Syrian army clashes with Turkish forces in northeast border area

A vehicle belonging to Turkey-backed Syrian rebel fighters is parked next to a Turkish military bulldozer in the Syrian town of Ras al Ain on October 30, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 30 October 2019

Syrian army clashes with Turkish forces in northeast border area

  • Erdogan called US recognition of the Armenian genocide “worthless”
  • The joint patrols will start on Friday

ANKARA: Syrian army troops on Wednesday were engaged in heavy clashes with Turkish forces in the countryside around the border town of Ras Al-Ain in an area where a military offensive by Ankara aims to create a "safe" zone, state media said.
It did not give details but Turkish-backed rebels said intermittent clashes have taken place in recent days with Syrian troops south of Ras Al-Ain, which was seized from Syrian Kurdish-led forces.
Syrian troops have with the agreement of Kurdish forces stepped in to take up positions in the area.

Meanwhile, Syria's army and police Wednesday called on Kurdish fighters and security forces in northeast Syria to join their ranks following a Turkish cross-border incursion, state media said.
The appeal comes after regime troops deployed along parts of Syria's northeastern border in a deal with Kurdish authorities to help stave off the Turkish offensive, launched October 9.
It is the largest Syrian army deployment in the area since 2012.
A separate ceasefire agreement reached between Ankara and Damascus-backer Moscow last week provided for members of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces to withdraw from the border and solidified the presence of pro-government forces there.
"The general command of the armed forces is ready to welcome members of SDF units who are willing to join its ranks," said a Syrian defence ministry statement carried by state news agency SANA.
It said all Syrians, including the Kurdish minority, are confronting "one enemy".
Syria's interior ministry said it was willing to provide police services to residents of the northeast, calling on members of the Kurdish internal security services, known as Asayish, to join its ranks, SANA reported.
The Turkish military and its Syrian proxies attacked Kurdish forces in northeastern Syria in early October with the aim of creating a roughly 30-kilometre (20-mile) deep buffer zone along the frontier.
Left in the lurch by a US troop withdrawal from the border area, Kurdish forces turned to the Syrian government for protection.
Damascus forces rushed north and are expected to deploy along much of the border zone, but a 10-kilometre-deep strip is set to be jointly patrolled by Russian and Turkish troops under their deal.

Earlier on Wednesday, Turkey’s president said that Turkish-Russian joint patrols will start in Syria on Friday. 

“We will start the joint work on the ground on Friday, namely we are starting the joint patrols,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a televised speech to parliament.

In the same speech, he commented on the US’ recognition of the Armenian genocide, calling it “worthless.”
"From here I am addressing US public opinion and the entire world: this step which was taken is worthless and we do not recognise it,” Erdogan said.


Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

Updated 11 December 2019

Israel parliament moves for third election as talks falter

  • On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2
  • New elections would add to the political challenges facing Benjamin Netanyahu
JERUSALEM: Israel’s parliament began rushing through a bill on Wednesday to call a third general election within a year as talks between embattled premier Benjamin Netanyahu and his centrist rival broke down ahead of a midnight deadline.
A deal to avert a new election must be reached before 11:59 p.m. (2159 GMT), following a deadlocked vote in September.
But Netanyahu and his rival Benny Gantz, both of whom have repeatedly failed to build a governing majority in the Knesset, or parliament, have spent days trading blame for failing coalition talks.
On Wednesday morning the Israeli parliament passed 50-0 a preliminary reading of a bill immediately dissolving parliament and setting a new election for March 2.
It must face three more plenary readings and votes during the day before being passed.
New elections would add to the political challenges facing Netanyahu — Israel’s longest serving premier, now governing in a caretaker capacity — at a time when, weakened by corruption charges, he must fend off internal challengers in his right-wing Likud party.
Netanyahu and Gantz, a former armed forces chief who heads the centrist Blue and White party, had been discussing a potential unity government, but disagreed on who should lead it.
Last month, when Netanyahu was indicted on corruption charges, Gantz called on him to step down.
On Tuesday night Netanyahu called on Gantz to stop “spinning.”
“After 80 days, it’s time that for one day, for the citizens of Israel, we sit and have a serious discussion about forming a broad unity government. It’s not too late,” he said on social media.
Gantz said his party was making “efforts to find a way to form a government without us giving up the fundamental principles that brought us into politics.”
If confirmed, it would be the first time Israel’s weary electorate has been asked to go to the polls for a third time within 12 months.
The parties of Netanyahu and Gantz were nearly deadlocked in September’s election, following a similarly inconclusive poll in April.
Israel’s proportional system is reliant on coalition building, and both parties fell well short of the 61 seats needed to command a majority in the 120-seat Knesset.
Both were then given 28-day periods to try and forge a workable coalition but failed, forcing President Reuven Rivlin to turn to parliament with his deadline for Wednesday.
New elections are deeply unpopular with the Israeli public, which has expressed mounting anger and frustration with the entire political class.
Both parties had been trying to convince Avigdor Lieberman, a crucial kingmaker, to join their blocs.
But the former nightclub bouncer, whose secular nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party holds the balance of power, has refused.
Kann Radio reported Tuesday that Netanyahu had abandoned hopes of earning Lieberman’s endorsement.
Lieberman pointed out that Likud and Blue and White wouldn’t need his support if they could agree to work together.
“If during the next 24 hours a government is not formed it will be solely because the leaders of the two big parties — Likud and Blue and White — were not willing to set aside their egos,” he said on Facebook Tuesday.
“All the rest is lies and excuses.”
Netanyahu was indicted last month for bribery, breach of trust and fraud relating to three separate corruption cases.
He strongly denies the allegations and accuses the media, police and prosecution of a witch-hunt.
No date has yet been set for the beginning of the proceedings and, under Israeli law, Netanyahu can remain in office despite an indictment.
He also faces a potential challenge from within his own Likud party.
To boost his support, Netanyahu has pushed his plan to annex a strategic part of the occupied West Bank, as well as signing a defense treaty with the United States.
He is a close ally of US President Donald Trump, who has taken a number of controversial steps in support of Netanyahu’s agenda.
Blue and White, meanwhile, pledged Monday to run with only one leader in the next election — Gantz.
Previously Yair Lapid, second in command in the coalition, was meant to alternate the premiership, but on Monday Lapid said: “We’ll all get behind Benny Gantz, our candidate for prime minister.”
Despite Netanyahu’s indictment, polls suggest that a third round of elections could still be neck and neck — prompting some Israelis to speculate about yet another electoral stalemate.
A commentary writer for the Israel Hayom newspaper suggested that “a fourth election is even now visible on the horizon sometime in early September 2020.”