Erdogan says Turkey plans military operation east of Euphrates in Syria

Erdogan said the plan for the operation is already set. (File/AFP)
Updated 06 October 2019

Erdogan says Turkey plans military operation east of Euphrates in Syria

  • Erdogan said the operations will include air and ground actions
  • US and Turkey agreed earlier to establish a safe zone in Syria

ISTANBUL/BEIRUT: Turkey will mount a military operation in northeast Syria, it said on Saturday, after accusing Washington of not doing enough to expel Syrian Kurdish fighters from its border.

The air and ground operation east of the Euphrates river in Syria could start at any time, President Tayyip Erdogan said.

The US-backed force which controls the region, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) led by the Kurdish YPG militia, said it wanted stability but vowed to respond to any attack.

“We will not hesitate to turn any unprovoked attack by Turkey into an all-out war on the entire border to defend ourselves and our people,” SDF spokesman Mustafa Bali said.

NATO allies Ankara and Washington agreed in August to set up a zone in northeast Syria along the border with Turkey, which considers the YPG a terrorist organization linked to Kurdish insurgents at home.

Turkey has accused the United States, which helped the YPG defeat Daesh militants in Syria, of moving too slowly to create the zone. They are at odds over how far it should extend into Syria and who should control it.

Ankara wants the zone to stretch 30 km inside Syria and to be cleared of YPG fighters. It has repeatedly warned of launching an offensive on its own into northeast Syria, where US forces are stationed alongside the SDF.

Erdogan said Turkey aimed to “water the east of Euphrates with fountains of peace” and settle refugees there.

“We gave all warnings to our interlocutors regarding the east of Euphrates and we have acted with sufficient patience,” he said at the opening of his AK Party’s annual camp.

“We’ve made our preparations, we’ve completed our operation plans, given the necessary instructions.” He added that air and ground actions could start “as soon as today or tomorrow.”

Refugees

Ankara says it wants to settle up to 2 million Syrian refugees in the zone, nearly halving the number sheltering in Turkey from Syria’s more than eight-year conflict.

However, the refugee transfer could face resistance from allies opposed to changing the demographic balance of the area. Kurdish leaders have previously accused Turkey of seeking to resettle mainly Arab Syrians from other parts of the country in their region — which Ankara denies.

US and Turkish troops have so far carried out half a dozen joint air missions over northeast Syria and three land patrols, including one on Friday. Washington deems these “concrete steps” to address Ankara’s concerns. Turkey says it is not enough.

“Land patrols, air patrols — we are seeing all of these are fiction,” Erdogan said on Saturday.

The SDF, which has said it will pull back up to 14 km on some parts of the border, is committed to the agreements under US-Turkish talks and will remain so if “dangerous threats” stop, its spokesman Bali said.

Kurdish commanders have warned that a Turkish border attack would lead to a resurgence of Daesh militants, from which the SDF seized vast territory in north and east Syria.

“Simply, there will be a big gap in the towns that our forces will withdraw from to go to defend the border, and this will give Daesh the opportunity to return,” Bali said.

In recent years, the Turkish military has launched two offensives with its Syrian insurgent allies in the northwest of the country and has forces stationed there.

Turkey’s rebel allies pledged on Friday to back an offensive by Ankara east of the Euphrates, blaming the YPG for displacing Arabs from the region.


Bangladeshi migrants to be repatriated from Libya

Updated 14 November 2019

Bangladeshi migrants to be repatriated from Libya

DHAKA: One hundred and seventy-one Bangladeshi migrants are waiting to be repatriated from two detention centers in Libya after being rescued from the Mediterranean coast on Oct. 30 as they tried to make their way into Europe, officials told Arab News on Wednesday. 

In all, 200 migrants were rescued during the operation.

“The registration process of all the Bangladeshi migrants has been completed and we are expecting to start the repatriation by the end of November,” ASM Ashraful Islam, councilor at the Bangladesh embassy in Libya, said.

He added that, due to the ongoing war in Libya, airports in Tripoli remain non-operational. The Bangladeshi migrants will fly from Misrata airport, 300 kilometers away.

“There are frequent incidents of bombardment and long-range missile strikes (at Tripoli airport),” Islam explained. He said no international airline was currently willing to fly from Libya to Bangladesh, so the embassy intends to charter a flight to repatriate the migrants.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will bear the expenses for the rescued Bangladeshis, who are currently being held at detention centers in Zanzur and Abu Salim, he said, adding, “Bangladesh mission staffers in Tripoli are in constant touch with the returnees and providing necessary food and other assistance for them.”

In recent years, human traffickers have used Libya as a gateway through which to send illegal migrants to Italy and other European countries. According to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency — Frontex — around 30,000 Bangladeshi migrants have been arrested while trying to enter Europe in the last decade. The organization said that, in recent years, Bangladesh is one of the countries from which the most illegal migrants have tried to enter Europe. The IOM has facilitated the repatriation of Bangladeshi citizens from Libya in the past — 924 in 2017, 307 in 2016, and 521 in 2015.

“Among unemployed Bangladeshi fortune seekers, there is a (desire) to migrate to Europe by any means, and human-trafficking syndicates at home and abroad (have grabbed) this opportunity,” Shariful Hasan, head of the migration program at the Bangladesh-based development organization BRAC, told Arab News. “There needs to be an integrated effort by all concerned countries, with the support of Interpol, to curb this human trafficking.”