Iraq rejects Israeli role in Gulf flotilla

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim. (Reuters/File)
Updated 12 August 2019

Iraq rejects Israeli role in Gulf flotilla

  • Tensions have escalated in past months, with drones downed and tankers mysteriously attacked in Gulf and nearby waters

BAGHDAD: Iraq rejects any Israeli participation in a naval force to protect shipping in the Strait of Hormuz, at the heart of tensions with Iran, Foreign Minister Mohammed Ali Al-Hakim said on Monday.

Tensions have escalated in past months, with drones downed and tankers mysteriously attacked in Gulf and nearby waters.

Washington and its Arab allies in the Gulf region have accused the Islamic republic of carrying out the tanker attacks. The US has since sought to assemble an international coalition it says is to guarantee freedom of navigation in the Gulf.

Israel has made no official announcement on the operation, although Israeli media have reported a possible role for the Jewish state. Iraq “rejects any participation of forces of the Zionist entity in any military force to secure passage of ships in the Arabian Gulf,” Hakim said on Twitter. “Together, the Gulf states can secure the passage of ships,” he said.

He added that “Iraq will work to lower tensions in our region through calm negotiations,” while “the presence of Western forces in the region would raise tensions.”

Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew the US from a nuclear accord between Iran and world powers in May 2018, reimposing biting sanctions.

If the coalition is formed, each country would provide a military escort for its commercial ships through the Gulf with the support of the US military, which would carry out aerial surveillance and command operations. 

The UK has said it will take part, but other European countries have so far kept out, fearing it might harm efforts to reach a negotiated settlement with Iran.

Iran’s Defense Minister Amir Hatami said on Thursday any Israeli involvement could have “disastrous consequences” for the region and the formation of a US-led flotilla in the Gulf would increase insecurity.


US reaches ceasefire deal with Turkey in northern Syria

Updated 27 min 10 sec ago

US reaches ceasefire deal with Turkey in northern Syria

  • Truce announced by Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Erdogan
  • Turkey will control strip of Syria more than 30km deep after YPG withdrawal

ANKARA: Turkey agreed on Thursday to pause its offensive in Syria for five days to let Kurdish forces withdraw from a “safe zone” Ankara had sought to capture, in a deal hailed by Washington but which Turkish leaders cast as a complete victory.
The truce was announced by US Vice President Mike Pence after talks in Ankara with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, and was swiftly hailed by President Donald Trump, who said it would save “millions of lives.”

 


But if implemented it would achieve all the main objectives Turkey announced when it launched the assault eight days ago: control of a strip of Syria more than 30 kilometers deep, with the Kurdish YPG militia, formerly close US allies, obliged to pull out.
“The safe zone will be primarily enforced by the Turkish Armed Forces,” a joint US-Turkish statement released after the talks said.
A Turkish official told Reuters Ankara got “exactly what we wanted” from the talks with the United States. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu described it as a pause, solely to allow the Kurdish fighters to withdraw.

 

Kurdish fighters would be forced to give up their heavy weapons and their positions would be destroyed, Cavusoglu said. He declined to call the agreement a “cease-fire,” saying cease-fires could be agreed only by legitimate sides, and not by the Kurds that Turkey considers terrorists.
Pence said Washington had already been in contact with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which had agreed to withdraw and were already pulling out.
Trump tweeted: “Great news out of Turkey.”
“Thank you to Erdogan,” Trump said. “Millions of lives will be saved!“
“Today the United States and Turkey have agreed to a cease-fire in Syria,” Pence told a news conference after more than four hours of talks at the presidential palace in Ankara.
“The Turkish side will pause Operation Peace Spring in order to allow for the withdrawal of YPG forces from the safe zone for 120 hours,” Pence said. “All military operations under Operation Peace Spring will be paused, and Operation Peace Spring will be halted entirely on completion of the withdrawal.”
The deal struck with Erdogan also provided for Turkey not to engage in military operations in the flashpoint Syrian border town of Kobani, Pence said. Cavusoglu said Turkey had given no commitments about Kobani.
Pence added that he had spoken to Trump after the talks and that Trump had expressed his gratitude for the cease-fire accord. Washington’s main goal had been to halt the violence, and it had succeeded, Pence said.
The Turkish assault has created a new humanitarian crisis in Syria with 200,000 civilians taking flight, a security alert over thousands of Daesh fighters abandoned in Kurdish jails, and a political maelstrom at home for Trump.
Trump has been accused of abandoning Kurdish-led fighters, Washington’s main partners in the battle to dismantle Islamic State’s self-declared caliphate in Syria, by withdrawing troops from the border as Ankara launched its offensive on Oct. 9.
Trump had defended his move on Wednesday as “strategically brilliant.” He said he thought Pence and Erdogan would have a successful meeting, but warned of sanctions and tariffs that “will be devastating to Turkey’s economy” otherwise.