Assad regime warplanes strike Turkish armored convoy in Idlib

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Smoke billows above buildings during a reported air strike by pro-regime forces near the town of Hish in Syria's Idlib province on August 19, 2019. A Turkish military convoy crossed into northwest Syria on Monday. (AFP)
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A convoy of Turkish military vehicles passes through Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib reportedly heading toward the town of Khan Sheikhun in the southern countryside of the province on August 19, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 19 August 2019
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Assad regime warplanes strike Turkish armored convoy in Idlib

  • Ankara accused of arming HTS militants in Syria
  • Astana process under threat, analysts tell Arab News

ANKARA: The Astana process to resolve the Syrian conflict was in danger of collapse on Monday after Assad regime warplanes struck a Turkish military convoy just north of Khan Sheikhun in Idlib province.

The strike was backed by Russia, a key participant in the Astana process with Turkey and Iran. “We support the efforts of the Syrian army,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Turkish authorities said the convoy of about 50 armored personnel carriers and five tanks was on its way to reinforce one of its observation posts at Morek, south of Khan Sheikhun on the main M5 highway between Damascus and Aleppo.

But the Assad regime accused Ankara of supplying militants from Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), who control most of Idlib. “Turkish vehicles loaded with munitions ... are heading toward Khan Sheikhun to help the terrorists,” the foreign ministry said.

Pro-regime forces have been battling HTS for the past three days for control of Khan Sheikhun, and the strategic highway. Regime troops took control ofpart of the road north of the city in a new advance on Monday, effectively blocking the Turkish convoy from continuing south.




A convoy of Turkish military vehicles passes through Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib reportedly heading toward the town of Khan Sheikhun in the southern countryside of the province on August 19, 2019. (AFP)

Ankara condemned the airstrike, in which three people died. The attack was “in violation of the existing memorandums and agreements with the Russian Federation,” it said.

With the presidents of Turkey, Russia and Iran due to meet in Ankara next month in the next stage of the Astana process, Monday’s airstrike could not have come at a worse time, military analyst Navvar Saban told Arab News.

“Russians and Turks don’t have the luxury to destroy Astana. If it collapses, they will have to retreat from Idlib and it would be disaster internally and externally,” said Saban, of the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul.




A convoy of Turkish military vehicles passes through Maaret al-Numan in Syria's northern province of Idlib reportedly heading toward the town of Khan Sheikhun in the southern countryside of the province on August 19, 2019. (AFP)

“Turkey’s aim is to stop regime forces from advancing, and to secure Turkish observation posts. But in case of a direct hit on the Turkish posts, there would be a counter-attack from the Turkish side.

“But Ankara should admit it is too late to secure the area. Regime forces have advanced greatly on the ground.”

Dr. Kerim Has, a Russia-Turkey relations analyst in Moscow, said a slow advance of Russia-backed Assad regime forces in Idlib was inevitable because talks so far had not eliminated the terror threat in Idlib. “On the contrary, HTS controls more territory than it did a year ago,” he said.

Has expects Russia to support a 15km-20 km demilitarized zone on the Turkish border, along with Assad-regime forces. “Also, the delivery of the first consignment of Russian-made S-400 missile systems to Turkey ties Ankara’s hands. It cannot effectively resist a regime offensive, or react to Moscow’s turning a blind eye to developments on the ground. Ankara may have to quit one of its observation posts in Idlib, which will come under regime fire soon.”


Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

Updated 19 September 2019

Migrant workers still exploited in World Cup host Qatar: Amnesty

PARIS: Qatar is not fulfilling all its promises to improve the conditions of migrant workers in the country in the run-up to the 2022 World Cup, Amnesty International said Thursday.
In a report entitled "All Work, No Pay", the rights group said: "Despite the significant promises of reform which Qatar has made ahead of the 2022 World Cup, it remains a playground for unscrupulous employers."
The report came as French President Emmanuel Macron and Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani were due to meet in Paris on Thursday.
Sheikh Tamim also attended Wednesday's high-profile clash between Paris Saint-Germain -- owned by Qatar's state-owned investment fund -- and Real Madrid.
Doha has made efforts since being named World Cup hosts to improve the conditions of the migrant workers who make up a majority of the Gulf emirate's population.
In November 2017, a temporary $200 monthly minimum wage was introduced for most categories of workers with a permanent level expected to be set before the end of the year.
Exit visas granted at the discretion of employers, required by some workers to leave the country, should be entirely scrapped by the end of 2019 according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).
But Amnesty reported challenges faced by hundreds of workers at three construction and cleaning companies in Qatar who went unpaid for months.
"Migrant workers often go to Qatar in the hope of giving their families a better life; instead many people return home penniless after spending months chasing their wages, with too little help from the systems that are supposed to protect them," said Stephen Cockburn, Amnesty's deputy director of global issues.
After coming under fire over the treatment of migrant workers, Qatar agreed with the ILO in 2017 to undertake labour reforms, including establishing new dispute resolution committees.
"We are urging the Qatari authorities to fully deliver what has been promised and end the shameful reality of labour exploitation," Cockburn said.
Amnesty cited the case of a Kenyan employee of United Cleaning who said he had to rummage for food in garbage bins after receiving no salary for five months.
The man said he had worked for two years and five months for the company without taking any holidays and was owed "a lot of money".
The companies all cited financial difficulties for the non-payment of wages, according to the report.
A Qatar government spokesman said the country had "made substantial progress on labour reforms".
"We continue to work with NGOs, including the ILO, to ensure that these reforms are far-reaching and effective," he said in a statement.
"Any issues or delays with our systems will be addressed comprehensively. We have said, from the outset that this would take time, resources and commitment."