‘Can you imagine our troops coming to France without invitation?’ Bashar Assad blasts French ‘occupation’ of Syria

There’s no major difference between supporting terrorism on Syrian soil and sending troops there without formal approval from its government, Bashar Assad said as he lambasted France’s role in Syria’s civil war.

Syria has “come a long way” toward defeating much of the terrorist insurgency on its soil, but pockets of resistance still remain as jihadists are receiving support from Turkey and Western countries, Bashar Assad told Paris Match magazine, singling out the US, the UK and “especially France.”

France has joined the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) coalition, providing air support and deploying special forces to Syria. But for Assad, the French intervention amounted to an “occupation,” as Paris – like its major NATO ally Washington – failed to secure Damascus’ authorization of the mission.

Do you frankly think that we can send Syrian forces to fight terrorism in France without being invited by the French government? International law governs the behavior of states in the world, not [their] intentions.

Now, when foreign forces came to Syria without being invited by the legitimate government, “it is [called] occupation,” the Syrian president insisted, adding, “there is not a big difference between supporting terrorism and deploying the military to occupy a country.”

Dubbed Operation Chammal, the French deployment was, officially, to carry out reconnaissance flights and aid Kurdish and Arab fighters in Syria. At peak times, France’s assets in the Middle East included a Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group, a fighter jet squadron as well as several marine units on the ground.

The interview came on the back of the Syrian army’s advances in the northern province of Idlib. The troops are now trying to fight their way toward the last militant-held towns along the strategic Damascus-Aleppo highway.

Also on rt.com Britain and France will send forces to Syria ...but Americans will pay for it, report suggests...

As the fighting continues, Assad said Syria can handle the war without any backing from the West. “We can manage our own business ... But we want to come back to a world order that is no longer respected, because chaos reigns,” he concluded.

  • Published in World

Erdogan Says US is Not Fulfilling Agreement to Withdraw Kurds

“While we hold these talks, those who promised us that the YPG...would withdraw from here within 120 hours have not achieved this,” he told a news conference, referring to a deadline set in last month’s agreement.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan stated on Thursday that the U.S. Coalition was not fulfilling its part of the agreement to withdraw the Kurdish forces from the Turkish-Syrian border region. 

RELATED: Turkey's Erdogan Announces Capture of Al-Baghdadi's Wife

During a news conference on Thursday, Erdogan criticized the U.S. forces in northern Syria, vowing to bring up the topic to U.S. President Donald Trump when they meet next week.

Erdogan is set to discuss implementation of the agreement with Trump in Washington on Nov. 13, after confirming that the visit would go ahead following a phone call between the leaders overnight.

“While we hold these talks, those who promised us that the YPG...would withdraw from here within 120 hours have not achieved this,” he told a news conference, referring to a deadline set in last month’s agreement.

Turkish officials had previously said Erdogan might call off the U.S. visit in protest at U.S. House of Representatives’ votes to recognize mass killings of Armenians a century ago as genocide and to seek sanctions on Turkey.

A month ago, Turkey launched a cross-border offensive with Syrian rebels against Kurdish YPG fighters. After seizing control of a 120-km (75-mile) swathe of territory, it reached a deal with the United States to keep them out of that area.

After the deal with Washington, Ankara also reached an agreement with Moscow under which the YPG was to withdraw to a depth of 30 km along the entirety of the northeastern Syrian border with Turkey.

But Erdogan said this deal had also not been fulfilled, with YPG fighters still in the border strip, adding that he would hold talks with Putin soon on the issue.

A senior U.S. State Department official said late on Wednesday there has been fighting in the area southeast of Syria’s border town of Ras al-Ain. It “is somewhat in dispute” whether the area is covered by the U.S. or Russian deals.

“The YPG and all armed forces have certainly withdrawn from the vast majority of our area,” the official said. “Erdogan is never all that specific in his broadside attacks on us or anybody else.”

  • Published in World

Turkey "Heading In Wrong Direction" Over Syria: US

Brussels, Belgium: Turkey is "heading in the wrong direction" with its incursion into Syria and its deal with Russia to jointly patrol a "safe zone" there, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned Thursday.

"Turkey put us all in a very terrible situation" by sweeping into northern Syria this month to fight Kurdish militia allied with the US in the fight against the Islamic State group, Mark Esper told a conference in Brussels ahead of a NATO defence ministers' meeting.

"I think the incursion's unwarranted," Mark Esper said.

The onus was on Turkey's NATO allies to now "work together to strengthen our partnership with them, and get them on the trend back to being the strong reliable ally of the past," he said.

The issue of Turkey's military offensive in Syria is set to dominate the two-day NATO meeting, with diplomats in the organisation saying "frank" discussions with Ankara's representatives have already taken place.

A subsequent arrangement with Russia to clear Kurdish militia that Turkey regards as "terrorists" linked to the outlawed PKK group on its soil has also raised hackles.

Yet, while isolated in NATO, Turkey's strategic position between Europe and the Middle East is seen as too important to jeopardise, so the other alliance members have limited themselves to criticism only.

Mark Esper defended the US decision to pull US forces out of northern Syria, effectively opening the path to the Turkish operation.

"The US decision to withdraw less than 50 soldiers from the zone of attack was made after it was made very clear to us that President (Recep Tayyip) Erdogan made the decision to come across the border," he said.

He added that "I was not about to put less than 50 US soldiers in between a 15,000-man-plus Turkish army preceded by Turkish militia and jeopoardise the lives of those servicemen". Nor was he "about to start a fight with a NATO ally," he said.

Mark Esper acknowledged "there has been some criticism" about the US withdrawal "but nobody's yet offered a better alternative to what the United States did. We are trying to keep a very strategic perspective."

In his speech and question-and-answer session at the event hosted by the German Marshall Fund think tank, Mark Esper highlighted threats he said were posed by Iran, Russia and, especially and above all, China.

"NATO allies should be looking east," to China, he said, stating that Beijing's "heavy hand" was being seen politically, militarily and economically not only in Asia but further abroad, including into Europe with its "belt-and-road" project.

Adoption by NATO allies of China's Huawei company to build 5G telecoms networks would be a threat to intel-sharing within the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, he said.

"I'll counsel our allies -- if Huawei becomes your provider of choice, this will affect our ability to share intelligence. We can't trust those networks," he said, adding: "We need to address those threats with eyes wide open."

  • Published in World

Cuba, Syria ink cultural agreement

Havana, Sep 24 (Prensa Latina) Syria and Cuba signed an agreement to strengthen cultural exchange, which will serve to expand the links that both countries are currently developing beyond the political field, stated Cuban Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso.

The agreement was signed last night in Havana by Syrian Ambassador Idris Maya and Alonso, who described it as a framework understanding that will allow collaboration in diverse areas such as the exchange of artists, performers and specialists, taking advantage of festivals and international events.

Both sides undertake to promote invitations to writers and other literary experts, to encourage the exchange of information on the development of the visual arts, the production of works of art and the holding of exhibitions in each country.

They will also cooperate in the conservation, restoration and preservation of cultural property, as well as in the protection of heritage, and work to organize film geeks and production and establish cooperative relations between their respective national libraries.

Maya and Alfonso discussed the prospect of the Syrian Minister of Culture visiting the island and having his Cuban counterpart travel to Damascus at appropriate times, Atkins vintage of festivals and events.

In a conversation with the ambassador prior to the signing, the Cuban minister condemned the 'terrorist and mercenary war' that Syria has suffered in recent years and stressed that the damage resulting from these conflicts is not limited to the political, economic and social spheres, but also impacts the culture of the peoples.

He recalled how the national Museum of Iraq in Baghdad was emptied during the American invasion of 2003, an institution that preserved valuable collections and relics of the emergence and development of civilization.

  • Published in Culture

UN's Guterres Announces Syria Constitutional Committee

The U.N.  chief said the committee would be convened in the coming weeks.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced on Monday (September 23) the formation of a constitutional committee for Syria, a long-awaited step in a stalled peace process.

"It will be facilitated by the United Nations in Geneva," Guterres told reporters, adding that it would be convened in the coming weeks. The United Nations sees the committee as a next step in efforts to find a political solution to end the more than eight-year war in Syria.

"I strongly believe that the launch of the Syrian-owned and Syrian-led constitutional committee can and must be the beginning of the political path out of the tragedy towards a solution in line with Resolution 2254, that meets the legitimate aspirations of all Syrians and is based on a strong commitment to the country's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity."

  • Published in World

Tripartite summit in Turkey focuses on U.S. intervention in Syria

Ankara, September 17 (RHC)-- The leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia met on Monday for a tripartite summit in Ankara.  At the conclusion of the meeting, Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said that the illegal presence of the United States in Syria poses a major threat to territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Arab country.  He called for the rapid withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Syria.

Rouhani added: “I emphasize that it is necessary for American forces to leave this region as soon as possible, so that, the sovereignty of the Syrian government could be extended to eastern and northern Euphrates regions like other parts of the Syrian territory.”

Rouhani then focused on recent aerial attacks by Israel against Syria and a number of other neighboring countries, saying: “The Zionist regime has increased its aggressive assaults against the Syrian territory in the past months while officials of this regime have claimed responsibility for those assaults and have even extended those acts of aggression to Iraq and Lebanon.”

“Such attacks [by Israel on the regional countries] are blatant examples of provocative and illegal hostile measures, which can lead to extensive tension and conflict in the region,” Iran's president said.

Criticizing international organizations for failing to show a suitable reaction to widespread acts of aggression by Israel against regional countries, Iran's president added, “It is obvious that regional governments and nations have the right to defend themselves against such acts of aggression on the basis of the UN Charter.”

He added that Iran has always stressed the importance of preserving Syria's territorial integrity and national sovereignty, respecting its independence and putting an end to foreign interference in the country's internal affairs.

Iran's president emphasized that all necessary grounds should be prepared for restoration of stability and peace to Syria.  Rouhani noted that an assessment of the three countries' efforts to solve the Syrian crisis through peaceful approaches, anti-terror fight, establishment of a UN-backed constitutional committee, return of refugees, facilitation of humanitarian aid and reconstruction of the war-stricken country was high on the agenda of the summit.

In a meeting with Geir Pedersen, UN special envoy for Syria, in Tehran earlier this month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the United States is throwing a wrench in efforts to form a UN-backed constitutional committee in Syria, which would seek to pave the way for a political solution to the Arab country’s eight-year conflict.

Iran's foreign minister Zarif says the US is hampering efforts to set up a UN-sponsored constitutional committee tasked with drafting a post-war constitution for Syria.  He once again reiterated the Islamic Republic’s determination to help solve the Syrian crisis through peaceful approaches, saying Tehran supports positive interaction between Damascus and the UN to that effect.

Elsewhere in his remarks, the Iranian president once again reiterated the Islamic Republic's stance on the importance of resolving the Syrian crisis peacefully, saying this would only be achieved through constructive interaction and active participation of all walks of life in the Arab country.

"The fight against terrorism, particularly Daesh, al-Qaeda and affiliated groups, should continue until their full eradication," Rouhani said, adding, however, that the anti-terror campaign should not endanger civilians’ lives or undermine security.

A review of Syria's constitution based on people’s demands can play a leading role in ending the ongoing crisis, the Iranian president said, adding that efforts by Tehran, Ankara and Moscow and the United Nations have led to considerable progress in the formation of a UN-backed Constitutional Committee.

Writing a new constitution for a post-war Syria is part of a potential political solution to end the eight-year crisis in the Arab country.   To that end, an agreement was made in the Russian city of Sochi last year for a UN-backed Constitutional Committee to be formed composed of 50 members from the incumbent Damascus government, 50 opposition members, and another 50 independent figures chosen by the world body.

In an earlier meeting with his Turkish counterpart, the Iranian president said cooperation among Iran, Russia, and Turkey, as the three guarantor states of a ceasefire regime in Syria, has promoted security in the war-ravaged Arab country.

Iran's President Rouhani says cooperation among Iran, Russia, and Turkey promotes security in Syria.  "It is necessary to help the Syrian government in its fight against the remaining terrorists, especially in the Idlib region and east of Euphrates, and cooperation [with Damascus] must continue until terrorism is uprooted in the region," Rouhani said.

Edited by Ed Newman
  • Published in World

Rebels withdraw from key Syrian town as pro-Assad troops advance

Insurgent groups have withdrawn from Khan Sheikhun in north-west Syria, clearing the way for pro-government forces to enter the town, in a milestone moment in the war for Idlib province, the country’s last major rebel stronghold.

The development came hours after Turkey deployed tanks and armoured cars deep into Syria, partly in response to days of advances by forces fighting on behalf of the Syrian leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Khan Sheikhun has been a key target in a military campaign launched in late April. The campaign had stalled until recent days, despite relentless Russian-led airstrikes that had decimated communities in southern Idlib and led up to 500,000 people to flee their homes.

Insurgents, spearheaded by the al-Qaida-linked extremist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), have led the defence of the town. According to an HTS statement on Tuesday, the group made “a redeployment” with its fighters withdrawing to areas south of the town. From there, they would continue to defend the territory, it said.

Extremist groups have blended with other anti-Assad fighters throughout Idlib and dominate parts of the province. Their presence has been used as a pretext by Russia and Syria to recapture all of north-western Syria, where up to 3 million people have taken refuge.

https://interactive.guim.co.uk/uploader/embed/2019/08/archive-zip/giv-3902jrwEoqAVE5PY/turkish-convoy-attack-inArticle_620.png

Idlib has become the last redoubt of those who rose up against the Syrian dictator during the Arab revolts of 2011. As Syria’s towns and cities have been pummelled and the regime – heavily backed by Iran and Russia – has clawed back early losses, displaced populations from all corners of the country have ended up in the north-west province.

Winning back Idlib has become a primary goal of the Syrian leader and Russia – also to a lesser extent, Iran, which has committed troops and proxies extensively elsewhere in the war.

Turkey has insisted that it would not let the province fall militarily. To do so would inevitably send tens of thousands of refugees towards its borders at a time when Turkish authorities have been rounding up and deporting Syrian citizens in Istanbul and cities closer to the border.

A convoy of Turkish military vehicles passes through Maaret al-Numan in Idlib reportedly heading toward Khan Sheikhun.A convoy of Turkish military vehicles passes through Maaret al-Numan in Idlib reportedly heading toward Khan Sheikhun. Photograph: Omar Haj Kadour/AFP/Getty Images

Khan Sheikhun has become a focal point of the fight for Idlib because of its position on a main highway linking Idlib city with Hama to the south. The town was home to about one million people, nearly 700,000 of them displaced by fighting in other parts of the country, before the government offensive began in April. In recent days hundreds of civilians remained in the town.

In April 2017, a sarin attack struck the centre of the town, killing 92 and maiming more than 200 people. The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and a UN investigation blamed a Syrian regime jet for the strike. Donald Trump ordered the bombing of the base that the jet took off from in retaliation.

  • Published in World

Missiles fired at Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria amid massive militant offensive – MoD

Al-Nusra terrorists on Wednesday fired 17 missiles at Russian Khmeimim airbase in Syria, all of which were either intercepted or fell short. The attack came as the Syrian Army faced a mass militant offensive in the Idlib province.

Nine missiles were intercepted by the Khmeimim’s air defense, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, while eight others hit the ground before reaching the base. The attack, carried out with the use of multiple rocket launcher systems, originated from a terrorist held area in the Idlib province.

 
Russia’s Khmeimim airbase shelled by DOZENS of rockets, attack repelled – MOD 
The attack came amid a large-scale offensive against the Syrian military launched by the Hayat Tahrir ash-Sham terrorist group (formerly known as the Al-Nusra Front, an Al-Qaeda affiliate).

More than 500 militants, seven tanks, four APCs and 30 trucks with mounted machine guns and two explosive-laden vehicles, driven by suicide bombers, took part in the assault, on Wednesday morning. They were backed by another 200 gunmen, and hardware, attacking the government forces from the other side.

The offensive failed as the Syrian military killed 150 terrorists and destroyed three tanks, as well as 24 trucks with mounted machine guns during the heavy fighting.

Khmeimim has frequently been the subject of attempted attacks by terrorist groups, which target the base with rockets and explosive-laden drones. None of the attacks have been successful, but the Russian military warned that the advanced technology possessed by the jihadists can be used against less-protected targets in Syria and abroad.

If the situation in Syria wasn’t tense enough, the US has again accused the Syrian government of using chemical weapons in the terrorist-held areas in Idlib, though admitting that it has little proof to back those claims.

Also on rt.com US 'sees signs' Damascus 'may' have used chlorine in Idlib, threatens ‘quick & appropriate’ response...

But the State Department still threatened Damascus on Tuesday that “the US and our allies will respond quickly and appropriately” if their suspicions are confirmed.

The Russian military, meanwhile, warned that Tahrir ash-Sham has set up a special “chemical unit” with the aim of staging a chemical attack in Idlib and to blame the Syrian government of the crime.

This tactic has already been employed by the jihadists on several occasions during the conflict, despite Damascus’s chemical weapons stockpiles being destroyed in 2014 under international supervision.

  • Published in World
Subscribe to this RSS feed