Civilians flee as Syria Kurds battle Turkish invasion: AFP

Civilians flee as Syria Kurds battle Turkish invasion: AFP

11 October 2019 | 02:13 | FOCUS News Agency
Tall Tamr. Syria's Kurds battled to hold off a Turkish invasion on Thursday as thousands of civilians fled air strikes and shelling that deepened fears of a humanitarian crisis, AFP reports.
US President Donald Trump tried to justify the de facto green light he gave his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan for an assault seen as a blatant betrayal of Washington's erstwhile Kurdish allies.
Later Trump suggested that Washington could mediate between Turkey and Kurdish groups and a US official said Trump has asked American diplomats to broker a ceasefire.
But international condemnation of the Turkish assault was overwhelming and the response to the operation was discussed in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.
UN chief Antonio Guterres expressed "deep concern" over the violence, while the council's five European members urged Turkey "to cease the unilateral military action".
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for an emergency meeting of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS) group.
Syrian Kurdish forces lost 11,000 personnel and played a major role in the years-long battle to eliminate the "caliphate" IS had set up in the region.
In scenes all too familiar since the start of Syria's war in March 2011, civilians were seen abandoning their homes Thursday, in vehicles or on foot with their belongings on their backs.
The UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs on Thursday estimated that 70,000 people have been newly displaced since Ankara launched its operation.
"We're heading to the countryside because we're scared of renewed bombing and intensified clashes," said Rizan Mohammad, 33, who fled the Kurdish-majority city of Qamishli with his family.
After launching the assault with air strikes and intense artillery fire on Wednesday, the Turkish army and its Syrian proxies crossed the border into Kurdish-controlled areas.
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Turkey within Trump red line in Syria: US official: AFP

Turkey within Trump red line in Syria: US official: AFP

11 October 2019 | 01:07 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. Turkey's assault on Syrian Kurdish forces has not breached a red line declared by President Donald Trump who demanded a "humane" offensive, a US official said Thursday, AFP reports.
Asked to define what action would go beyond Trump's vague warning, the US official said it would include "ethnic cleansing... indiscriminate artillery, air and other fires directed at civilian populations."
"That is what we're looking at right now. We have not seen significant examples of that so far, but we're very early," the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
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More than 60,000 displaced by Turkey assault on Syria

More than 60,000 displaced by Turkey assault on Syria

10 October 2019 | 17:30 | FOCUS News Agency
Damascus. Turkey's military offensive on northeastern Syria has displaced more than 60,000 people in less than a day, a war monitor said Thursday, AFP reported.

"Since Wednesday, more than 60,000 people fled border areas," the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, adding that most of the displaced travelled east towards the city of Hasakeh.

Rami Abdel Rahman, the head of the Britain-based monitor, said the biggest displacement was from the border areas of Ras al-Ain, Tal Abyad and Derbasiyeh.

The Turkish military, supported by Syrian proxies, launched an offensive against Kurdish-controlled areas in northeastern Syria on Wednesday, despite widespread international warnings.

After an initial phase of air strikes and artillery fire, troops moved across the border and attacked some of the key towns in the area.

Ankara aims to create a buffer about 30 kilometres deep in Syria territory in which to send back some of the 3.6 million Syrians who found refuge on Turkish soil since the start of the war in Syria in 2011.

Humanitarian organisations warned that this latest episode in the deadly eight-year-old conflict could once again have disastrous consequences on civilian populations.

"An estimated 450,000 people live within five kilometres of the Syria-Turkey border and are at risk if all sides do not exercise maximum restraint and prioritise the protection of civilians," a joint statement said.

The text signed by 14 humanitarian organisations warned that large numbers of civilians could soon be cut off from the vital aid they had been receiving.

"The life-saving humanitarian response will be threatened if instability forces aid agencies to suspend or relocate their programming and staff, as is already happening," said the statement.

Among the organisations that signed the appeal were several of the largest aid providers in the area, including the Norwegian Refugee Council and Mercy Corps.

In a separate statement, the Save The Children charity warned of "an impending humanitarian disaster".

It emphasised the risks facing the children among the latest wave of displacement, which includes thousands of people who had already been uprooted multiple times since the start of the war.

"With winter around the corner, they will face additional challenges as they search for shelter," Save The Children said.

Turkish forces are expected to move deeper into Syria, and the International Rescue Committee warned Wednesday that the operation could displace up to 300,000 people.
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AFP: Erdogan threatens EU with refugee influx if criticises Syria operation

AFP: Erdogan threatens EU with refugee influx if criticises Syria operation

10 October 2019 | 15:48 | FOCUS News Agency
Ankara. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the EU on Thursday that Ankara would allow millions of refugees to head to Europe if the bloc criticised Turkey's military offensive in Syria, AFP reported.

"Hey EU, wake up. I say it again: if you try to frame our operation there as an invasion, our task is simple: we will open the doors and send 3.6 million migrants to you," Erdogan said in a speech to parliament.

Turkey launched an operation into Syrian territory on Wednesday, aimed at combating Kurdish militants tied to insurgents in its own territory.

Erdogan said 109 "terrorists" had been killed so far in the operation.

"We have a message to those who were forced to join the YPG (Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units) ranks: If you leave now... our arms are wide open," he said.

Turkey currently hosts 3.6 million refugees from the eight-year conflict in Syria -- the highest number in the world.

Under a 2016 agreement with the EU, Turkey agreed to prevent refugees from leaving towards Europe in exchange for six billion euros and visa-free travel for its own citizens.

But it has frequently criticised Brussels for being slow in providing the money and not doing more to help with the broader refugee problem.

"You have never been sincere," Erdogan said, addressing the EU.

"Now they say they will withhold three billion euros from us. Have you ever kept any promise you gave us so far? No."

One of Ankara's aims for the military operation is to establish a "safe zone" in which at least one million Syrian refugees can be repatriated, after the long-term presence of refugees became an increasingly political liability.
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Trump says US secured 'most dangerous' IS fighters in Syria: AFP

Trump says US secured 'most dangerous' IS fighters in Syria: AFP

10 October 2019 | 02:34 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. US President Donald Trump said Wednesday that particularly dangerous Islamic State group fighters held by the Kurds in northeast Syria had been removed to US custody ahead of a Turkish attack Wednesday, AFP reports.
While Trump did not give any specifics, the Washington Post reported that US forces had gained control of two notorious British fighters dubbed "The Beatles" and moved them to Iraq.
CNN also reported that the US military had taken custody of the two fighters, while ABC said they had been transferred to a safe location.
"We are taking some of the most dangerous ISIS fighters out and we're putting them in different locations where it's secure," Trump said, using an acronym for the Islamic State group.
"We have taken a certain number of ISIS fighters who are particularly bad and we've wanted to make sure nothing happened to them with respect to getting out," he said.
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How the world is reacting to Turkey's assault in Syria: AFP

How the world is reacting to Turkey's assault in Syria: AFP

10 October 2019 | 01:05 | FOCUS News Agency
Paris. World governments reacted with concern Wednesday after Turkey launched a military offensive on Kurdish forces in northern Syria, while the UN Security Council plans to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the assault.

Here are some of the initial comments following the start of the attack, called "Operation Peace Spring".

- 'Act with restraint' -

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey to show "restraint", while acknowledging that Ankara had "legitimate security concerns".

"It's important to avoid actions that may further destabilise the region, escalate tensions, and cause more human suffering," Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Rome, in remarks released by his office.

The UN Security Council's president, South African ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, also appealed to Turkey to "protect civilians" and exercise "maximum restraint".

- 'Bad idea' -

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the incursion into northern Syria a "bad idea".

He insisted Washington "does not endorse this attack", despite having withdrawn US troops from the area in what was interpreted as a green light for Turkey to assault Kurdish militias previously allied with America.

Earlier this week, Trump said he would "obliterate" Turkey's economy if it went too far.

The US and the UK also expressed concern over the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

- 'Think carefully' -

Ahead of the launch of the offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to "think carefully" before taking any action "so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis," the presidency said following a phone call between the two leaders.

Erdogan for his part told Putin that the offensive "will contribute to Syria's peace and stability and ease the path to a political solution".

- No funding for 'safe zone' -

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker demanded a halt to the operation, telling Ankara the bloc would not pay for any so-called "safe zone" that might be created.

He told the European Parliament he recognised Turkey had "security concerns" along the border. But he warned that the military action would not lead to a "good result", saying a political solution was the only way to end the Syrian conflict.

- 'Risk of resurgent IS' -

Turkey "is willingly risking further destabilising the region and a resurgence of IS" (Islamic State) by attacking northeastern Syria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

"Syria needs stability and a political process... however, the Turkish offensive now threatens to cause a new humanitarian disaster," Maas said in a statement, adding that Berlin would "urge Turkey to end its offensive and to pursue its security interests peacefully".

- 'Must stop' -

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the offensive "must stop".

"It calls into question the security and humanitarian efforts of the coalition against Daesh and risks undermining Europeans' security," he said in a tweet, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State (IS) group.

French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin earlier said France, Germany and Britain were working on a joint declaration "which will be extremely clear on the fact that we very strongly condemn" the Turkish campaign.

- 'Risks destabilising the region' -

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed "serious concerns about the unilateral military action that Turkey has taken".

The action "risks destabilising the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh which should be our collective focus," he added in a statement.

- Ambassador summoned -

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said he had summoned Turkey's ambassador to condemn the assault.

"I call on Turkey not to follow the path it has chosen," Blok, whose country is a member of the coalition against the Islamic State, said on Twitter.

"No one can benefit from the potentially terrible humanitarian consequences. The operation can trigger new refugee flows and harm the fight against IS and stability in the region."

- Already struggling population -

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was "deeply concerned that any escalation in the country’s north-east could harm an already struggling population," stressing that "the humanitarian space" needs to be preserved".
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US senators propose tough sanctions on Turkey unless it exits Syria: AFP

US senators propose tough sanctions on Turkey unless it exits Syria: AFP

10 October 2019 | 00:35 | FOCUS News Agency
Washington. A bipartisan group of US senators said Wednesday they have agreed on far-reaching sanctions to be slapped on NATO ally Turkey if its forces do not withdraw from neighboring Syria, AFP reports.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he and Democrat Chris Van Hollen are introducing legislation that would freeze all US assets of Turkey's political leadership, and impose sanctions on entities that do business with Turkey's military or with oil and gas companies that service its armed forces.
Graham and several other US lawmakers are furious over President Donald Trump's sudden military withdrawal from positions in northern Syria, blasting the move as a betrayal of Kurdish forces who for years have helped fight Islamic militants.
"While the Administration refuses to act against Turkey, I expect strong bipartisan support" for the measure, Graham said on Twitter.
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Syria Kurds say Turkish ground assault 'repelled': AFP

Syria Kurds say Turkish ground assault 'repelled': AFP

9 October 2019 | 23:33 | FOCUS News Agency
Beirut. The Kurd-led Syrian Democratic Forces Wednesday said they repelled a Turkish ground offensive on Syria's northern border, shortly after Ankara announced the land phase of its operation against Kurdish forces had commenced, AFP reports.
"Ground attack by Turkish forces has been repelled by SDF fighters" in the Tal Abyad region, said SDF spokesman Mustefa Bali on Twitter.
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AFP: Syria Kurds urge Russia to facilitate 'dialogue' with Damascus

AFP: Syria Kurds urge Russia to facilitate 'dialogue' with Damascus

9 October 2019 | 15:58 | FOCUS News Agency
Damascus. Syrian Kurds on Wednesday called on Damascus ally Moscow to facilitate "dialogue" with the regime, following threats of a Turkish invasion of northeastern Syria, AFP reported.

In a statement, the Kurdish semi-autonomous administration said it "looks forward to Russia playing the role... of a backer and guarantor" in talks with Damascus, which has said it is ready to "embrace" Kurdish groups if they decide to return to the fold.
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Mahmoud Abbas calls on Palestinians to boycott Donald Trump&#8217s peace plan to be unveiled on 28 January 2020.
Mahmoud Abbas calls on Palestinians to boycott Donald Trump’s peace plan to...

Opening ceremony of TurkStream pipeline in Istanbul.
Opening ceremony of TurkStream pipeline in Istanbul.
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