Erdogan threatens to restart Syria operation Tuesday if deal not respected

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan talks media members in Istanbul, Turkey. (Reuters)
Updated 18 October 2019

Erdogan threatens to restart Syria operation Tuesday if deal not respected

  • The NATO allies agreed Turkey would suspend its offensive for five days in northern Syria while Kurdish fighters withdraw from the area
  • "If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved. If it fails, the operation... will start the minute 120 hours are over," Erdogan said

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Friday warned that Ankara would restart its operation against Kurdish forces in Syria on Tuesday evening if they do not withdraw from a "safe zone".
After US Vice President Mike Pence came to Ankara for talks with Erdogan on Thursday, the NATO allies agreed Turkey would suspend its offensive for five days in northern Syria while Kurdish fighters withdraw from the area.
"If the promises are kept until Tuesday evening, the safe zone issue will be resolved. If it fails, the operation... will start the minute 120 hours are over," Erdogan told reporters during a foreign media briefing in Istanbul.
He said Turkish armed forces would remain in the region "because the security there requires this", adding that there had been no issues so far.
But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Friday there were Turkish air strikes on the village of Bab al-Kheir, east of Ras al-Ain on the border. The war monitor said 14 civilians were killed.
Turkey launched the cross-border incursion on October 9 after repeatedly threatening to clear the border area from the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) militia.
The Turkish forces are supporting Syrian rebel fighters under the "Syrian National Army" banner but the proxies have been accused by Amnesty International of committing "war crimes" including summary executions.
Erdogan also condemned the abuses that some Syrian proxies are accused of committing during the offensive.
"Whoever commits such an act is no different from (the Islamic State group). We cannot accept such a thing," he said, adding that the army was investigating the claims.
Kurdish authorities in northeastern Syria also accused Turkey of resorting to banned weapons such as napalm and white phosphorus munitions, which Erdogan denied.
"There are certainly no chemical weapons in the inventory of our armed forces. This is all slander against our armed forces," he added.
He accused the YPG of freeing nearly 750 IS extremists including 150 Turks but said 195 of them had been caught.

While US President Donald Trump appeared to initially green light the offensive, he made repeated threats against Turkey, often in tweets, following international outrage.
He then sent Pence and the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with other US officials to Ankara to thrash out a deal, which was announced on Thursday after hours of talks.
Erdogan said the "safe zone" would be 32 kilometres (20 miles) deep, and 444 kilometres in length, not between Kobane and Tal Abyad, and patrolled by Turkey.
He added that the region between the border towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain had been cleared, "but this is not over. The process is ongoing."
Pointing to a map, he said 12 observation posts would be set up to monitor the zone.
But, he said, "We have no intention to stay there. This is out of the question."
Just hours before the US-Turkey talks, a bizarre letter appeared in the US media from Trump to Erdogan, in which the US leader urged Erdogan not to be a "fool" and warned his Turkish counterpart that history risked branding him a "devil."
Turkish media reported that Erdogan had "binned" the letter.
Erdogan said Friday the letter was not in line with "political and diplomatic courtesy... but our mutual love and respect does not allow us to keep it on the agenda."


Bouteflika-era figure makes Algeria presidential run

Updated 23 October 2019

Bouteflika-era figure makes Algeria presidential run

  • The mass protest movement that forced Bouteflika’s resignation in April has rejected moves to hold the poll in December
  • “The most important thing for us is not to convince people to give their signature but to participate in this vote, which remains the only solution to this crisis,” Mihoubi said

ALGIERS: The head of an Algerian political party that was part of the ruling coalition under former president Abdelaziz Bouteflika on Wednesday became the first candidate to register for presidential polls.
Azzedine Mihoubi, leader of the Democratic National Rally party (RND), submitted his candidacy for the December 12 vote to the National Independent Elections Authority, recently formed to oversee the vote.
A minister of culture in three governments under Bouteflika from 2015 to 2019, Mihoubi assumed leadership of the RND in July after its former head was arrested in a corruption probe.
The mass protest movement that forced Bouteflika’s resignation in April has rejected moves, backed by the army, to hold the poll in December.
Activists are demanding sweeping reforms before any vote takes place, and say Bouteflika-era figures still in power must not use the presidential poll as an opportunity to appoint his successor.
Observers are predicting a weak turnout.
Mihoubi acknowledged the challenge in a statement as he submitted his candidacy along with the required 50,000 signatures endorsing him.
“The most important thing for us is not to convince people to give their signature but to participate in this vote, which remains the only solution to this crisis,” he said.
The Hirak protest movement was formed in February to demand that Bouteflika resign instead of running for a fifth term. It has demanded transitional institutions to replace Algeria’s entire system of government, in place since independence from France in 1962.
Authorities have rejected these demands, but protests continue.
Polls planned for July 4 were postponed due to a lack of viable candidates, plunging the country into a constitutional crisis, as interim president Abdelkader Bensalah’s mandate expired that month.
Bensalah, also an RND member, was speaker of the Upper House for 17 years under Bouteflika.
The RND was founded in 1997 and for 20 years was the main ally of Bouteflika’s National Liberation Front (FLN).
The RND supported Bouteflika’s candidacy for a fifth term, despite him suffering a debilitating stroke in 2013, but his candidacy prompted massive protests that led to his departure.
Until recently, the RND was led by Ahmed Ouyahia, an unpopular three time former prime minister under Bouteflika who was arrested in June in a graft investigation.
Mihoubi’s nomination prompted a flood of negative comments online.
Five other candidates have made appointments to submit their candidacy to the elections authority, spokesman Ali Draa told AFP.
Local media reports indicate that they include two former Bouteflika era prime ministers, Ali Benflis and Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
The deadline for submitting applications is Saturday at midnight (2300 GMT).