Erdogan ‘will resume Syria offensive if cease-fire deal falters’

A Syrian protester gestures during a demonstration in the northern Syrian town of Hasakeh against the Turkish offensive on Kurdish-held towns. (AFP)
Updated 20 October 2019

Erdogan ‘will resume Syria offensive if cease-fire deal falters’

  • Truce aims to stem a humanitarian crisis, which displaced 200,000 civilians in the region

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday Turkey would press on with its offensive into northeastern Syria and “crush the heads of terrorists” if a deal with Washington on the withdrawal of Kurdish fighters from the area were not fully implemented. Erdogan agreed on Thursday in talks with US Vice President Mike Pence a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a “safe zone” Turkey aims to establish in northeast Syria near the Turkish border.
On Saturday the fragile truce was holding along the border, with a few Turkish military vehicles crossing the border, Reuters journalists at the scene said.
In the last 36 hours, there have been 14 “provocative attacks” from Syria, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said, adding it was continuing to coordinate closely with Washington on implementation of the accord.
If the agreement with the US, a NATO ally, falters, Turkey will continue its military operation from where it left off, Erdogan said.
“If it works, it works. If not, we will continue to crush the heads of the terrorists the minute the 120 hours (of the cease-fire) are over,” Erdogan told flag-waving supporters in the central Turkish province of Kayseri.
“If the promises that were made to us are not kept, we will not wait like we did before and we will continue the operation where it left off once the time we set has run out,” he said.
The surprise deal to suspend Turkey’s military offensive in Syria hinged on Erdogan’s demand that Washington agree on a time limit on any cease-fire, a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Friday.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Calm along Turkish border with Syria border after cease-fire. • Ankara urges US to ensure Kurdish militia leaves ‘safe zone.’ • Turkey says offensive will continue if deal is not implemented.

The deal aims to stem a humanitarian crisis, which displaced 200,000 civilians in the region, and ease a security scare over thousands of Daesh captives guarded by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia targeted by the Turkish assault.
Ankara regards the YPG, the main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in southeast Turkey.
The planned safe zone would extend more than 30 km deep into Syria. Erdogan said on Friday it would run for some 440 km from west to east along the border, though the US special envoy for Syria said the accord covered a smaller area where Turkish forces and their Syrian rebel allies were fighting.
Erdogan also said on Friday Turkey would set up a dozen observation posts across northeast Syria, and that he would hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on what steps to take in the planned “safe zone” next week.


Israeli PM: Palestinians in Jordan Valley won’t be citizens

Updated 40 min 23 sec ago

Israeli PM: Palestinians in Jordan Valley won’t be citizens

  • Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with plans to annex the Jordan Valley

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Palestinians living in the Jordan Valley will remain in what he described as an “enclave” after Israel annexes the territory and will not be granted Israeli citizenship.
Netanyahu has vowed to press ahead with plans to annex the Jordan Valley and Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, in line with President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, a process that could begin as early as July 1.
The annexation of the Jordan Valley and the far-flung settlements would make it virtually impossible to create a viable Palestinian state alongside Israel, which is still widely seen as the only way to resolve the decades-old conflict.
In an interview with the Israel Hayom newspaper, Netanyahu said Palestinians in the Jordan Valley, including residents of the city of Jericho, would remain under limited Palestinian self-rule, with Israel having overall security control.
“They will remain a Palestinian enclave,” he said. “You’re not annexing Jericho. There’s a cluster or two. You don’t need to apply sovereignty over them. They will remain Palestinian subjects, if you will. But security control also applies to these places.”
Palestinians in the West Bank have lived under Israeli military rule since the 1967 war, when Israel captured the territory, along with east Jerusalem and Gaza. The Palestinians want all three territories to form their future state.
The Trump plan would grant the Palestinians limited statehood over scattered enclaves surrounded by Israel if they meet a long list of conditions. Israel has embraced the plan, while the Palestinian Authority, which administers parts of the West Bank, has angrily rejected it and cut ties with the US and Israel.
Netanyahu said that if the Palestinians accept all the conditions in the plan, including Israel maintaining overall security control, “then they will have an entity of their own that President Trump defines as a state.”
Under a coalition agreement reached last month, Netanyahu can bring his annexation plans before the government as early as July 1.
The Palestinian Authority has said it is no longer bound by any agreements signed with Israel and the US, and says it has cut off security coordination with Israel. Neighboring Jordan, a close Western ally and one of only two Arab states to have made peace with Israel, has warned of a “massive conflict” if Israel proceeds with annexation.