Syria calls for Turkish pullout in ‘positive’ talks between spy chiefs

Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs reportedly discussed the cease-fire in the opposition-controlled Idlib province (AFP)
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Updated 15 January 2020

Syria calls for Turkish pullout in ‘positive’ talks between spy chiefs

  • The meeting could mark a turning point in Turkish opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s handling of the country’s eight-year civil war

ANKARA: The heads of Turkish and Syrian intelligence on Monday held their first official talks in years, with Damascus calling for Ankara to immediately withdraw its forces from Syrian territories.

Experts believe the “positive” meeting, which took place on the sidelines of peace negotiations in Moscow, could mark a turning point in Turkish opposition to Syrian President Bashar Assad’s handling of the country’s eight-year civil war and open the door to cooperation against common targets.

Michael Tanchum, a senior fellow for the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said Turkey’s acknowledgement of the talks hinted at the possibility of future coordinated action by Ankara and the Assad regime.

“Their joint action might be against the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia, as both Ankara and Damascus share a common interest in weakening the group’s power,” he told Arab News.

During their meeting in the Russian capital, the Turkish and Syrian intelligence chiefs reportedly discussed the cease-fire in the opposition-controlled Idlib province.

Syrian news agency SANA also said that Syria’s head of intelligence had reminded his Turkish counterpart of the importance of full adherence to Syrian sovereignty as well as to its independence and territorial integrity, calling on Turkey to immediately withdraw its forces from Syrian territories.

In December 2017, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called Assad “a terrorist who has carried out state terrorism,” saying that it would be impossible for Syrian peace efforts to continue while he stayed in power.

However, after the withdrawal of US forces from northeastern Syria and the safe zone deal brokered with Turkey last year, Syrian regime troops and Russian military were sent to the territories vacated by the Americans to remove the YPG from the border area.

Assad aims to take back full control of Idlib where Turkey had committed to helping evacuate the region of rebels and their heavy weaponry.

Sources in Ankara suggest that Turkey might give some concessions in Idlib in exchange for more Russian support for its stance on the conflict in Libya.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based Russia and Middle East analyst, told Arab News the fact that such high-level talks had taken place in Moscow was a positive move given the past animosity between Syria and Turkey.

“It will contribute to overcome the deadlock in Syria which Turkey is also trapped in. These talks also meant to hand over the responsibility to deal with the YPG to the Assad government, as the latter is believed to influence the local tribes against the YPG,” he said.

Sezer added that the meeting was also aimed at highlighting to the Turkish public a new phase in relations with Syria. “It is the result of long-time pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin who repeatedly reminded of the Adana memorandum between Turkey and Syria.”

Since last year, Putin has been pushing for Ankara to restore ties with Damascus on the basis of the 1998 Adana accord which put down a framework for security cooperation between the two countries to remove Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants, who have waged a decades-long insurgency against the Turkish state, from the Syrian border. Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the PKK.

The Adana protocol, that was signed by then-presidents Suleyman Demirel of Turkey and Syria’s Hafez Assad, is still in effect.

Erdogan admitted in February last year that the two countries were maintaining low-level dialogue through their intelligence agencies, although the meetings were never disclosed to the media.

The first low-level get-together was held in 2018 during cease-fire negotiations for Idlib.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu had also announced that Turkey would consider working with Assad if he won a democratic election.


Yemeni president in US for annual medical checkup

Updated 13 August 2020

Yemeni president in US for annual medical checkup

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi touched down in the US for his annual medical checkup on Thursday, the Yemeni Embassy in the US said.
Ambassador Ahmed Awad bin Mubarak received Hadi at the airport in Cleveland, Ohio, where the appointment is due to take place, and “reaffirmed his utmost best wishes to the president for continued good health,” the embassy said in a brief statement.
Hadi left for the US after appointing a new governor and a new security chief in Aden, and mandating new Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed to form a new government. Hadi has travelled regularly to Cleveland for medical treatment since becoming president in early 2012, reportedly suffering from heart problems.
Saeed asked the governor, Ahmed Hamid Lamlis, to focus his efforts on reviving public institutions in Aden, restoring peace and security and fixing basic services that have been hit hard by years of instability. The official Saba news agency reported that the prime minister pledged Lamlis his government’s full support.
Saeed also entered discussions with various political factions in Yemen with a view to forming his government. Abdul Malik Al-Mekhlafi, an adviser to President Hadi, said on Twitter that the administration would be announced within a month, as the internationally recognized government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) enacted security and military components of the Riyadh Agreement.
The STC recently rescinded a controversial declaration of self-rule under a new Saudi-brokered proposal to accelerate the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement.
Signed by both sides in late 2019, the agreement was designed to end hostilities in Aden and other southern provinces. Under the deal, the government and the STC were agreed to withdraw their forces from contested areas in southern Yemen, move heavy weapons and military units from Aden and allow the new government to resume duties.
Meanwhile, a judiciary committee assigned by the country’s attorney general to investigate reports of thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate stored at Aden’s port found hat the material was in fact a different fertilizer, urea, which could also prove hazardous if mixed with other materials.
In a letter addressed to the Yemen Gulf of Aden Ports Corporation, Judge Anes Nasser Ali, a local prosecutor, ordered the port’s authorities to remove the urea from the city.
Shortly after the tragic explosion in the Lebanese capital Beirut last Tuesday, Fatehi Ben Lazerq, editor of the Aden Al-Ghad newspaper, ignited public uproar after suggesting 4,900 tons of ammonium nitrate stored in 130 containers had been gathering dust at the port for the last three years, which could cause an equally destructive explosion. The story prompted the country’s chief prosecutor, politicians and the public to call for an investigation.