Turkey vows operation against Kurdish militia, when time is right

Turkey’s planned military operation against a Kurdish militia in Syria does not depend on an American withdrawal from the region, Ankara said. (AFP)
Updated 11 January 2019
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Turkey vows operation against Kurdish militia, when time is right

  • While the pull-out has been clouded by mixed messages from both Trump and his administration, on Friday the US-led coalition against Daesh began the process of withdrawing, a spokesman said

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s defense minister on Friday pledged to wage a campaign against a US-backed Syrian Kurdish militia, sharpening focus on a potential conflict the US has sought to prevent.

The comments from Hulusi Akar, on an unannounced visit to inspect troops stationed near the Syrian border directly opposite territory held by the US-backed Kurdish YPG, appeared to be aimed at both Washington and its Kurdish allies.

Turkey and the US, although NATO allies, are deeply divided over the implementation of President Donald Trump’s plan to bring home about 2,000 troops stationed in Syria. The plan hinges on Turkish cooperation to secure a swathe of northeast Syria as the US departs.

While the pull-out has been clouded by mixed messages from both Trump and his administration, on Friday the US-led coalition against Daesh began the process of withdrawing, a spokesman said.

Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, this week tried to make the case for guarantees that Turkey would not harm the YPG after the withdrawal. That earned a stiff rebuke from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. 

Turkey considers the YPG a terrorist organization and sees Washington’s support for it against Daesh as a betrayal.

“When the time and place comes the terrorists here will be buried in the ditches they have dug, as was done in previous operations,” Akar said in a speech to military personnel at a brigade command center in the province of Sanliurfa, referring to two other cross-border campaigns that Turkey has carried out in Syria.

Turkey views the YPG as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which has waged a three-decade insurgency in Turkey’s largely Kurdish southeast. The Kurdish groups that control a vast swathe of northern Syria have now turned to Moscow and Damascus in the hope of striking a political deal that will stave off Turkey and shield their autonomy in the north.

Ankara has repeatedly expressed frustration over a deal with the US for the withdrawal of the YPG from the city of Manbij, just west of the Euphrates River.

“Before us we have Manbij on one side and the east of the Euphrates on the other,” Akar said, underscoring the scale of a potential operation. “Important preparations and planning have been made in connection with this. Our preparations are continuing intensively.”

Turkey’s planned military operation against a Kurdish militia in Syria does not depend on an American withdrawal from the region, Ankara said on Thursday.


Algeria frees journalist month into one year jail term

Updated 24 January 2019
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Algeria frees journalist month into one year jail term

  • The journalist was arrested on December 9 during a protest in Algiers
  • He was previously arrested on October 22 on allegations of blackmail

ALGIERS: An Algerian court has released a journalist a month after he was sentenced to one year in jail for taking part in an unauthorised protest, his lawyer said.
Adlene Mellah, who heads the news websites Algerie Direct and Dzair Presse, was arrested on December 9 for attending a rally in support of an imprisoned singer.
He was found guilty of unlawful assembly and sentenced to one year in jail on December 25.
On Wednesday a court in Algiers gave him a suspended six-month sentence and released him on appeal, said the lawyer, Noureddine Benissad.
Mellah was first arrested on October 22 in a separate case of alleged blackmail, before being released a month later.
He still faces charges of blackmail, defamation and invasion of privacy in that case which is due go before a court on February 7.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders ranked Algeria 136th out of 180 countries on its press freedom index for 2018.