”

However, Barmin told Arab News that a deal between Damascus and the SDF would greatly contribute to a buffer zone that Turkish President Recep Yayyip Erdogan intends to create in northern Syria, allowing Kurds to take some areas along the border without directly antagonizing Ankara. This policy, Barmin added, would be unacceptable to Moscow.

“There are now lots of moving targets and the goal of the Syrian Army — whether it will take some strategic cities or control the whole border along Turkey — is unclear for now. As Russian President Vladimir Putin is on his official visit to Saudi Arabia, his decision for Syria will be clearer when he returns home,” he said.

HIGHLIGHT

Some experts claim that with the US decision to withdraw its forces, the territorial claim of northeastern Syria by the Kurdish YPG militia and its political wing, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has finished.

Barmin also noted that Russia let Erdogan operate the Adana agreement to a certain extent, under which Turkey has the right to conduct cross-border operations.

“But now, Russia would like to show Turkey its own red lines in the region,” he said.

However, Navvar Saban, a military analyst at the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul, said that the Syrian regime is not capable of striking a deal without being backed by Russians, and that Moscow would not want to lose its relationship with Ankara.

“Russians always talk about the Adana agreement. We are now talking about a renewal and reactivation of the agreement with new specifications to allow Turkey to go deeper into Syrian territories. In this way, the Russians will have a bigger chance to allow the Syrian regime and Turkey to communicate. It is something that will open the diplomatic channels,” Saban said.

Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump tweeted: “Big sanctions on Turkey coming! Do people really think we should go to war with NATO Member Turkey? Never ending wars will end!”

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, said that if the US is completely out of the way, Russia and Turkey will have to either agree or contest each other to take over the US territorial control in northeast Syria. He added that this might be the most crucial race in the coming weeks.

Concerning the diplomatic channels between Damascus and Ankara, Macaron thinks that the channels were and will remain open between Moscow and Ankara since they have common interests beyond Syria.

“If Turkey had no other option, it might have to settle for controlling a few border towns, but this means Erdogan can no longer effectively implement his plan to return Syrian refugees, most notably without funding from the international community. Ankara is more likely to succeed in striking such a deal with Moscow than with Washington,” Macaron told Arab News.

Many experts agree that the Syrian chessboard will be determined predominantly by Russian moves.

“Assad has no say in what will happen next, Russia is the decision maker and there is little the Syrian regime can do unless Iran forcefully intervenes to impact the Russian-Turkish dynamics in the northeast,” Macaron said.