Erdogan accuses Assad regime of violating Idlib cease-fire

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan . (AP)
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Updated 21 April 2020

Erdogan accuses Assad regime of violating Idlib cease-fire

  • Erdogan said the Syrian regime was using the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to ramp up violence in Idlib, and added that Turkey would not allow any “dark groups” in the region to violate the cease-fire either

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that the Syrian regime was violating a cease-fire in the northwestern Idlib region, warning that Damascus would suffer “heavy losses” if it persisted.
Turkey and Russia, which back opposing sides in Syria’s war, agreed on March 5 to halt hostilities in northwestern Syria after an escalation of clashes there displaced nearly a million people and brought the two sides close to confrontation.
Speaking in Istanbul after a Cabinet meeting, Erdogan said the Syrian regime was using the coronavirus outbreak as an opportunity to ramp up violence in Idlib, and added that Turkey would not allow any “dark groups” in the region to violate the cease-fire either.
Separately, Syria’s Kurds set up a specialized hospital for coronavirus cases, the Kurdish Red Crescent said Monday, after the first COVID-19 death was reported in the northeastern region.
The United Nations on Friday said a man aged in his fifties had on April 2 become the first fatality from COVID-19 in northeast Syria.
In a region suffering from a lack of medical supplies, the news further raised fears of a breakout, including in its thronging camps for the displaced.
Kurdish Red Crescent co-director Sherwan Bery said a new 120-bed facility was now ready to welcome any moderate cases of the virus around 10 km outside the city of Hasakah.
The hospital “is to just focus on the COVID-19 infection cases” and keep them all in the same place instead of across different hospitals, he said.
The idea is “to not spread contamination to other areas,” Bery said.
AFP journalists saw a large ward containing dozens of beds spaced out several meters apart, with tall oxygen tanks by their side.
“We are preparing for the moderate cases,” Bery said, but efforts were also ongoing to set up an intensive care unit for severe cases, there or in another location.


‘Provocative’ Erdogan to drill for oil off Libya

Updated 31 May 2020

‘Provocative’ Erdogan to drill for oil off Libya

  • Turkey claims an agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to create a “fait accompli” over rights to natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean by drilling off the coast of Libya, analysts told Arab News on Saturday.

Ankara’s announcement that it intends to activate last year’s maritime borders agreement with the Libyan government in Tripoli has brought simmering tensions to the boil.   

Turkey claims the agreement gives it the right to explore for oil and gas in an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) between its southern coast and Libya’s northeastern coast. However, Greece, Cyprus and the EU say the deal is illegal. Turkey may also face EU sanctions over drilling in Cypriot territorial waters.

Ankara has not said exactly where it will drill, but experts told Arab News they expect exploration activities to begin off Tripoli in the short term, and then near to the coastal city of Sirte.

“From a tactical point of view, Turkey may test the scenario of a crisis with Athens where escalation takes place and then, in the context of de-escalation, the two countries would have to discuss and negotiate their positions,” said Zenonas Tziarras, a researcher at PRIO Cyprus Centre.

Mona Sukkarieh, a political risk consultant and co-founder of Middle East Strategic Perspectives, said: “If we take Turkish operations off the Cypriot coast as an indicator, operations off the Libyan coast might start off on the less provocative part of the spectrum and grow bolder with time toward the more provocative part of the spectrum.

“The objective is to demonstrate a resolute determination in order to extract concessions or, at the very least, to impose itself as a player to reckon with.”