Archive for May, 2017

UK’s Labor Party: We will immediately recognize the state of Palestine

May 28, 2017

Britain’s Labor Party announced in its 2017 elections manifesto that if elected in June, the party would immediately recognize the state of Palestine.

A Labor government will immediately recognize the state of Palestine

The manifesto stated that the party was committed to a two-state solution to solve the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict, adding that “there can be no military solution to this conflict.”

Both Israel and Palestine must “avoid taking action that would make peace harder to achieve,” the manifesto continued, referencing the need to end the decade-long Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip, the half-century Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and Israel’s continued settlement expansions.

It added that Hamas, the de facto leaders in the besieged Gaza Strip, must also end rocket and “terror attacks,” in order for leaders to enter “meaningful negotiations” and develop a “diplomatic resolution.”

Earlier this month, the United Kingdom’s House of Lords released a statement that strongly criticized the British government’s “very degrading, dismissive attitude” towards international efforts to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and suggested that it take a stronger stance to advance a two-state solution, including recognizing a state of Palestine.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170528-uks-labour-party-we-will-immediately-recognise-the-state-of-palestine/.

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Global community now sees Turkey’s key role in Syria

01 March 2017 Wednesday

The international community is beginning to realize Ankara’s crucial role in paving the way for a permanent solution in war-torn Syria thanks to the ongoing Turkey-led operations, head of Syrian Turkmen Assembly in Turkey said Wednesday.

The Turkey-led Operation Euphrates Shield began late August 2016 to improve security, support coalition forces and eliminate the terror threat along the Turkish border using Free Syrian Army (FSA) fighters backed by Turkish artillery and jets.

“Wherever Turkey goes to clear terrorists from an area and provide security, it succeeds,” Emin Bozoglan, who is currently in Geneva to attend the Syria peace talks, told Anadolu Agency over the phone.

He said Turkey’s power in the international arena was now more apparent due to the successful Operation Euphrates Shield, adding this could also be observed at the talks in Geneva.

“The PYD [PKK terrorist group’s affiliate in Syria] is not at the table because Turkey doesn’t want it and this is the right approach,” he said.

According to Bozoglan, the recent liberation of Jarabulus city as well as the strategic Al-Bab town in Syria is a positive development not only for Turkey’s national security but also for the Syrian opposition who want a terrorist-free Syria.

He added the Syrian opposition always supports the territorial integrity of Syria and blamed the international community for backing terrorist groups.

“The U.S. government is supporting PYD and it threatens peace in Syria. If they [the U.S.] leave Syria to the Syrian people, peace can be achieved,” Bozoglan said.

The PYD is a Syrian offshoot of the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist group by Turkey, the EU and U.S. While Turkey considers PYD/YPG as Syrian affiliates of the PKK, neither the EU nor the U.S. regard the groups as its offshoots.

Turkey-backed forces have killed more than 3,000 ISIL terrorists — as well as some PKK/PYD elements — in northern Syria under Operation Euphrates Shield, according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish government has long said it would not participate in any formation in the region where the PKK/PYD is included.

Ankara has repeatedly said one terror group should not be used against another and urged the U.S.-led coalition to stop using the YPG to eliminate ISIL terrorists in the region.

After having completed successful operations in Jarabulus, Al-Rai, Dabiq and Al-Bab, the FSA forces could next lead the Raqqah — ISIL’s self-proclaimed capital — operation, according to Turkish authorities.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/headlines/185592/global-community-now-sees-turkeys-key-role-in-syria.

Turkish Red Crescent opens ‘compassion stores’ in Syria

13 February 2017 Monday

A string of “compassion stores” have been opened by the Turkish Red Crescent to provide clothing to refugees in Syria’s Idlib, the charity said Monday.

Three shops in the northwestern city will also provide toiletries, according to a statement. The supplies have been provided by Turkish donors and will be paid for on Red Crescent debit cards handed out to registered refugees.

Turkish Red Crescent President Kerem Kinik said aid distribution had focused on Christian refugees in Idlib. “They are in more difficult conditions,” he said. “We have invited the small group of Christians left in Idlib to the Red Crescent compassion store and provided them with clothing.”

The charity also distributed gas stoves to refugees around the village of Atme in Idlib.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/todays-news/184723/turkish-red-crescent-opens-compassion-stores-in-syria.

Trump to visit Israel, Saudi Arabia, Vatican, meet with pope

May 04, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday his first foreign trip as president will feature stops in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the Vatican, where he will meet with Pope Francis, an ambitious foray onto the world stage that will include meetings with NATO and a summit in Italy.

Senior administration officials said Trump chose Saudi Arabia as his first stop to show his commitment to improving U.S. relations with the Muslim world. Trump will meet with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and other leaders where they are expected to discuss efforts to defeat terrorism and discredit radical ideologies, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe internal planning.

Trump, joining religious leaders in the Rose Garden on Thursday, said his first foreign trip would “begin with a truly historic gathering in Saudi Arabia with leaders all across the Muslim world.” “Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holiest sites in Islam and it is there that we will begin to construct a new foundation of cooperation and support with our Muslim allies to combat extremism, terrorism and violence and to embrace a more just and hopeful future for young Muslims in their countries,” Trump said.

The weeklong trip will mark the president’s first trip abroad and come about six weeks after the U.S. launched Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian air base in the aftermath of a chemical weapons attack in the war-ravaged country.

The trip will inject Trump into the thorny quest for Middle East peace, a prospect that has proven elusive for Trump’s predecessors. The announcement follows Trump’s meeting on Wednesday with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and his optimistic pledge to mediate peace efforts between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Trump has sought to forge strong ties with Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of his presidency in hopes of facilitating peace. The visit to Israel will reinforce that alliance, officials said.

“Our task is not to dictate to others how to live but to build a coalition of friends and partners who share the goal of fighting terrorism and bringing safety, opportunity and stability to the war-ravaged Middle East,” Trump said.

The Palestinians want to create a state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in the 1967 Mideast war. Abbas noted that demand when he joined Trump at the White House.

But Netanyahu has rejected the 1967 frontier as a baseline for border talks and ruled out partitioning Jerusalem where Palestinians hope to establish a capital. Netanyahu’s government has expanded settlements despite U.S. efforts to curb the construction.

The White House had said previously that Trump would travel to Belgium for the NATO meeting and Italy for the G7 summit before Memorial Day. The president previously called NATO “obsolete” but has since recanted after listening to European leaders make the case for the military alliance.

Trump will be making his first overseas trip late into the start of his presidency compared to his predecessors. Former President Barack Obama visited nine countries by late April 2009, his first three months in office, meeting with allies such as Canada, Britain and Germany. The last first-term president to wait until May to venture abroad was Jimmy Carter in 1977.

His visit will also give him the opportunity to connect with Roman Catholics with his visit with Pope Francis at the Vatican. The White House said the president met privately Thursday with Roman Catholic cardinals.

Trump and Francis couldn’t be more different in their approaches to some of the pressing issues of the day, with immigration and climate change topping the list. Francis has spoken of the need for bridges between nations, not the walls that Trump has called for. He has called for an end to the use of fossil fuels, while Trump has pledged to cancel payments to U.N. climate change programs and pull out of the Paris climate accord.

But both share a populist appeal and speak with a down-to-earth simplicity that has endeared them to their bases of supporters. And both share a common concern about the plight of Christians in the Middle East at the hands of Islamic militants.

Francis recently called for the U.S. and North Korea to step away from the brink and use negotiations and diplomacy to diffuse tensions on the Korean peninsula — an issue that is likely to feature in any Vatican audience.

During the campaign, when asked about Trump’s border wall with Mexico, Francis famously said anyone who wants to build a wall is “not Christian.” Trump shot back that it was “disgraceful” for a religious leader to question someone’s faith.

Associated Press writer Nicole Winfield in Vatican City contributed to this report.

U.S.-backed Syrian militia close to full capture of al-Tabqah

By Andrew V. Pestano

May 2, 2017

May 2 (UPI) — The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said the Syrian Democratic Forces militia is close to fully capturing the city of al-Tabqah from the Islamic State as its offensive to free Raqqa escalates.

The SOHR on Monday said the SDF and U.S. Special Forces control about 80 percent of al-Tabqah. The monitor said local mediators are working to negotiate an agreement to secure a passage for remaining Islamic State militants to travel to Raqqa to fully withdraw from al-Tabqah.

The SDF, with the help of the U.S.-led international coalition, said it captured six al-Tabqah districts on Saturday and another three on Sunday from the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIL, ISIS and Daesh.

“In the last 48 hours, the ISIS defense lines have been destroyed, and [we] were able to liberate nine districts,” SDF Cmdr. Abdulqadir Hafidli said on Monday.

Hafidli said Islamic State militants have established strong defenses in the last three districts of al-Tabqah and at the Euphrates Dam.

The SDF seeks to surround and isolate Raqqa before launching an offensive to recapture the city, similar to what Iraqi security forces did in their offensive on Mosul.

Source: United Press International (UPI).

Link: http://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2017/05/02/US-backed-Syrian-militia-close-to-full-capture-of-al-Tabqah/4051493733015/.

Observers: Large explosion rocks Syrian capital

April 27, 2017

BEIRUT (AP) — A large explosion rocked the Syrian capital early Thursday, followed by a fire near the Damascus airport, Syrian opposition activists and a monitor said. The explosion was heard across the capital, jolting residents awake, the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights Rami Abdurrahman said. He said the explosion was reported to have happened near the Damascus airport road.

The dawn explosion was also reported by other activists’ networks but the source was unclear. Activist-operated Diary of a Mortar, which reports from Damascus, said the explosion near the airport road was followed by flames rising above the area. A pro-government site Damascus Now said the explosion was near the city’s Seventh Bridge, which leads to the airport road.

Syria is in the sixth year of a bloody civil war pitting the government of President Bashar Assad and his allies against opposition forces that has left more than 400,000 people dead. The explosion comes a day after France said that the chemical analysis of samples taken from a deadly sarin gas attack in Syria earlier this month “bears the signature” Assad’s government and shows it was responsible.

Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France came to this conclusion after comparing samples from a 2013 sarin attack in Syria that matched the new ones. The findings came in a six-page report published Wednesday.

Russia, a close ally of Assad, denounced the report, saying the samples and the fact the nerve agent was used are not enough to prove who was behind it. The United States has also blamed Assad’s government for the April 4 attack. The Trump administration ordered the cruise missile attack on the air base and issued sanctions on 271 people linked to the Syrian agency said to be responsible for producing non-conventional weapons. Syria has strongly denied the accusations.

Death toll in Turkish air raids on Syria Kurds rises to 28

2017-04-26

AL-MALIKIYAH – The toll in Turkish air raids on Kurdish positions in northeastern Syria rose to 28 killed, a monitor said Wednesday, a day after Ankara said it had targeted “terrorist havens” near its border.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said most of those killed were members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which is battling the Islamic State group in northern Syria.

Observatory director Rami Abdel Rahman said 19 others were wounded in the Tuesday raids on a media center and other buildings in Al-Malikiyah, a town in Hasakeh province.

YPG spokesman Redur Khalil on Tuesday said 20 fighters were killed and 18 wounded in the Turkish strikes, which the United States said were carried out without the knowledge of a Washington-led international coalition fighting IS in Syria and neighboring Iraq.

Abdel Rahman said a female Kurdish fighter was among the dead.

Turkey, which backs Syrian rebel groups and which launched a ground operation in northern Syria last year, vowed to continue acting against groups it links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

It also killed six Kurdish peshmerga fighters in northern Iraq on Tuesday in an apparent accident.

The strikes underlined the complexities of the battlefields in Iraq and Syria, where twin US-backed offensives are seeking to dislodge IS from its last major urban strongholds.

They could also exacerbate tensions between Ankara and its NATO ally Washington, which sees the Kurds as instrumental in the fight against IS.

Source: Middle East Online.

Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=82784.