5 December 2019

syria

Turkey, Kurds trade accusations as Syria truce largely holds

KONFRONTASI-A fragile ceasefire was largely holding along Turkey's border with Syria on Saturday, but clashes were reported between Turkish-allied forces and Kurdish fighters in the Syrian border town of Ras al-Ain.

The two sides accused each other of violating the US-brokered truce, two days after Turkey agreed to give Kurdish forces 120 hours to pull back from the Turkish-Syrian border to allow Ankara to form a so-called "safe zone".

U.N. urges Turkey to investigate executions in Syria

KONFRONTASI- Turkey could be deemed responsible for summary executions by an affiliated armed group of captured Kurdish fighters and a politician, acts that may amount to war crimes, the United Nations said on Tuesday.

The U.N. human rights office also said it had documented civilian casualties caused by air strikes, ground-based strikes and sniper fire each day since the Turkish offensive began in northeastern Syria nearly a week ago.

Erdogan signals Manbij as next target in Turkey's Syria operation

KONFRONTASI-Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has shrugged off concerns over a Syrian army deployment along the border, as he indicated that Turkey's offensive against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria will intensify.

Syrian army troops deployed to the northern town of Tabqa, near Raqqa, and entered the northeast town of Tel Tamer, state media reported on Monday, after Damascus reached an agreement with the Kurdish-led forces in the region to deploy into the area.

But Erdogan said he does not expect there will be problems, citing the "positive approach" of Russia, the main military ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

"We are coordinating with the Russians," Erdogan said. "There is a lot of gossip now, but it seems ... there won't be any problem in Kobani with Russia's positive approach as of now."

Turkey is in the sixth day of its offensive against Kurdish forces in northern Syria. It says it has seized control of two key towns, Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ain, although there are reports of ongoing fighting in the latter.

"We are about to implement our decision on Manbij," he said. Speaking to reporters before travelling to Azerbaijanon Monday, Erdogan said he expected Kurdish forces to withdraw from other key towns such as Manbij.

"When Manbij is evacuated, we will not go in there as Turkey. Our Arab brothers, who are the real owners, the tribes ... will return there. Our approach is to ensure their return and security there." 

Erdogan also welcomed the announcement by the United States that it was pulling out 1,000 troops from northern Syria.

"This is a positive approach," he told reporters when asked about Sunday's statement from US Pentagon Chief Mark Esper.

As options narrow on Syria, Trump prepares to drop sanctions hammer on Turkey

KONFRONTASI-President Donald Trump’s administration is set to impose economic sanctions on Ankara, potentially as early as this week, for its incursion into northern Syria, one of the few levers the United States still has over NATO-ally Turkey.

Using the U.S. military to stop the Turkish offensive on U.S.-allied Kurdish fighters was never an option, defense officials have said, and Trump asked the Pentagon on Sunday to begin a “deliberate” withdrawal of all U.S. troops from northern Syria.

Turkey leader rebuffs Arab, EU criticism over Syria operation

KONFRONTASI-Turkey's leader angrily rejected international criticism of its attack on Kurdish fighters in Syria on the second day of the operation, which world powers fear could further destabilise the already-volatile Middle East.

Taking aim at the European Union and Arab powers Saudi Arabia and Egypt, which have voiced opposition to the military action, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said those objecting to Turkey's actions were "not honest".

Erdogan also threatened to send the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey to Europe if European countries labelled the offensive in Syria as an "invasion".

"We will open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees your way," Erdogan warned.

He also blasted regional rivals for their criticism of the military action. "They are not honest, they just make up words," Erdogan said, singling out Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

"We, however, take action and that is the difference between us," he told officials from his ruling AK Party in Ankara.

Erdogan said President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi could not condemn Turkey because Egypt under his rule was a "murderer of democracy".

'Bad idea'

Turkey's operation began days after a pullback by US forces from the border, and senior American officials have blasted US President Donald Trump for abandoning Syrian Kurds, loyal allies of Washington in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, ISIS) in Syria.

Trump called the Turkish assault a "bad idea" and said he did not endorse it. He said he expected Turkey to protect civilians and religious minorities and prevent a humanitarian crisis - as Turkey has said it would.

Turkey's military action against Kurdish fighters in northeast Syria is aimed at restoring the region's demographic structure and sending Syrians back to their own homes, Erdogan said, adding "109 terrorists have been killed so far" in the operation.

The United Nations Security Council will meet on Thursday to discuss Syria at the request of the five European members, Britain, France, Germany, Belgium and Poland.

In a letter to the 15-member Council, Turkey said its military operation would be "proportionate, measured and responsible".

The 22-member Arab League said it would hold an emergency meeting on Saturday.

Turkey to launch own Syria plan unless it secures control of 'safe zone': Erdogan

KONFRONTASI-Turkey will launch its own operation to establish a “safe zone” in Syria if talks with the United States fail to give Turkish troops control of the area within a few weeks, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday.

Washington and Ankara have been at odds over plans for the region in northeastern Syria where the U.S.-backed force led by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia have been fighting Islamic State.

Ankara considers the YPG a terrorist group because it says it has links to Kurdish militants in Turkey.

Turkey's Erdogan: No tolerance for US stalling on Syria safe zone

KONFRONTASI-President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared that Turkey would not allow the United States to delay its plan to set up a "safe zone" in northeast Syria, while insisting that the deal he reached with Washington was still the correct step to take.

Erdogan was quoted in a CNN Turk report published on Thursday as saying that Ankara would not accept delays in the plan, comparing it to an earlier deal with Washington to remove the Kurdish YPG fighters from the northern Syrian city of Manbij, which Turkey had accused the US of delaying.

Syrian government closes in on town that was bombed with sarin

KONFRONTASI- Syrian government forces on Wednesday closed in on a rebel-held town in Idlib that was bombed with sarin in 2017, sources on both sides said, building on their Russian-backed gains since the collapse of a ceasefire this month.

The advance toward Khan Sheikhoun threatens to encircle the last remaining pocket of rebel-held territory in neighboring Hama province, including the towns of Morek, Kafr Zeita and Latamneh.

Shares in Germany's Brenntag drop on dual-use chemicals sale to Syria

KONFRONTASI-Shares in German chemicals distributor Brenntag dropped as much as 7.6% on Wednesday on a report that the company sold substances to a company in Syria that could go into chemical weapons, among other uses.

Sueddeutsche Zeitung said Brenntag, the world’s largest chemicals distributor, sold chemical raw materials to a Syrian pharmaceutical company. The report was made jointly with German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk and Swiss publisher Tamedia.

15 killed in huge blast in northwest Syria

KONFRONTASI-A powerful explosion on Wednesday in Syria's rebel-held northwest killed 15 people - including more than a dozen civilians - as rescuers searched for victims trapped under the rubble.

A building of at least four storeys collapsed in the town of Jisr al-Shughour in Idlib province, a region controlled by Syria's former al-Qaeda affiliate.

A structure opposite partially caved in while surrounding buildings appeared on the verge of collapse.

A civil defence worker could be seen easing himself under a massive slab of fallen concrete to search for victims, as three colleagues crouched by his side to help.

Thirteen civilians were among those killed in the blast, the cause of which was not immediately clear, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor.

The explosion could have been the result of a car bomb or a vehicle carrying explosives that detonated, it said.

But bystanders and the head of the local civil defence unit, Abdelwahab al-Abdu, said they did not know what caused it.

Abdu said 13 civilians had died in "an explosion of unknown origin".

'People still alive'

Abu Ammar, a father of two, said he felt the "huge" blast from his home about 50 metres away.

"We ran to the place of the explosion and saw the rescue teams trying to pull out the wounded," he said.

There were "people still alive under the rubble, and lots of body parts on the ground."

Rescue personnel were seen directing bulldozers to clear rubble from a road.

Idlib is under the administrative control of Hay'et Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), which has renounced its ties to al-Qaeda.

The Turkestan Islamic Party, a group of foreign fighters from the ethnic Uighur Muslim minority, also has a large presence in Jisr al-Shughour.

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL or ISIS) has sleeper cells in the wider Idlib region.

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