Macron says time for Turkey to clarify ambiguous Daesh stance

Emmanuel Macron directly linked Turkey to Daesh fighters ahead of the NATO summit. (AFP)
Updated 03 December 2019

Macron says time for Turkey to clarify ambiguous Daesh stance

  • Macron said there is a disconnect in allowing Turkey to buy a Russian anti-aircraft S-400 missile system
  • Speaking alongside US President Donald Trump, Macron directly linked Turkey to Daesh fighters

LONDON: French President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey on Tuesday of working with Daesh proxies and said Ankara’s ambiguity toward the group was detrimental to its NATO allies fighting in Syria and Iraq.
Relations between Macron and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan have soured ahead of Wednesday’s NATO summit in London with the two leaders trading barbs over Ankara’s cross-border offensive in northeast Syria targeting Kurdish militias.
Speaking alongside US President Donald Trump, Macron directly linked Turkey to Daesh fighters, while dismissing Trump’s concerns that Paris was not bringing home French Daesh fighters held by Kurdish groups in Syria.

Macron also said there is a disconnect in allowing Turkey to buy an anti-aircraft S-400 missile system from Russia and also be a NATO member. Trump said he is weighing issuing sanctions against Ankara if they move forward with plans to buy the weapons.
“The common enemy today is the terrorist groups. I’m sorry to say, we don’t have the same definition of terrorism around the table,” Macron told reporters.
“When I look at Turkey they are fighting against those who fought with us shoulder to shoulder against Daesh and sometimes they work with Daesh proxies.”
Turkey has threatened to block a plan to defend Baltic states and Poland against Russian attacks unless the alliance backs Ankara in recognizing the Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist group.
The YPG’s fighters have long been US and French allies on the ground against Daesh in Syria. Turkey considers them an enemy because of links to Kurdish insurgents in southeastern Turkey.
“I think any ambiguity with Turkey vis-a-vis these groups is detrimental to everybody for the situation on the ground,” Macron said. “The number one (priority) is not to be ambiguous with these groups, which is why we started to discuss our relations with Turkey.”
In an at times awkward news conference with Trump, Macron appeared exasperated when the US president said he would pass the question to Macron on whether France should do more to bring French Daesh fighters home.
Paris has about 400 nationals, including around 60 fighters, held in northern Syria. It has refused to bring adults home saying they must face trial where their crimes were committed.
“Would you like some nice Daesh fighters? You can take everyone you want,” Trump said in a light-hearted tone.
Visibly irritated, Macron responded, saying “let’s be serious” and argued that number of foreign fighters from European countries was small, and that it would be unhelpful to focus on them rather than on the broader problem.
“It is true you have fighters coming from Europe but this is a tiny minority and I think the number one priority, because it’s not finished, is to get rid of Daesh and terrorist groups. This is our number one priority and it’s not yet done,” he said.
Trump suggested Macron had not answered the question.
“This is why he is a great politician because that was one of the greatest non-answers I have ever heard, and that’s OK,” Trump said.

 


In war-battered Syria, pay demands turn football into ‘curse’

Updated 25 September 2020

In war-battered Syria, pay demands turn football into ‘curse’

  • $30,000 Is being demanded by players for a single season

DAMASCUS: Professional football clubs in war-battered Syria are struggling to sign new players, who are demanding raises to counter the decline in the value of their pay packets. 

Nine years into a grinding civil war, Syria’s economy is in tatters, life is increasingly expensive, and the national currency is in freefall on the black market. 

The coronavirus pandemic has compounded economic woes, with footballers forced to play in closed-door stadiums, wiping out turnstile revenues. 

“Professional football has become a curse,” said Eyad Al-Sibaei, president of Homs city’s Wathba club, runners-up in the Syrian league last season. 

“Players who once played with us for reasonable amounts are now demanding astronomical sums. They say it’s because of the devaluation” of the Syrian currency. 

The Syrian league, which has no foreign stars, was suspended for just one month for Covid-19, and it did not stop during the war except at the outset in 2011. 

Players were transferred last year for as little as 35 million Syrian pounds ($17,500 at the current black market rate), but Sibaei said players are now demanding salaries of up to 60 million pounds ($30,000) for a single season. 

“Next season, we’ll need between 400 and 500 million pounds for contracts and other expenses, knowing that the club only has around 160 million in its kitty,” he said. 

He said the club spent around 315 million last year, some of which he had to advance from his own pocket. 

Whereas the average Syrian earns between 50,000 and 100,000 pounds ($25-50) a month, an average professional football player brings home around 1.5 million pounds ($750) on a monthly basis. 

Osama Omri, a player with the Al-Wahda club which finished fifth last season, conceded football players were better off than the average Syrian. 

“The salaries are decent and the purchasing power of some players is good,” said the 28-year-old attacking midfielder with the Damascus club. 

“But it’s not enough to secure their future as a player’s lifespan on the field is short,” he said, as most players retire in their early thirties. 

No foreign player has been recruited since 2012, but today’s record devaluation is making even acquiring Syrian talent tough. 

The pound’s value against the US dollar has plummeted in the past year, from around 430 to 1,250 at the official rate, and from around 600 to 2,000 on the black market. 

The clubs Jaish and Shorta (army and police in English) are funded by the defense and interior ministries, respectively. 

But other clubs say the dual economic-coronavirus crisis has depleted their coffers, and are seeking funds elsewhere to recruit before the new season starts in a month. 

Reigning champions Tishreen, based in the coastal city of Latakia, have signed two new players with funds from sponsors and club board members. 

Ward Al-Salama, 26, who last year scored in Syria’s 1-0 win against the Philippines in World Cup 2022 qualifiers, is moving from Jaish for 50 million pounds ($25,000). 

Kamel Kawaya, 22, signed for Tishreen from Shorta for the same figure. 

Al-Wahda has renewed contracts with all its players, and even made three new signings. 

Its president Maher Al-Sayyed said he had pitched in to help cover some of next year’s ballooning budget. 

“I lent the club 180 million pounds while waiting for conditions to improve,” out of a projected budget of more than 600 million pounds, he said. 

In the northern city of Aleppo, Al-Ittihad are looking at a budget of 500 million pounds — more than twice last year’s. 

Basil Hamwi said they would be counting on fans and expatriates to help make it through the season. 

At Hutteen, another top-flight club from Latakia, coach Hussein Afash said he understood players’ demands. 

“The players are right to be asking for better-paid contracts after the devaluation of the pound as they’re now earning a fourth of what they did,” he said. 

Club president Khaled Tawil said he hoped that wealthy business tycoon Samer Foz would help cover costs. 

“We are counting on Foz, who sponsors our team,” he said.