Syria at peace talks says cease-fire depends on Turkey

Jaafari called on the guarantors of the peace talks to take responsibility and put pressure on Turkey. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2019

Syria at peace talks says cease-fire depends on Turkey

  • Syrian official said the cease-fire is “a test of Turkey’s intentions”
  • Syrian government agreed to a truce in Idlib on condition a Turkish-Russian buffer-zone deal is implemented

NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan: Syria’s representative at peace talks in Kazakhstan on Friday said the success of a cease-fire in the northwestern region of Idlib would depend on Turkey disarming rebels of heavy weapons and implementing a buffer zone.
Syrian negotiator Bashar Jaafari attacked the Turkish military presence in the northwest of the country and called Syria’s cease-fire statement on Thursday “a test of Turkey’s intentions.”
The comments came during the second day of talks brokered by Syria’s allies Russia and Iran, along with rebel-backer Turkey.
Jaafari also called on the guarantors of the talks to assume “their responsibilities by putting pressure on Turkey” to fulfil the conditions of an accord struck last year.
“The cease-fire agreement is conditioned on Turkey upholding the Astana and Sochi agreements by disarming terrorists of heavy and medium weapons,” Jaafari said.
Jaafari accused the militant groups of shelling areas under regime control in northwest Syria “from areas Turkey controls in Idlib.”
“Even though we are patient, this time our patience will be limited. We will not be waiting endlessly for Turkey to fulfil its commitments,” he said.
Syria’s state news agency SANA reported Thursday that the government had agreed to a truce in Idlib on condition a Turkish-Russian buffer-zone deal is implemented.
It cited a military source who announced the regime’s “approval for a cease-fire in the de-escalation zone in Idlib starting from tonight” on the condition that jihadists and rebels withdraw forces and weaponry from a buffer zone as per a September accord.
Moscow welcomed the statement.
Idlib is the last major jihadist-run bastion in Syria after eight years of brutal conflict.
Idlib and parts of the neighboring provinces of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia are under the control of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, a jihadist group led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.
The region is supposed to be protected from a massive government offensive by a September buffer zone deal, but it has come under increasing bombardment by the regime and its Russian ally over the past three months.
A joint statement on the talks in Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan released by Russia, Iran and Turkey showed little progress toward ending Syria’s conflict.
The war in Syria has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a crackdown on anti-government protests.


US declares Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land 'consistent' with international law

Updated 18 November 2019

US declares Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land 'consistent' with international law

  • The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sparked anger among Palestinians
  • The move is the latest by the Trump administration seen as favoring the Israeli position over the Palestinians

WASHINGTON: The United States on Monday backed Israel’s right to build Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank by abandoning its four-decade position that they were “inconsistent with international law.”

The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sparked anger among Palestinians who say the settlements are the main barrier to their future state.

The shift in US policy follows the Trump administration’s decision to relocate the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem last year, a move seen as undermining Palestinian claims to the eastern half of the city as a future capital.

Pompeo said US statements about the settlements on the West Bank - which Israel captured during a 1967 war - had been inconsistent, saying Democrat President Jimmy Carter in 1978 found they were not consistent with international law and Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1981 said he did not view them as inherently illegal.

“The establishment of Israeli civilian settlements is not, per se, inconsistent with international law,” Pompeo told reporters at the State Department, drawing criticism from a senior Palestinian figure even before his announcement.

“Another blow to international law, justice & peace,” Hanan Ashrawi, a veteran Palestinian negotiator and member of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive Committee, said on Twitter ahead of Pompeo’s statement.

The announcement marked the third major instance in which the Trump administration has sided with Israel and against stances taken by the Palestinians and Arab states even before unveiling its long-delayed Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

In 2017 Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel before opening the embassy in the city. US policy had previously been that the status of Jerusalem was to be decided by the parties to the conflict.

In March, Trump recognized Israel’s 1981 annexation of the Golan Heights in a boost for Netanyahu that prompted a sharp response from Syria, which once held the strategic land.

Trump's move might have been designed to help Netanyahu as he struggles to stay in power. Israeli politics is deadlocked after two inconclusive elections this year. Former military chief Benny Gantz's centrist Blue and White party emerged neck and neck with Netanyahu following a September vote, and both leaders have struggled to put together a ruling coalition.

*With Reuters