Russia accuses Turkey of aggravating situation in Syria’s Idlib

Damaged buildings in the village of Maaret Al-Naasan in Syria's Idlib province following a weeks-long regime offensive against the country's last major rebel bastion. (AFP)
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Updated 13 February 2020

Russia accuses Turkey of aggravating situation in Syria’s Idlib

  • Turkey is determined to push Syrian government forces beyond Turkish observation posts in the northwestern Idlib
  • A Turkish delegation will go to Moscow in coming days to discuss the escalating conflict

ANKARA: Russia said on Wednesday that the presence of Turkish troops and armor in Syria's Idlib region was making the situation there much worse as was the transport of weapons and ammunition across the Syrian-Turkish border.
Russia's Defence Ministry made the complaint after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey's military would strike Russian-backed Syrian forces by air or ground anywhere in Syria if another Turkish soldier was hurt as the Assad government tried to regain control of Idlib province. 

Earlier, Putin and Erdogan have discussed de-escalation of the Syrian crisis, the Kremlin said, adding that Russian-Turkish agreements should be implemented in full.

“The importance was noted of the full implementation of existing Russian-Turkish agreements including the Sochi memorandum,” the Kremlin said in a statement after the Putin-Erdogan phone call.

The leaders reviewed “various aspects of the settlement of the Syrian crisis, first and foremost in the context of a flare-up in the Idlib de-escalation zone,” the statement said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday Moscow remained committed to the agreements it struck with Ankara, but that Russia considered the attacks in Idlib to be unacceptable and in contravention of Moscow’s deal with Ankara.

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In 2018, Russia and Turkey agreed a memorandum to enforce a demilitarised zone in Syria’s Idlib region from which “radical” fighters would be required to withdraw.
Russia insists, however, that groups of “terrorists” continue fighting in Idlib.

Meanwhile, a Turkish delegation will go to Moscow in coming days to discuss the escalating conflict in Syria’s Idlib region, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Wednesday, adding that around 1 million people had been displaced there due to Russian-backed Syrian attacks.
Speaking at a news conference in Tirana, Cavusoglu also said Germany had provided Turkey with $44 million in support of Turkish plans to settle Syrians fleeing from Idlib.

Earlier today, Erdogan said Turkey will strike Syrian government forces anywhere it sees in northern Syria if another Turkish soldier is hurt, and it could use air power.

Speaking in Ankara, Erdogan said Turkey is determined to push Syrian government forces beyond Turkish observation posts in the northwestern Idlib region by the end of February. “We will do this by any means necessary, by air or ground,” he said.

Syria’s Russia-backed government forces launched an all-out assault on Idlib in December, retaking town after town. Hundreds of thousands have fled and hundreds of civilians have been killed.

Turkey has backed some anti-regime groups in the eight-year conflict and set up military posts in Idlib under the 2018 deal.


Yemenis should not be punished for Houthi wrongdoings, say officials

Yemenis walk in a busy market in the capital Sanaa's old city, on February 25, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 8 min 57 sec ago

Yemenis should not be punished for Houthi wrongdoings, say officials

  • Yemeni officials said a suspension or reduction of aid in northern Yemen would aggravate the humanitarian crisis, and that civilians would pay the price

AL-MUKALLA: Needy Yemenis should not be punished for Houthi actions targeting humanitarian operations in the war-torn country and the UN should divert its activities to government-controlled areas, officials said.
Yemen’s Minister of Human Rights Mohammed Asker said international aid organizations had a duty to make sure that help reached those who needed it.
“The (international) organizations have a legal and moral responsibility when they request support for the needy in Yemen, to make sure that the donors’ money does not go to buying bullets that kill Yemeni children,” the minister told Arab News, adding that humanitarian operations inside Houthi-controlled areas had become a breeding ground for corruption due to a lack of transparency and accountability. “This is the net result of dealing with parties outside the framework of the state.”
His warning came as the UN threatened to reduce its operations in northern Yemen due to Houthi obstruction. USAID said it would suspend aid to Houthi-controlled areas if the militants did not leave aid workers alone.
Yemeni officials said a suspension or reduction of aid in northern Yemen would aggravate the humanitarian crisis, and that civilians would pay the price.
Jamal Balfakeh, the general coordinator of Yemen’s Higher Relief, an Aden-based government body responsible for handling humanitarian activities, said the international community should punish Houthis by relocating offices to Aden and dispatching aid through government-controlled areas.

HIGHLIGHT

Yemen’s warning came as the UN threatened to reduce its operations in northern Yemen due to Houthi obstruction.

“The UN should punish the real perpetrators not civilians,” he told Arab News, “and the greatest punishment is moving their operations to government-controlled areas. The UN can bring in aid through 22 sea and land corridors.”
He said that reports about the Houthi mishandling of aid and the militant group’s obstruction vindicated the government’s demand for the UN to investigate corruption.
“We have been warning the international community about the Houthi looting of aid since the first six months of the war,” Balfakeh added. “We have provided them with detailed reports about the scale of the Houthi plundering of aid and told them that Houthis divert aid to their fighters.” Yemen’s ambassador to the US, Ahmed bin Mubarak, said that UN officials used to complain in private about Houthi pressure.
“UN officials used to complain that Houthis attacked and blackmailed their workers,” he said. “But they could not confront the Houthis in public as they might disrupt aid.”
He said the government was pleased that UN and media reports reflected concerns about the flow of arms from Iran and the Houthi looting of humanitarian aid.