Syria fighting looms over Putin-Erdogan meeting

Syria fighting looms over Putin-Erdogan meeting
Turkish-backed Syrian fighters perform maneuvers past tents with posters showing the flags of the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces during a military exercise on Syria’s northern border with Turkey. (AFP)
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Updated 05 January 2020

Syria fighting looms over Putin-Erdogan meeting

Syria fighting looms over Putin-Erdogan meeting
  • The Russian president is sensitive about areas outside Turkey’s proposed safe zone

ANKARA: Russian media is reporting that Moscow is unhappy with Turkey for its attacks on Syrian Kurds, ahead of President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Ankara on Jan. 8. Turkish troops launched Operation Peace Spring in northern Syria last October. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the aim was to “prevent the creation of a terror corridor across the southern border and to bring peace to the area.” Turkish armed forces were hoping to establish a safe zone extending 32 km into Syrian territory.
Two weeks after the launch a deal was struck between Turkey and Russia, ending the operation and establishing a deal that laid the ground for joint Turkish-Russian military patrols across areas of the safe zone.
The Turkish attacks, on the position of Syrian Kurds at Tal Tamir where Russia recently set up an observation post, are reportedly seen by Moscow as noncompliance of the joint agreement. Dozens of Russian military police have been deployed recently to Tal Tamir.
Oytun Orhan, coordinator of Syria studies at the Ankara-based think tank ORSAM, said Russia was sensitive about areas outside the Turkish proposed “safe zone.”
“Another scenario is that Turkey might have tried to increase its bargaining chip by putting more pressure on Russia before any negotiations during Putin’s planned visit, because Russia is still weak in the eastern flank of the Euphrates River while Turkey intends to get more Russian support before any move to Libya,” Orhan told Arab News.
Turkey considers the Kurdish People’s Protection Units militia (YPG) a terrorist organization and an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged an insurgency against Turkey since 1984. The YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been Turkey’s main target in its operation.

Turkey might have tried to increase its bargaining chip by putting more pressure on Russia.

Oytun Orhan, Foreign affairs expert

“So far, the YPG shared its authority with (Syrian) regime forces and Russia, however it did not completely withdraw from the region,” Orhan added. “Turkey might use its military force to convince Russia to meet its commitments under bilateral deals and break up Kurdish control in the adjacent zones.”

Summit on Syria
A four-way summit on Syria is expected to be held in Istanbul in February with the participation of Britain, France, Germany and Turkey.
Sinan Hatahet, an Istanbul-based Syria analyst, said that Russia and Turkey had their own reasons for cooperating in the region.
“Russia sees Turkey’s role in containing the opposition. Turkey considers Russia’s role as important in containing the YPG and producing an alternative to their forces near Turkey’s borders,” he told Arab News. “Nevertheless, they don’t see eye-to-eye on everything. Both of them gave their own definitions about how the final security arrangement should be in Syria.”
According to Hatahet, the latest fighting around Tal Tamir represents the Russian and Turks trying to delimit their red lines and push their zones of influence because the agreements signed have been very broad.


Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
A military vehicle is stationed on the tarmac of Yemen’s Aden airport. Yemen says the Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace to the country. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 January 2021

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation

Yemen’s government vows to mitigate effects of Houthi terrorism designation
  • International community urged not to surrender to ‘blackmailing and intimidation’ 
  • Stockholm Agreement has failed to bring peace, Yemen PM said

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s prime minister has vowed to address any impact on humanitarian assistance or the remittances of citizens abroad following the US move to designate the Iran-backed Houthis as a terrorist organization.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed also urged the international community not to surrender to “Houthi blackmailing” and intimidation.
Saeed defended his government’s strong support of the designation during a virtual interview with foreign journalists sponsored by the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies.
He said that his government had formed a committee to handle any effects on the delivery of humanitarian assistance inside Houthi-controlled areas and the remittances of Yemenis abroad.
“We are determined to prevent any impact of the decision on the Yemenis. We have formed a committee to mitigate effects of the decision,” he said.
When the US announced its intention to designate the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization last week, Yemen’s government quickly urged the US administration to put the decision in place, predicting it would stop Houthi crimes and their looting of humanitarian assistance, and would smoothe the way for peace.
Referring to the impact of the US designation on peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis, Saeed said that the decision would not undermine peace efforts. He said that the Houthis would be accepted as part of the Yemeni political and social spectrum when they abandoned hard-line ideologies and embraced equality and justice.

The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed.

Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed, Yemen’s prime minister

“This is an important pressure card on them and a real definition of them,” he said, adding that the Yemenis would not allow the Houthi movement to rule them.
“Yemen would not be ruled by a racist and terrorist group,” he said.
Formed under the Riyadh Agreement, Yemen’s new government’s ministers narrowly escaped death on Dec. 30 when three precision-guided missiles ripped through Aden airport shortly after their plane touched down.
The government accused the Houthis of staging the attack, saying that missile fragments collected from the airport showed that they were similar to missiles that targeted Marib city in the past.
The prime minister said that the Yemeni government had offered many concessions to reach an agreement to end the war. It had agreed to engage in direct talks with the Houthis in Stockholm in 2018 despite the fact that the Yemeni government forces were about to seize control of the Red Sea city of Hodeidah. However, the Stockholm Agreement had failed to bring peace to Yemen, he said.
“The government forces were about to capture the city within five days maximum. The Yemeni government agreed to go to Stockholm for reaching a solution to stop fighting and saving the city. This model has failed,” Saeed said.
In Riyadh, Yemen’s president Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi on Friday appointed Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, a former prime minister and a senior adviser to the president, as president of the Shoura Council.
Hadi also appointed Ahmed Ahmed Al-Mousai as the country’s new attorney general.
Fighting continues
Heavy fighting between Yemeni government forces and the Houthis broke out on Sunday for the third consecutive day in contested areas in the districts of Hays and Durihimi in the western province of Hodeidah. Official media said that dozens of Houthi rebels and several government troops were killed in the fighting and loyalists pushed back three assaults by Houthis in Durihimi district.
In neighboring Hays, the Joint Forces media said on Sunday that the Houthis hit government forces with heavy weapons before launching a ground attack in an attempt to seize control of new areas in the district.
The Houthis failed to make any gains and lost dozens of fighters along with several military vehicles that were burnt in the fighting, the same media outlets said. Heavy artillery shelling and land mines planted by the Houthis have killed more than 500 civilians since late 2018, local rights groups said.