US blames Russia, not Assad, for Turkey’s loss

US blames Russia, not Assad, for Turkey’s loss
Turkish officials last month requested that the US temporarily deploy Patriot air defense missile systems
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Updated 20 March 2020

US blames Russia, not Assad, for Turkey’s loss

US blames Russia, not Assad, for Turkey’s loss
  • It is the first time that Washington has directly faulted Moscow over the death of at least 34 Turkish soldiers in an airstrike

ANKARA: The US believes Russia has killed dozens of Turkish military personnel in the course of its operations in Syria, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, without specifying the place or the date of the incident.

The timing of the statement is telling amid ongoing debates about the activation of the Russian-made S-400 missile system in April as the US has blamed Russia, not Assad, for the deaths of Turkish troops in Idlib.

It is the first time that Washington has directly faulted Moscow over the death of at least 34 Turkish soldiers in an airstrike that was carried out by Russia-backed Syrian government forces in their campaign to retake Syria’s last rebel-held stronghold, Idlib. “We stand with our NATO ally Turkey, and we continue to consider additional measures to support Turkey and to end the violence in Idlib and in Syria more broadly,” Pompeo said.

Turkish officials last month requested that the US temporarily deploy Patriot air defense missile systems to its southern border town of Hatay in a show of support for ongoing military operations against Syrian government forces.

However, the US administration keeps warning Ankara against activating the S-400 anti-aircraft missile system that the US sees as a threat to NATO aircraft.

“Over 50 Turkish soldiers died in Idlib in February and March. The majority were killed in an airstrike that most believe the Russian Air Forces conducted. Despite this, Turkish officials say the S-400 system will be turned on in April,” Aaron Stein, director of the Middle East program at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, told Arab News.

Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, believes that Pompeo’s statement comes as the US and Turkey deepen their cooperation in Syria and Washington sees an opportunity to drive a wedge between Moscow and Ankara.

“The most interesting aspect of this statement is that it was delivered by Pompeo, while previously this issue was restricted to the level of the US Special Envoy for Syria, James Jeffrey. This shows that US-Russia talks are advancing,” he told Arab News.

Jeffrey and US Ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft held consultation meetings in Turkey in early March to assure Ankara of Washington’s support.

According to Macaron, Erdogan, who is using the activation date next month of the S-400 system to leverage buying the US-made Patriots, hopes that Washington can make this deal if Ankara pledges not to make the Russian-made defense system indefinitely operational.

If Ankara proceeds in its activation plan next month, it will be unable to acquire America’s Patriot missile-defense batteries and may be subject to sanctions under the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.

“Acquiring the Patriots will give Turkey much needed deterrence against Russia and the Syrian regime, but it will not resolve the pending challenges facing US-Turkish relations,” Macaron said.

The Kremlin reacted to Pompeo’s statement, however, claiming that it was intended simply to disrupt Turkish-Russian cooperation in Syria.

“Even during a global pandemic of an infectious disease, US officials continue their massive anti-Russian propaganda campaign, disseminating information that is clearly false,” Russian news agency TASS reported on Thursday. “Regretfully, in a bid to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey, who are cooperating in Syria, US officials even resort to plain lies.”


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 2 min 33 sec ago

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.