Putin, Erdogan in new deal on Idlib

Erdogan said on Tuesday more than 500 civilians had been killed the new attack, which violated last year’s agreement and should halt immediately. (AFP)
Updated 27 August 2019

Putin, Erdogan in new deal on Idlib

  • We can stabilize northern Syria, two presidents insist after crisis summit in Moscow

ANKARA: Russian and Turkish leaders Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved on Tuesday to paper over the cracks of their conflicting interests in Syria with a joint pledge to “stabilize” the northern province of Idlib.

The two presidents had “reached an understanding on how, and what we can do, to solve these issues in Syria,” Erdogan said after talks in Moscow.

Moscow and Ankara agreed nearly a year ago to de-escalate tensions in Idlib to prevent a bloodbath in Syria’s last opposition stronghold. However, Assad regime forces backed by Russian airstrikes launched a new offensive in April to drive out militants led by Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate.

Erdogan said on Tuesday more than 500 civilians had been killed the new attack, which violated last year’s agreement and should halt immediately. “It is unacceptable for the regime to rain death on civilians from the air and on the ground under the pretext of fighting terrorism,” he said.
However, Putin insisted the offensive was necessary to uproot militants who used the area as a base to target Russian bases in Syria. “The de-escalation zone cannot serve as a refuge for militants and a platform for launching new attacks,” he said.
Nevertheless, he added: “We understand Turkey’s concern about the security of its southern border and view it as Turkey’s legitimate interest.”

It was clear from their talks that Erdogan and Putin disagree on how to implement their agreement last year in Sochi, analyst Timur Akhmetov told Arab News.

“Turkey seems to have asked for more time to eliminate terrorists in Idlib in its own way, but Russia says Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham is still capable of attacking its positions,” said Akhmetov, a researcher at the Russian International Affairs Council.

“They will try to work something out until their next summit in Turkey.”

Before their talks on Tuesday, Putin and Erdogan visited an airshow outside Moscow, where they inspected Russia’s new Sukhoi Su-35 fighter jet. “There was a lot of interest from our Turkish partners,” Putin said.
The purchase of Russian fighters by Turkey, a NATO member, would further anger Washington after Erdogan bought Russia’s S-400 missile defense system.
In retaliation, the US removed Turkey from its F-35 fighter jet program.

As a result, “more Russian arms sales to Turkey are probably inevitable,” Dr. Theodore Karasik, senior adviser at Gulf State Analytics in Washington, told Arab News.

“The interest by the Turks in the Su-57 signals how Ankara is looking more closely at Russian weapons systems as opposed to Western systems,” he said. “The more Turkey buys from Russia, the less interoperable the equipment becomes with NATO. Turkey cannot keep buying equipment from Russia in this manner because it becomes a security issue within NATO itself. This raises the question of where Turkey sits in the alliance.”


Palestinians: Israeli settlers torch cars in West Bank

Updated 22 November 2019

Palestinians: Israeli settlers torch cars in West Bank

  • Hard-line settlers have been known to carry out “price tag” attacks in response to Palestinian militant attacks or perceived efforts by Israeli authorities to limit settlement expansion
  • The Palestinians claim the West Bank as part of their future state

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Israeli settlers attacked five villages in the occupied West Bank overnight, torching vehicles and olive trees, and leaving graffiti on the walls of homes, Palestinian officials said Friday.
Ghassan Daghlas, a spokesman for the Nablus governorate, said the Jewish settlers set fire to five cars and spray-painted graffiti on more than 20 others. Villagers circulated photos of the damage on social media.
Israeli police say they are investigating the reports and that police and military units will visit the area.
Hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast War. The Palestinians claim the West Bank as part of their future state.
Hard-line settlers have been known to carry out “price tag” attacks in response to Palestinian militant attacks or perceived efforts by Israeli authorities to limit settlement expansion. It was unclear what sparked the latest attack.
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, Palestinian health authorities said a man died of wounds he sustained in an Israeli airstrike earlier this month that killed eight members of his family. The Gaza Health Ministry identified the man as 40-year-old Mohammed Abu Malhous.
Those killed in the airstrike included two women and five children under the age of 13.
Israel’s military said it was targeting “Islamic Jihad military infrastructure” and did not expect civilians to be present. It said an investigation is underway.
The airstrike came during two days of fighting ignited by Israel’s targeted killing of a commander of the Islamic Jihad militant group. The fighting killed 35 Palestinians and more than 450 rockets were fired into Israel.