Russia accuses US of risking Idlib cease-fire with missile strike

The United Nations says the violence in Idlib has displaced more than 400,000 people. (File/AFP)
Updated 01 September 2019

Russia accuses US of risking Idlib cease-fire with missile strike

  • The US strike, which targeted leaders of Al-Qaeda in Syria, killed at least 40 jihadists
  • The Idlib region is home to some three million people, nearly half of whom have been displaced from other parts of Syria

MOSCOW: Russia accused the United States Sunday of having “compromised” a fragile cease-fire in the Syrian province of Idlib by launching a missile strike against jihadist leaders there.

The Americans hit the region “without advance notice to Russia or Turkey,” which both have troops on the ground in Idlib, the Russian military said. It described the attack as “indiscriminate.” The strike caused “great losses and destruction,” the Russian defense ministry added in a statement, accusing Washington of having “compromised the cease-fire in the de-escalation zone of Idlib.”

The US strike, which targeted leaders of Al-Qaeda in Syria, killed at least 40 jihadists, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It came as renewed Syrian regime bombardment of Idlib killed a civilian in the first violation of a Russian-backed truce for the region that came into effect just hours before.

Syrian government air strikes on the jihadist-run Idlib region had halted earlier Saturday, after the regime agreed to a Moscow-backed cease-fire following four months of deadly bombardment that killed more than 950 civilians, the monitor said. Saturday’s truce is the second such agreement between Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime and jihadists since August 1.

The Idlib region is home to some three million people, nearly half of whom have been displaced from other parts of Syria. The United Nations says the violence there has displaced more than 400,000 people.


Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

Updated 14 October 2019

Will European arms ban impact Turkey’s Syria operation?

  • Several European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey

ANKARA: With an increasing number of European countries imposing weapons embargoes on Turkey over its ongoing operation in northeastern Syria, Ankara’s existing inventory of weapons and military capabilities are under the spotlight.

More punitive measures on a wider scale are expected during a summit of EU leaders in Brussels on Oct. 17.

It could further strain already deteriorating relations between Ankara and the bloc.

However, a EU-wide arms embargo would require an unanimous decision by all the leaders.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned last week of a possible refugee flow if Turkey “opened the doors” for 3.6 million Syrian refugees to go to Europe — putting into question the clauses of the 2016 migration deal between Ankara and Brussels.

“The impact of EU member states’ arms sanctions on Turkey depends on the level of Turkey’s stockpiles,” Caglar Kurc, a researcher on defense and armed forces, told Arab News.

Kurc thinks Turkey has foreseen the possible arms sanctions and stockpiled enough spare parts to maintain the military during the operation.

“As long as Turkey can maintain its military, sanctions would not have any effect on the operation. Therefore, Turkey will not change its decisions,” he said.

So far, Germany, France, Finland, the Netherlands and Norway have announced they have stopped weapons shipments to fellow NATO member Turkey, condemning the offensive.

“Against the backdrop of the Turkish military offensive in northeastern Syria, the federal government will not issue new permits for all armaments that could be used by Turkey in Syria,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

Following Germany’s move, the French government announced: “France has decided to suspend all export projects of armaments to Turkey that could be deployed as part of the offensive in Syria. This decision takes effect immediately.”

While not referring to any arms embargo, the UK urged Turkey to end the operation and enter into dialogue.

Turkey received one-third of Germany’s arms exports of €771 million ($850.8 million) in 2018. 

According to Kurc, if sanctions extend beyond weapons that could be used in Syria, there could be a negative impact on the overall defense industry.

“However, in such a case, Turkey would shift to alternative suppliers: Russia and China would be more likely candidates,” he said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of the Istanbul-based EDAM think tank and a visiting scholar at Carnegie Europe, the arms embargo would not have a long-term impact essentially because most of the sanctions are caveated and limited to materials that can be used by Turkey in its cross-border operation.

“So the arms embargo does not cover all aspects of the arms trade between Turkey and the EU. These measures look essentially like they are intended to demonstrate to their own critical publics that their governments are doing something about what they see as a negative aspect of Turkey’s behavior,” he told Arab News.

Turkey, however, insists that the Syria operation, dubbed “Operation Peace Spring,” is undeterred by any bans or embargoes.

“No matter what anyone does, no matter if it’s an arms embargo or anything else, it just strengthens us,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told German radio station Deutsche Welle.