Opinion

Turkish attack in Syria condemned as ‘invasion of an Arab state’s land’

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Representatives of the League of Arab states attend an emergency meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, on October 12, 2019, to discuss Turkey's offensive on Syria. (AFP / Mohamed el-Shahed)
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Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit said that Turkey’s military has resulted in a new wave of displacement and jeopardizes gains against Daesh. (AFP)
Updated 13 October 2019

Turkish attack in Syria condemned as ‘invasion of an Arab state’s land’

  • Saudi Arabia’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs called on the international community to act immediately to bring about an end to Turkish military operations in northeastern Syria
  • "The Qatari reservation puts Qatar in one trench with the aggressor,” Egypt’s FM Sameh Shoukry said

CAIRO: Turkey’s military offensive against Kurds in northeast Syria is an “invasion of an Arab state’s land and an aggression on its sovereignty,” Arab League foreign ministers said on Saturday after an emergency meeting in Cairo.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit on Saturday led Arab foreign ministers in lambasting Turkey's military operation in northeast Syria as an "invasion of an Arab state's land and an aggression on its sovereignty".

Adel Al-Jubeir, Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs, condemned the Turkish invasion, and urged the international community to act immediately to end it.

He was backed by Anwar Gargash, UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, who said: “We call for the exit of Turkey and its forces, as well as all foreign forces that have violated this Arab country — and to push for a successful political solution.”

Iraqi Foreign Minister Mohamed Ali Alhakim, president of the current Arab League session, also condemned Turkey's offensive into Syria during an emergency meeting of the body, called by Egypt.

The Turkish invasion “will exacerbate humanitarian crises, increase the suffering of the Syrian people, and strengthen the ability of terrorists to reorganize their remnants,” Alhakim said. He and Gebran Bassil, Lebanon’s foreign minister, called on the League to reinstate Syria’s membership, which was suspended in 2011.

Reading from the meeting's final communique, Aboul Gheit said that the Arab League will consider taking measures against Turkey in the economic, investment and cultural sectors, and include tourism and military cooperation.

He also called on the UN Security Council to "take the necessary measures to stop the Turkish aggression and (for) the withdrawal from Syrian territory immediately".

Turkey dismissed the Arab League statement, saying it misrepresented its military operations.
 

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Qatar, which is considered a Turkish ally, did not block the communique, but voiced reservations.

"Qatar and Somalia have reservations about the Arab League's decision today," Arab League Assistant Secretary General Hossam Zaki told Reuters.

"The Qatari reservation puts Qatar in one trench with the aggressor, and I have no further comment," Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Reuters TV.

There was also mounting international condemnation of the Turkish invasion, which began last Wednesday after President Donald Trump withdrew US troops from their posts supporting Kurdish fighters on the Turkey-Syria border.

Tens of thousands of people took part in protest marches in Paris and other European cities on Saturday, some shouting “Erdogan terrorist,” and Germany banned arms exports to Turkey. In the first four months of 2019, Turkey received weapons from Germany worth about $200 million.




Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir attends the Arab Foreign Ministers extraordinary meeting to discuss the Syrian crisis in Cairo on October 12, 2019. (REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)

In northeast Syria, Turkish troops and their Syrian opposition allies entered the battleground town of Ras Al-Ain, but Kurdish fighters denied that the town had been captured. Ras Al-Ain and Tal Abyad further west have been primary goals of the Turkish invasion, and have come under heavy bombardment

Turkish airstrikes on Kurdish-held towns and intense artillery exchanges caused mounting casualties on both sides of the border. In Syria, 74 Kurdish fighters, 49 Syrian opposition fighters backed by Turkey, four Turkish soldiers and 28 civilians have been killed. In Turkey, at least 17 civilians have died.

The UN said at least 100,000 civilians had fled their homes, most heading east toward the city of Hasakeh, which has not been targeted by the attack. Aid groups warned of another humanitarian disaster if the offensive is not stopped.

“Turkey’s aim is to prevent further fleeing Syrian civilians from entering Turkey rather than genuinely providing protection,” Human Rights Watch said.

Turkey’s official news agency earlier said that Turkey-backed Syrian opposition forces have reached a strategic highway in northeastern Syria as Turkey’s offensive against Syrian Kurdish fighters enters its fourth day.

Anadolu news agency said Saturday the forces have arrived at the M-4 highway that connects the Syrian towns of Manbij and Qamishli. The road is about 30 kilometers south of the Turkish border.


Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

Updated 17 October 2019

Protests in Lebanon after move to tax calls on messaging apps

  • Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, Sidon, Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley
  • Demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”

BEIRUT: Hundreds of people took to the streets across Lebanon on Thursday to protest dire economic conditions after a government decision to tax calls made on messaging applications sparked widespread outrage.
Demonstrations erupted in the capital Beirut, in its southern suburbs, in the southern city of Sidon, in the northern city of Tripoli and in the Bekaa Valley, the state-run National News Agency reported.
Across the country, demonstrators chanted the popular refrain of the 2011 Arab Spring protests: “The people demand the fall of the regime.”
Protesters in the capital blocked the road to the airport with burning tires, while others massed near the interior ministry in central Beirut, NNA said.
“We elected them and we will remove them from power,” one protester told a local TV station.
Public anger has simmered since parliament passed an austerity budget in July, with the aim of trimming the country’s ballooning deficit.
The situation worsened last month after banks and money exchange houses rationed dollar sales, sparking fears of a currency devaluation.
The government is assessing a series of further belt-tightening measures it hopes will rescue the country’s ailing economy and secure $11 billion in aid pledged by international donors last year.
And it is expected to announce a series of additional tax hikes in the coming months as part of next year’s budget.
On Wednesday, the government approved tax hikes on tobacco products.
Earlier on Thursday, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah announced a 20 cent daily fee for messaging app users who made calls on platforms such as WhatsApp and Viber — a move meant to boost the cash-strapped state’s revenues.
The decision approved by cabinet on Wednesday will go into effect on January 1, 2020, he told reporters after a cabinet session, adding that the move will bring $200 million annually into the government’s coffers.
Lebanese digital rights group SMEX said the country’s main mobile operators are already planning to introduce new technology that will allow them to detect whether users are trying to make Internet calls using their networks.
“Lebanon already has some of the highest mobile prices in the region,” SMEX said on Twitter.
The latest policy “will force users to pay for Internet services twice,” it added.
TechGeek365, another digital rights group, said it contacted WhatsApp and Facebook regarding the matter.
“A spokesperson mentioned that if the decision is taken, it would be a direct violation of their ToS (terms of service),” it said.
“Profiting from any specific functionality within WhatsApp is illegal,” it added on Twitter.
But SMEX said that the 20 cent fee would be “a condition of data plans” offered by mobile operators.
“Also, Facebook previously complied with a social media tax in Uganda, which is effectively the same thing,” it said on Twitter.
Growth in Lebanon has plummeted in the wake of repeated political deadlocks in recent years, compounded by the impact of eight years of war in neighboring Syria.
Lebanon’s public debt stands at around $86 billion — higher than 150 percent of GDP — according to the finance ministry.
Eighty percent of that figure is owed to Lebanon’s central bank and local banks.