Biden orders Syrian Kurds to pull back; Assad govt slams Turkish incursion

Turkish army tanks move toward the Syrian border as pictured from Karkamis, Turkey, on Wednesday. The operation was launched hours before Vice President Joe Biden was due in Ankara for talks that include developments in Syria. (AP Photo)
Updated 24 August 2016

Biden orders Syrian Kurds to pull back; Assad govt slams Turkish incursion

ANKARA, Turkey: US Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Syrian Kurdish forces to move back across the Euphrates River, telling them they will lose US support if they don’t.
Speaking at a press conference in Ankara on Wednesday, Biden said Kurdish forces “must move back across the Euphrates River.”
He said “they cannot — will not — under any circumstance get American support if they do not keep that commitment.”
Biden indirectly expressed support for the Turkish operation launched Wednesday to clear Daesh militants from the town of Jarablus and deter Kurds from further expanding in northern Syria. Turkish tanks and armored personnel carriers crossed into Syria earlier in the morning, under the cover of US-led coalition airstrikes.
Turkish state media says Syrian opposition forces backed by Turkey have reached the “entrance” of Jarablus, which lies on the last main supply line between Daesh territory and the border.
The US-backed Kurdish forces seized the border town of Manbij from Daesh militants earlier this month. Turkey said they had to retreat after clearing it from Daesh.

'Blatant violation'

Syria’s government has denounced Turkish military incursion, describing it as Turkey’s “blatant violation” of Syrian sovereignty.
In a statement reported by state-run news agency SANA on Wednesday, the government says that “any move to combat terrorism on Syrian territories should have been coordinated with the Syrian government and army.”
The statement also calls for an immediate end to the Turkish “aggression,” which it says is being carried out under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
It says: “Fighting terrorism cannot be undertaken by ousting Daesh and replacing it with other terrorist organizations directly backed by Turkey.” Daesh is the Arabic language acronym for Islamic State.
Turkey’s state-run news agency says Syrian rebels have captured a village from the Daesh group near the Daesh-held border town of Jarablus in a joint push with Turkey’s military.
The Anadolu Agency, citing unnamed military officials, said the Syrian opposition fighters took the village of Kaklijeh with the support of Turkish armored units.
Anadolu said the village is some 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away from the Turkish border. It said Turkish warplanes and artillery were also pressing ahead with their attacks against Daesh targets.
The report also said the rebel forces are expected to advance toward Jarablus backed by the Turkish armored units.

Daesh militants rounded up

Turkey’s state-run news agency says that police teams have mounted simultaneous raids at multiple locations in Istanbul to detain several suspected members of the Daesh group.
The Anadolu Agency reported the operations took place early on Wednesday in two Istanbul districts and were coordinated by a helicopter flying overhead.
The operation comes days after a suspected Daesh bombing at a wedding in southeast Turkey killed at least 54 people. It also coincides with a Turkish military incursion into Syria to clear a border town of the Daesh group.
Several suspects were detained and their addresses searched. Authorities did not disclose the number of those detained.


Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

Updated 31 min 5 sec ago

Syrian pound plummets as new US sanctions loom

  • Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon
  • The UN food agency said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items

BEIRUT: Syria’s pound hit record lows on the black market Saturday trading at over 2,300 to the dollar, less than a third of its official value, traders said, ahead of new US sanctions.
Three traders in Damascus told AFP by phone that the dollar bought more than 2,300 Syrian pounds for the first time, though the official exchange rate remained fixed at around 700 pounds to the greenback.
After nine years of war, Syria is in the thick of an economic crisis compounded by a coronavirus lockdown and a dollar liquidity crunch in neighboring Lebanon.
Last month, the central bank warned it would clamp down on currency “manipulators.”
Analysts said concerns over the June 17 implementation of the US Caesar Act, which aims to sanction foreign persons who assist the Syrian government or help in post-war reconstruction, also contributed to the de fact devaluation.
Zaki Mehchy, a senior consulting fellow at Chatham House, said foreign companies — including from regime ally Russia — were already opting not to take any risks.
With money transactions requiring two to three weeks to implement, “today’s transactions will be paid after June 17,” he said.
Heiko Wimmen, Syria project director at the conflict tracker Crisis Group, said that with the act coming into force, “doing business with Syria will become even more difficult and risky.”
Both analysts said the fall from grace of top business tycoon Rami Makhlouf despite being a cousin of the president was also affecting confidence.
“The Makhlouf saga is spooking the rich,” Wimmen said.
After the Damascus government froze assets of the head of the country’s largest mobile phone operator and slapped a travel ban on him, the wealthy feel “nobody is safe,” he said.
They are thinking “you better get your assets and perhaps yourself out preparing for further shakedowns,” he said.
Mehchy said the impact of the pound’s decline and ensuing price hikes on Syrians would be “catastrophic.”
Most of Syria’s population lives in poverty, according to the United Nations, and food prices have doubled over the past year.
The UN food agency’s Jessica Lawson said any further depreciation risked increasing the cost of imported basic food items such as rice, pasta and lentils.
“These price increases risk pushing even more people into hunger, poverty and food insecurity as Syrians’ purchasing power continues to erode,” the World Food Programme spokeswoman said.
“Families may be forced to cut the quality and quantity of food they buy.”