Turkiye, Russia and Syria to hold meeting of foreign ministers in latest attempts at detente 

Turkiye, Russia and Syria to hold meeting of foreign ministers in latest attempts at detente 
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Updated 02 January 2023

Turkiye, Russia and Syria to hold meeting of foreign ministers in latest attempts at detente 

Turkiye, Russia and Syria to hold meeting of foreign ministers in latest attempts at detente 
  • Analyst says meeting would be a cautious step on long road to solving Syrian crisis

ANKARA: Turkiye, Russia and Syria are to hold a meeting of foreign ministers later this month following landmark talks between the three countries’ defense ministers in Moscow that signaled a warming of relations between Ankara and Damascus.

TRT, the Turkish state broadcaster, announced on Saturday that Russian and Turkish foreign ministers discussed preparations for the new meeting, most likely in the second half of this month. The location has yet to be determined.

Defense ministers and intelligence chiefs of three countries recently met in Moscow as part of the ongoing reconciliation process between Ankara and Damascus. They also agreed to continue their meetings.

Dr. Joshua Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, told Arab News that the foreign minister meeting would be “an important step on the road to restoring some normalcy to the region.”

It “will allow for the rebuilding of trust and security along the 900km border between the two countries,” he said.

Ankara and Damascus are united in their opposition to the Kurdish YPG militia in northern Syria, considered by Turkiye as an offshoot of the outlawed PKK group that has waged a bloody war against the Turkish state for decades.

Damascus sees the YPG as an impediment to the country’s territorial integrity.

Ankara has also threatened to launch a ground offensive into northern Syria to ensure “domestic security” following a suicide bombing last year in Istanbul that it has blamed on Kurdish militants.

Turkiye and Syria discussed cooperation on counterterrorism efforts during the meeting of defense chiefs.

According to Landis, diplomacy is the only alternative to war. Further incursions and bombings will only radicalize people and undermine law and order.

“The end to the Daesh threat will require the restoration of Syrian sovereignty and a unified military and police force. So long as Syria is divided into three warring mini-states, Daesh will have room to maneuver,” he said.

“From Turkiye’s point of view, only the Syrian regime can restore security along the border,” Landis added.

“The 1998 Adana Agreement was a great success in restoring normal relations between the two countries. It allowed for the rapid growth of trade and good relations between the two countries,” he added.

The Adana agreement was made between Turkiye and Syria in 1998 for expelling the PKK from Syrian soil and eliminating Turkey’s domestic security concerns.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkiye’s foreign minister, hinted on Thursday that Turkiye was ready to hand over Syrian areas under its control to Damascus “when political stability is established.”

Ankara insists on the establishment of a 30km-deep “buffer zone” along its southern borders and the withdrawal of the Syrian Democratic Forces, an umbrella group of which the YPG is a senior member.

Turkish and Syrian foreign ministers had a brief informal talk in 2021 on the sidelines of a regional summit, while Turkish and Syrian intelligence agencies have been in constant communication.

However, Landis said that he did not expect the apparent detente to end the Syrian conflict this year.

“It is optimistic to think that the many border problems can be solved in a year, but a good start can be made with the meeting of foreign ministers and then Turkish and Syrian presidents,” he said.

The ongoing reconciliation between Ankara and Damascus also has the potential to boost Russia’s role in determining Syria’s future, while Moscow is currently pushing for three-way negotiations in order to prevent any escalation of Turkiye’s military advance into Syria.

According to Sinan Ulgen, director of Istanbul-based think-tank EDAM, a meeting of foreign ministers would signal a new milestone in the recently initiated rapprochement between Ankara and Damascus.

“The expectations from this initial meeting should be kept relatively low because the conditions of progress on these talks are quite substantive,” he told Arab News.

He said that there was a long way to go before Turkiye agreed to end support for opposition groups fighting the Syrian regime and withdrew from the country’s north.

“The outcome of these initial deliberations would possibly be to agree a roadmap on full normalization, where both sides would fulfill conditions and Damascus would meet security guarantees for Turkiye, reminiscent of the Adana agreement,” he said.

However, he said that Ankara currently has no incentive to withdraw its troops. He added it would need guarantees that the Syrian regime could control these zones and prevent their use against Turkiye’s security interests.

The normalization process with Damascus would likely hasten the return of millions of Syrian refugees in Turkiye, which would boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s domestic support amid rising anti-immigration sentiment.

Sudan’s rival military leaders give competing addresses to UN

Sudan’s rival military leaders give competing addresses to UN
Updated 10 sec ago

Sudan’s rival military leaders give competing addresses to UN

Sudan’s rival military leaders give competing addresses to UN

CAIRO: The heads of Sudan’s rival military factions gave competing addresses to the United Nations on Thursday, one from the podium at UN headquarters in New York and the other in a rare video recording from an undisclosed location.
Army leader Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, speaking at the United Nations, called on the international community to designate the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) as a terrorist organization and to counter its sponsors outside Sudan’s borders.
RSF leader Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemedti, said in a video message that his forces were fully prepared for a cease-fire and comprehensive political talks to end the conflict.
Both sides blamed the other for starting the war that erupted in mid-April in Khartoum and has spread to other parts of the country including the western region of Darfur, displacing more than 5 million people and threatening to destabilize the region.
Most of Hemedti’s recent communications have been audio messages, and his whereabouts have been a source of speculation.
In the video released on Thursday shortly before Burhan spoke he appeared in military uniform, seated behind a desk with a Sudanese national flag behind him as he read out his speech. His location was not clear.

Previous assertions by the army and the RSF that they are seeking a solution to the conflict, as well as announcements of cease-fires by both sides, have failed to stop bloodshed and the deepening of a humanitarian crisis in Sudan.
The war broke out over plans to formally integrate the RSF into the army as part of a political transition, four years after the overthrow of former leader Omar Al-Bashir during a popular uprising.
Witnesses say the army has used heavy artillery and air strikes that have caused casualties in residential districts of Khartoum and other cities, and that the RSF has inflicted widespread looting and sexual violence on residents as well as participating in ethnically targeted attacks in Darfur.



Syria’s Assad steps out of diplomatic freeze with high-level China trip

Syria’s Assad steps out of diplomatic freeze with high-level China trip
Updated 22 September 2023

Syria’s Assad steps out of diplomatic freeze with high-level China trip

Syria’s Assad steps out of diplomatic freeze with high-level China trip
  • Talks with Xi Jinping to focus on Syrian reconstruction
  • He will also attend opening ceremony of Asian Games

JEDDAH: Syrian President Bashar Assad on Thursday began his first visit to China since 2004 and his latest attempt to end more than a decade of diplomatic isolation under Western sanctions.

Assad arrived in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou aboard an Air China plane in heavy fog, which Chinese state media said “added to the atmosphere of mystery.” Assad last visited China in 2004 to meet then-President Hu Jintao. It was the first visit by a Syrian head of state to China since the countries established diplomatic ties in 1956.

China — like Syria’s main allies Russia and Iran — maintained those ties even as other countries isolated Assad over his brutal crackdown of anti-government demonstrations that erupted in 2011, leading to a civil war that has killed more than half a million people, displaced millions more, and battered Syria’s infrastructure and industry.

Assad will attend Saturday’s Asian Games opening ceremony before leading a delegation in meetings in several Chinese cities. 

He meets President Xi Jinping on Friday.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad meeting with Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao in Beijing on June 23, 2004. He was the first Syrian head of state to visit China since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1956. (AFP Photo/File)

Being seen with China’s president at a regional gathering adds further legitimacy to Assad’s campaign to return to the world stage. 

Syria joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2022 and was welcomed back into the Arab League in May.

Faced with a crippled economy and little to show so far from his efforts to rebuild ties with Arab states, Assad is keen for financial support. 

But any Chinese or other investment in Syria risks entangling an investor in US sanctions under the 2020 Caesar Act that can freeze assets of anyone dealing with Syria.

“In his third term, Xi Jinping is seeking to openly challenge the US, so I don’t think it’s a surprise that he is willing to … host a leader like Assad,” said Alfred Wu, an associate professor at Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. 

“It will further marginalize China in the world, but he doesn’t care about that.”

The visit comes as China expands its engagement in the Middle East. 

This year Beijing brokered a deal restoring ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran. 

That detente was followed by Syria’s return to the Arab fold at a summit in Saudi Arabia in May, ending more than a decade of regional isolation.

Analysts expect Assad’s visit to China will focus, in part, on funds for reconstruction. 

“Assad intends for his trip to China to convey a sense of international legitimacy for his regime and paint a picture of looming Chinese support for reconstruction in Syria,” said Lina Khatib, director of the Middle East Institute at SOAS university in London.

Syria signed up to China’s vast Belt and Road trade and infrastructure initiative in January 2022.

Assad’s meeting with Xi “is expected to revolve around convincing China to aid Syria’s economic recovery,” said Haid Haid, of the Chatham House think tank in London. 

China pledged $2 billion in investments in Syria in 2017, but Haid said the funds had “yet to materialize.”

(With Agencies)

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas
Updated 21 September 2023

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas

Mideast peace only possible when Palestinians get full rights: Abbas
  • President urges states that have not yet recognized state of Palestine to do so immediately
  • Calls for peace conference that ‘may be last opportunity to salvage two-state solution’

LONDON: Those who think peace can prevail in the Middle East without the Palestinian people enjoying their full rights are mistaken, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said on Thursday.
Addressing the UN General Assembly, he said Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory “violates the principles of international law and legitimacy while it races against time to change the historical, geographical and demographic reality on the ground, aimed at perpetuating the occupation and entrenching apartheid.”
Abbas said his country remains hopeful that the UN will be “able to implement its resolution demanding an end to the Israeli occupation of our territory and realizing the independence of the fully sovereign state of Palestine, with East Jerusalem as its capital, on the borders of June 4, 1967.”
He added that Israel continues to attack his people, and its “army and its racist, terrorist settlers continue to intimidate and kill our people, to destroy homes and property to just steal our money and resources.”
Abbas said Israel “continues to assault our Islamic and Christian sacred sites … especially the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, which international legitimacy has recognized as an exclusive place of worship for Muslims alone.”
He added that Israel is digging tunnels under and around the mosque, threatening its full or partial collapse, “which would lead to an explosion with untold consequences.”
He urged the international community to assume its responsibilities in preserving the historic and legal status of Jerusalem and its holy sites.
He also requested an international peace conference in which all countries concerned with achieving peace in the Middle East would participate.
“I ask your esteemed organization and Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for and undertake the necessary arrangements to convene this peace conference, which may be the last opportunity to salvage the two-state solution and to prevent the situation from deteriorating more seriously, and threatening the security and stability of our region and the entire world,” Abbas said.
He also urged states that have not yet recognized the state of Palestine to do so immediately. “I call for the state of Palestine to be admitted to full membership in the United Nations,” he said.
“There are two states that the entire world is talking about: Israel and Palestine. But only Israel is recognized. Why not Palestine?
“I can neither understand nor accept that some states …are reluctant to recognize the state of Palestine, which the UN has accepted as an observer state.
“These same states confirm every day that they support the two-state solution. But they recognize only one of these states, namely Israel. Why?”

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery
Updated 21 September 2023

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery

Morocco sets aside nearly $12 bn for quake recovery
  • Fund to be used for reconstruction in places affected by the September 8 earthquake

RABAT: Quake-hit Morocco’s government announced on Wednesday a budget of more than $11 billion for reconstruction, rehousing and socio-economic development of areas hit by the deadly disaster.
The 6.8-magnitude earthquake hit Al-Haouz province south of Marrakech on September 8, killing nearly 3,000 people and injuring thousands more.
The government said in a statement it was setting aside 120 billion dirhams ($11.7 billion) to help 4.2 million inhabitants affected by the quake over a period of five years.
The funds would be used to “rehouse affected people, reconstruct homes and restore infrastructure,” said the statement published at the end of a meeting chaired by King Mohammed VI.
The earthquake razed thousands of homes in central Morocco, including the High Atlas mountain range, forcing families to sleep out in the open with winter around the corner.



Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity
Updated 21 September 2023

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity

Kuwait affirms countries’ right to maintain independence, territorial sanctity
  • Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah emphasizes nonintervention in states’ internal affairs and the need for conflicts to be resolved peacefully
  • Al-Sabah delivers address on safeguarding global peace at UN Security Council session on margins of 78th UN General Assembly

NEW YORK: Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sheikh Jarrah Jaber Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah affirmed countries’ right to maintain sovereignty, independence and territorial sanctity in a speech during a UN Security Council session.
Addressing a session on safeguarding global peace on the margins of the 78th UN General Assembly, Al-Sabah emphasized nonintervention in states’ internal affairs, resolving conflicts peacefully and abstaining from the use of force, as well as people’s right to self-determination, and encouraging respect for human rights.
Kuwait News Agency reported on Thursday that the deputy foreign minister underlined the significance of the UN charter’s goals and principles, especially the “role in defending small countries.”
Al-Sabah said that due to a range of issues, the global order is facing its toughest test since the UN’s establishment in 1945.
“The international community has no choice other than uniting to face regional and international challenges.
“Kuwait renews its rejection of using force or resorting to threats in the relations among states,” KUNA reported Al-Sabah as saying.
Al-Sabah called for Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty to be respected.
“We call on the parties (of the Ukrainian conflict) to abide by the rule of the international law and the humanitarian law in respect of protecting civilians, facilitating safe and rapid delivery of humanitarian aid to those in need,” he told the UN session.
Al-Sabah also called for the Black Sea grain deal to be renewed.