Syria’s Al-Assad vows support for Kurds against Turkey assault

Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad visits Syrian army troops in war-torn northwestern Idlib province, Syria. (Reuters)
Updated 22 October 2019

Syria’s Al-Assad vows support for Kurds against Turkey assault

  • Bashar Al-Assad: We are prepared to support any group carrying out popular resistance against the Turkish aggression
  • Turkey and its Syrian allies on October 9 launched a cross-border attack against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria after an announced US military pullout

DAMASCUS: Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad on Tuesday said the regime would support Kurdish fighters in the northeast of the war-torn country against Turkish soldiers and their Syrian allies.

“We are prepared to support any group carrying out popular resistance against the Turkish aggression,” he said in a video shared by the presidency.

“This is not a political decision... We are not taking any political decisions now,” he told government troops on the frontline in the province of Idlib.

“It is a constitutional duty and a national duty,” he said.

Turkey and its Syrian allies on October 9 launched a cross-border attack against Kurdish fighters in northeastern Syria after an announced US military pullout.

Turkey wants to set up a buffer zone in Syrian soil along the length of its southern frontier to keep Kurdish forces it views as “terrorists” at bay.

Under a US-brokered truce deal announced last week, the Kurds have until late Tuesday to pull out their fighters from a 120-kilometer (70-mile) long strip along the frontier that it has largely overrun during the operation.

The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have been a key ally of the United States in the battle against Daesh group in Syria, at the cost of 11,000 fighters.

The US pullout has largely been seen as a betrayal of Syria’s Kurds, who have spent most of the country’s civil war working toward autonomy.

Damascus has previously accused Kurds of treason over their alliance with Washington.

The Turkish attack forced the Kurds to seek aid from the regime and make a deal to deploy Assad’s forces in some northeastern areas for the first time in years.

The regime has since deployed in the border town of Kobani as well as the town of Manbij further south, without clashing with Turkish forces.

Al-Assad has repeatedly said he would eventually restore government control over all parts of Syria, driving out rebels and extremists.


Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.