US team in southern Turkey to work on joint operations center

US joins hands with Turkey to work on a a joint operations center to coordinate a planned safe zone in neighboring Syria. (Photo/Turkish military)
Updated 12 August 2019

US team in southern Turkey to work on joint operations center

  • There has been cautious progress on the center despite other disputes straining bilateral ties

ISTANBUL: A US delegation has arrived in Turkey’s southern province of Sanliurfa to start work on the establishment of a joint operations center to coordinate a planned safe zone in neighboring Syria, Turkish authorities said on Monday.

The two NATO allies agreed in talks last week to establish the center that would manage the zone in northern Syria though no agreement has been announced on key details of the zone, including the size of the area in question and the command structure of joint patrols that would be conducted there.

There has been cautious progress on the center despite other disputes straining bilateral relations, including Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, as well as trials of local US Consulate employees in Turkey on terrorism charges.

Work to establish the center has begun and it is expected to become active in coming days, the Turkish Defense Ministry said on Twitter. 

“Within this context, a six-person US delegation has arrived in Sanliurfa with the purpose of preliminary preparation,” it said.

Washington and Ankara have been at odds over plans for northeastern Syria, where US allies on the ground in the battle against Daesh include the Kurdish YPG militia, which Turkey considers an enemy and a terrorist group.

The allies have been discussing a safe zone near the Turkish frontier that would be kept free of combatants and heavy weapons, but Turkey wants it to extend more than twice as far into Syrian territory as the US has proposed.

Turkey has suggested it will act militarily if the US fails to agree on a solution that will safeguard the border. Turkey says the YPG is an extension in Syria of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against the Turkish state since the 1980s.


Qatar tracing app flaw exposed 1 mn users’ data: Amnesty

Updated 12 min 46 sec ago

Qatar tracing app flaw exposed 1 mn users’ data: Amnesty

  • Glitch made users’ ID numbers, location, infection status vulnerable to hackers
  • More than 47,000 of Qatar’s 2.75 million people have tested positive for

DOHA: A security flaw in Qatar’s controversial mandatory coronavirus contact tracing app exposed sensitive information of more than one million users, rights group Amnesty International warned Tuesday.
The glitch, which was fixed on Friday after being flagged by Amnesty a day earlier, made users’ ID numbers, location and infection status vulnerable to hackers.
Privacy concerns over the app, which became mandatory for residents and citizens on pain of prison from Friday, had already prompted a rare backlash and forced officials to offer reassurance and concessions.
Users and experts had criticized the array of permissions required to install the app including access to files on Android devices, as well as allowing the software to make unprompted phone calls.
Despite insisting the unprecedented access was necessary for the system to work, officials said they would address privacy concerns and issued reworked software over the weekend.
“Amnesty International’s Security Lab was able to access sensitive information, including people’s name, health status and the GPS coordinates of a user’s designated confinement location, as the central server did not have security measures in place to protect this data,” the rights group said in a statement.
“While Amnesty International recognizes the efforts and actions taken by the government of Qatar to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and the measures introduced to date, such as access to free health care, all measures must be in line with human rights standards.”
More than 47,000 of Qatar’s 2.75 million people have tested positive for the respiratory disease — 1.7 percent of the population — and 28 people have died.
Like other countries, Qatar has turned to mobiles to trace people’s movements and track who they come into contact with, allowing officials to monitor coronavirus infections and flag possible contagion.
“The Ehteraz app’s user privacy and platform security are of the utmost importance,” Qatar’s health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
“A comprehensive update of the app was rolled out on Sunday May 24 with expanded security and privacy features for all users.”
But Etheraz, which means “Precaution,” continues to allow real-time location tracking of users by authorities at any time, Amnesty said.
“It was a huge security weakness and a fundamental flaw in Qatar’s contact tracing app that malicious attackers could have easily exploited,” said Claudio Guarnieri, head of the group’s security lab.
“The Qatari authorities must reverse the decision to make use of the app mandatory,” he said.