Will Idlib cease-fire reflect on Libyan battlefield?

An aerial view shows destruction in the village of Kansafra in al-Zawiya Mountain region of Syria's northwestern province of Idlib on March 8, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 09 March 2020

Will Idlib cease-fire reflect on Libyan battlefield?

  • Russia considers all armed groups in Idlib as terrorists and this approach also reflects on the Libyan battleground in terms of the Turkey-backed Syrian fighters who were sent there,” said Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based Middle East expert

ANKARA: The new deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan to bring an end to fighting in Syria’s rebel-held stronghold Idlib is likely to have repercussions for the Libyan conflict.
The fundamental disagreements between Moscow and Ankara — not only over Syria but also Libya — have yet to be overcome and may again test the limits of the personal ties between the Turkish and Russian leaders.
Turkey’s willingness to deliver on its commitments to push the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham terror group from the de-escalation zone will be affected by the two countries’ frozen conflicts as it is still Moscow’s red line in Idlib.
On his way back from Moscow, Erdogan told Turkish journalists that he believed Putin would take positive steps on the issue of the Wagner Group in Libya, without disclosing additional details.
He added that he was waiting for problems to be resolved in Libya similar to those achieved with Putin regarding Idlib in Syria.
In Syria and Libya, Russia and Turkey are backing rival parties. Turkey supports Fayez Al-Serraj’s GNA in Tripoli while Russia is backing its rival, Haftar’s eastern-based Libyan National Army (LNA).
Recently, Erdogan criticized the Russian presence via thousands of Wagner mercenaries in Libya — seen by some as the reason why Turkish-backed opposition fighters from Idlib were sent to the Libyan battleground as retaliation in this battle for regional primacy.
However, in mid-January, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned that jihadists were moving from Idlib to Libya to destabilize the North African country.
“Russia considers all armed groups in Idlib as terrorists and this approach also reflects on the Libyan battleground in terms of the Turkey-backed Syrian fighters who were sent there,” said Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based Middle East expert.
“Before initiating a political settlement in Libya, Putin would do his utmost to eradicate jihadists in Libya as he aimed to in Idlib,” he told Arab News.
According to Sezer, the cease-fire deal between Turkey and Russia requires cooperation between the two countries against terror groups in Idlib, but also in Libya.
“As long as Turkey doesn’t want to break ties with Russia, it would take steps for revising its policy in Libya as well because Russia doesn’t seem to be tolerant of any commitment that is unfulfilled in terms of fighting terrorism in the region,” he said.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) claimed that 6,650 Syrian mercenaries voluntarily went to Libya, mainly from the divisions of Al-Mu’tasim, Sultan Murad, Suqur Al-Shamal Brigade, Al-Hamzat and Suleiman Shah.

According to Samuel Ramani, a Middle East analyst at the University of Oxford, the Idlib deal is a temporary fix and is unlikely to result in a de-escalation in Libya.
“Putin’s message was that the Russia-Turkey relationship can survive even if both countries disagree on how to handle conflicts, and that applies to Libya too,” he told Arab News.
Ramani thinks that the biggest red line for Russia would not be Turkey adjusting the balance of power in Libya but Ankara’s potential targeting of Russian Wagner Group mercenaries.
“Ultimately Turkey can de-escalate in Libya. Its venture in support of the GNA is an uphill struggle, and Turkish involvement in Libya is a lot less popular than in Syria. So more Turkish casualties could lead to Ankara brokering a settlement with Moscow out of necessity on Libya,” he said.

 


Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

Pedestrians, wearing face masks, walk in a street of Ankara on November 20, 2020. (AFP)
Updated 24 November 2020

Debate rages over Turkey’s surging pandemic numbers

  • 20% of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return
  • No PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers entering the country. It is a very big mistake

ANKARA: Unofficial sources have warned that numbers of COVID-19 cases in Turkey are skyrocketing.

The Turkish Medical Association (TTB) estimated that daily COVID-19 cases have risen to more than 47,500, of which about 12,500 are in Istanbul. This would represent a 300 percent increase in November compared to the month before.

According to official data, however, Turkey recorded 5,103 new COVID-19 patients on Nov. 20 — the second highest new daily figure since March — and its highest daily death toll with 141 fatalities.

Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu announced that 186 people died from “infectious diseases” in the city on Nov. 22 — more than the official countrywide death toll. (The Turkish health ministry is accused of classifying some COVID-related deaths as "infection-related deaths")

The TTB, whose data drew on figures from 1,270 medics in 76 provinces, claimed that someone in Turkey dies from COVID-19 every 10 minutes. It declared that “they have lost control of the pandemic.”

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms. Following this admission Turkey was put on the UK’s quarantine-on-arrival list in early October.

BACKGROUND

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca previously admitted that they do not include everyone who tested positive for COVID-19 in the number of daily cases — they only count those who show symptoms.

Reports drawing on Israeli health ministry data say that 20 percent of Israeli travelers to Turkey in October tested positive for coronavirus on their return home, which experts consider a worryingly high figure.

Everyone arriving in Israel is obliged to self-isolate for 14 days. There is no such an obligation in Turkey.

“The countries which prove successful in managing the pandemic are those that apply strict quarantine rules and rigorously regulate arrivals in the country. But this is not the case in Turkey nowadays,” said Guner Sonmez, a radiologist from Uskudar University in Istanbul.

“Only one case can again trigger a whole chain of contagion and begin a new wave of pandemic. However, no PCR test is required now in Turkish airports for the passengers who enter the country. It is a very big mistake for managing the dynamics of the pandemic.”

Turkey recently re-introduced a partial evening curfew and restrictions on the weekends, although scientists have been urging a full 14-day lockdown.