Abadi Does Not Want to Fight Kurds, Erdogan Supports Closing Borders

Paris, Ankara — Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi confirmed on Thursday that he does not want an armed confrontation with the Kurds in relation to the crisis of the referendum on independence held in the Kurdistan region on Sept. 25.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that his country would soon close the border with the region, and also spoke about a tripartite mechanism discussed between Ankara, Tehran, and Baghdad on closing the flow of oil from northern Iraq.

The Kurdish file governed al-Abadi’s talks with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris on Thursday, although Iraq had in principal negatively responded to the French suggestion that stipulates Macron’s mediation in the crisis between Baghdad and Irbil.

Still, Paris did not amend its position regarding the crisis between the two sides. Macron again expressed the French position during his joint press conference with the Iraqi prime minister on Thursday.

He said France insists to mediate between Baghdad and Erbil, it refuses any escalation, particularly at the military level, and it is attached to the sovereignty of Iraq and the stability and integrity of its territories.

For his part, al-Abadi said: “We do not want an armed confrontation, we don’t want clashes, but the federal authority must prevail and nobody can infringe on the federal authority.”

The Iraqi prime minister discussed with the French president the Kurdish crisis, the war on ISIS and the need to annul the referendum on independence, and he urged Kurdish Peshmerga forces in disputed areas to work with Iraqi security forces under the authority of the central government in Baghdad.

“I call on the Peshmerga to remain an integral part of the Iraqi forces under the authority of the federal authorities, to guarantee the security of citizens so that we can rebuild these zones,” he said.

Meanwhile, in Turkey, Erdogan announced that his country would soon close its border with northern Iraq and shut its airspace in response to last week’s Kurdish independence referendum.

The Turkish president added: “We are demanding that the Kurdish government learn a lesson from their mistakes and take the appropriate steps to compensate them.”

Erdogan also announced that Turkey already established a tripartite mechanism with Iran and Iraq that would decide jointly whether to cut oil exports from Kurdish northern Iraq.

Putin, Erdogan Discuss Idlib De-escalation Zone

Idlib

Ankara, Qamishli- The topic of the “Idlib ceasefire” dominated on Thursday talks held between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Ankara.

Informed sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Erdogan and Putin discussed “an agreement stipulating the deployment of forces to patrol the de-escalation zone of Idlib in the northwest of Syria in addition to the final picture that would emerge in this area and the way those forces will be positioned.”

Moscow wants the Turkish presence in the area to be restricted to the level of observers while Ankara insists to infiltrate by land to destroy Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham that includes Fatah al-Sham faction.

Another controversial point emerged in the summit related to the latest Russian airstrikes that targeted civilians and opposition factions that are not listed as terrorists, while Moscow said that it only targeted Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham positions.

Both sides also discussed the topic of the “S-400” missiles after the Turkish president asked his Russian counterpart to speed up the delivery of the advanced air defense systems and to start their deployment to allow Turkish soldiers be trained on their use.

A few days ago, Russia’s Undersecretary for Defense Industries İsmail Demir has said that his country may start the delivery of its S-400 air defense system to Turkey as early as within the next two years.

Separately, at the end of a summit held on Thursday in the town of Rmeilan in the northeast of Syria, Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) elected Shahuz Hassan and Aisha Hesso, as the two new co-leaders of the party replacing former PYD chief Salih Muslim and his co-chair Asia Abdullah who had both ruled the party since 2010.

The new co-chair, Hassan, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday he was ready to negotiate with the regime on a “democratic rule that we see as a comprehensive solution to all Syria.”

Qatari Opposition Meets in London

Ankara, London- As Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani arrives in Ankara on Thursday, Qatar’s opposition plans to hold a conference in London in the presence of world-renowned figures.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, organizers said the conference’s schedule was set in great secrecy because of concerns that the Qatari regime would try to foil the event and exert pressure on members of the British parliament to boycott it.

The conference will be attended by several world-renowned political figures, policymakers, academics and commentators who will discuss human rights, press freedom and counter-terrorism in Qatar.

The Qatar Global Security & Stability Conference will also highlight “the true facts about Qatar that are not being voiced because of the power wielded by the current regime.”

Spokesperson for the Qatari opposition, Khalid al-Hail said that the conference will be divided into five main sessions: Political Islam and terrorism support in Qatar, Qatar and Iran’s Foreign Policy: A Source for Regional Instability, Al Jazeera: Free Press vs. Voice of terror?, A Forbidden Debate: Qatar’s Aspirations for Global Prestige, Democracy and Human Rights, and finally, A Vicious Circle: Economy, Geopolitics and Global Energy Security.

The conference will be held as Qatar’s Emir is scheduled to hold talks in Ankara on Thursday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the latest developments of the Qatari crisis, according to a statement issued by the Turkish presidency.
  
On Wednesday, Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Mubarak Al-Hamad Al-Sabah met with Erdogan in Ankara during a visit to Turkey that will last until next Saturday.

Turkish sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that Erdogan and the Kuwaiti premier raised the issue of the Qatari crisis with the four anti-terror Arab States in addition to Kuwait’s efforts exerted to solve the rift.

Erdogan: Possible Turkish-Iranian Operation against Kurdish Groups

Ankara- Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan uncovered on Monday the presence of a possible Turkish-Iranian agreement to launch a joint military operation against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its Iranian branch the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK).

The possible agreement was one of the main topics discussed during a meeting held between Erdogan and Iran’s Armed Forces chief of staff General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri who visited Turkey last week.

Speaking to reporters in Istanbul before a short trip to Jordan, Erdogan said Iran and Turkey could work together to target the PKK and its affiliate in Iran, the PJAK.

“We spoke about a joint move against terrorist organizations, which constantly bring damage to both Turkey and Iran,” he said, adding that Ankara and Tehran were working on the basis that they can come to a conclusion in a different way and in a shorter time if they were in solidarity against this threat.

“It is always on the agenda to carry out a joint operation with Iran against those terror organizations which pose a threat,” Erdogan told reporters.

The Turkish president also said the military chiefs of both countries were also discussing how to work against Kurdish militants.

“Iran is constantly threatened by the PJAK,” Erdogan said, adding that he hopes the two countries would get a successful result in this regard.

In Tehran, Bagheri said on Monday that the two countries have reached an agreement to step up the control of the borders, without mentioning what Erdogan earlier said about a possible attack against Kurdish armed groups operating in the area.

“The actions of Turkey and Iran complement themselves. We reached good agreements to prevent terrorists passing from one side of the border to the other,” Bagheri said.

Shoukry: Arab Quartet Rejects Any Compromise With Qatar

Brussels, Ankara- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry informed the European Union on Tuesday that the four Arab States that cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar in June would not accept any compromise.

After talks with EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in Brussels, Shoukry said Doha must accept demands issued by Egypt, Saudi Arabia the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to end the dispute.

“It is not an issue of compromise, we cannot compromise with any form of terrorism, we cannot compromise or enter into any form of negotiation,” Shoukry was quoted as saying by AFP.

The Egyptian Foreign Minister added that “the crisis will be resolved only when Qatar truly accepts being a partner in the fight against terrorism.”

For her part, Mogherini reiterated what she said last Sunday during talks with Kuwait’s Emir who is currently acting as a mediator to solve the crisis with Doha.

She called on all parties to hold talks and solve the diplomatic crisis, saying “it is of paramount importance that a process of engagement, of dialogue under the mediation efforts of his highness the Emir of Kuwait, can start and should start as a matter of urgency.”

Mogherini added that Europe sees this as a need not just for one country, but for all countries.

“It is correct not to refer to these tensions as a Gulf crisis because the presence of Egypt among the four countries that are at the center of it together with Qatar demonstrates that this is going far beyond the Gulf,” the foreign policy chief said.

She also said that Europe has a clear commitment to fighting terrorism in an effective manner.

Meanwhile, Reuters reported on Tuesday that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan described his trip to the Gulf to deal with the Qatar crisis as “productive and successful”, following two days of talks that appeared to yield no immediate progress towards healing the rift.

Egypt Accuses Qatar of ‘Violating all Accords’

Jeddah, Ankara, Cairo- Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shokri said on Tuesday that his country would not forgive or deal with countries supporting and financing terrorism, adding that Qatar has violated all international laws and accords.

During his meeting with Jean Paul Laborde, Executive Director of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED), Shokri said that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain insist that Doha sticks to the Quartet’s demands as a condition for resuming frozen relations.

“The Arab demands were issued based on Qatar’s violations of the international laws and accords by interfering in the Arab countries’ domestic affairs, and sheltering terrorist leaders and members,” spokesperson of the foreign ministry, Ahmad Abu Zeid said in a press statement Tuesday.

Last month, the Arab Quartet cut their diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of supporting terrorism and building closer ties with Iran.

Abu Zeid said Shokri reiterated Egypt’s comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism in all its types, based on UN Security Council resolutions and strategies.

The Egyptian minister also highlighted the importance of “standing in one line against the countries that provide aid for the terrorists, who claim the lives of innocent (people) every day.”

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Sunday as part of a Gulf tour, his office announced on Tuesday.

A high-ranking Turkish official told Asharq Al-Awsat that talks between Erdogan and Saudi officials would be topped by the Qatari crisis and means to solve the stalled relations.

“Of course, officials from both sides will also tackle bilateral relations and means to enhance them,” said the source, who wished to remain anonymous.

Erdogan’s visit comes following a marathon of western diplomatic visits, including the US, French, British and German foreign ministers, in an attempt to contain the tension and bring the viewpoints between Qatar and the Anti-Terror Quartet closer.

Turkey Marks 1st Coup Anniversary as More Civil Servants Dismissed

Turkey on Saturday holds an intense series of events to celebrate the first anniversary of the failed attempted coup, showcasing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on power on the heels of a new purge of civil servants. 

The authorities have declared July 15 an annual national holiday of “democracy and unity”, billing the foiling of the putsch as a historic victory of Turkish democracy.

Following the failed coup last summer, the authorities embarked on the biggest purge in Turkey’s history, arresting 50,000 people and sacking over 100,000 more. Erdogan also shored up his position by winning an April 16 referendum that granted him sweeping new powers.

In the latest dismissals ordered just hours before the commemorations were due to begin on Saturday, another 7,563 police, soldiers and other state employees were fired under the state of emergency that has been in place since July 20 last year.

A decree said those targeted were “linked to terror organizations, or groups determined to have been acting against the state’s national security”.

Two hundred and forty nine people, not including the plotters, were killed when a disgruntled faction in the army sent tanks into the streets and war planes into the sky in a violent bid to overthrow Erdogan after one-and-a-half decades in power.

But they were thwarted within hours as the authorities regrouped and people poured into the streets in support of Erdogan, who blamed followers of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen has always denied masterminding the coup bid and in a new statement Friday said the accusations were “baseless, politically motivated slanders” and slammed a “witch hunt” of Erdogan’s critics.

Turkey Says Military Presence in Qatar to Remain

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus Numan Kurtulmus talks to foreign media in Ankara, Turkey

Ankara- Turkey has reiterated that its military presence in Qatar will remain, considering any linkage between that and the crisis with Doha an error and stressing that its military base in Qatar serves the region’s security and not only Qatar’s.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after the cabinet meeting on Monday that “Turkey’s military base in Qatar is not just for Qatar’s security, but for the security of the whole area. The Turkish military presence will remain.”

“Linking the crisis with the Turkish base is wrong,” he added.

Last week, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the military base in Qatar is a sovereign matter related to the two countries and demanding its closure along with other demands from the Arab countries is a violation of international laws.

In the same context, spokesman for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Ibrahim Kalin considered during a news conference on Monday that the Turkish base in Qatar poses no threat to any country in the region but its purpose is to contribute to the security and stability of the Gulf and the region.

Further, Saudi Ambassador to Ankara Walid Bin Abdul Karim El Khereiji said on Sunday that it is surprising how Turkey rushed to establish a military base in Qatar with the beginning of the crisis with Qatar.

He stressed that the Saudi armed forces and military capabilities are at their best level and the kingdom would never allow Turkey to establish military bases in the country.

Erdogan Disapproves Persian Expansionism

Ankara- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Iran was taking each of Iraq and Syria as an arena for more than a sectarian expansionism, describing its behavior as a “Persian expansionism.”

In an interview with the Portuguese broadcaster RTP late Thursday, Erdogan said: “I see that denominational expansionism as Persian expansionism. I do not find this right.”

The Turkish president also asked: “Is Syria a scene for the Iranian sectarian expansionism? Yes, it is. Is Iraq also a scene? Yes, it is.”

Erdogan said that his country was working with each of Russia and Iran during the Astana talks and that the US and Saudi Arabia were also called to join to help bring peace in Syria.

“You cannot solve issues in Syria and in Iraq without Iran,” he said, adding that keeping Tehran away from the efforts to find a solution in Syria, would not serve any party.

However, Erdogan again lashed out at the US for its insistence to rely on Kurdish militias in its operation to liberate the Syrian town of Raqqa from ISIS.

The president said the US continues to work with those Kurdish militias despite the Turkish warnings, which Erdogan had expressed to his US counterpart Donald Trump during his visit to Washington last May.

“I understand from their joint movement that the US does not consider those (Kurdish groups) as part of its list of terrorist organizations. Today, the US is advancing towards Raqqa in cooperation with those terrorist organizations,” he said.

Lately, Washington said for the first time that the US was disturbed by the growing relations between Ankara and Moscow.

In a speech addressed to the Senate, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson stressed the importance of building relations between each of the US, Europe and NATO with Turkey.

Tillerson said ties between Turkey and Russia were probably due to the US weak presence in the region, adding that Ankara-Moscow relations would not last long.

Ankara: We Stand at Equal Lengths from Gulf Row Poles

kuwait

Ankara- Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that his country is willing to deploy armed troops to Qatar amid rising tensions in the Gulf diplomatic row.

A bloc of three Gulf states joined by Egypt have led a boycott against the gas-rich peninsula in a joint effort to curb its funding of extremists and terror organizations.

Speaking upon his arrival to Kuwait, after having visited Doha, Cavusoglu said that Turkey regards both Saudi Arabia as equally valuable allies. He also reiterated Turkey’s “deep sadness” over the incident.

Cavusoglu discussed with his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Sabah “regional and international developments,” the official KUNA news agency said.

Turkey is ready to be a mediator to resolve the diplomatic row in the Gulf region, Cavusoglu added.

Cavusoglu told reporters in Kuwait one day after an official visit to Qatar’s capital, Doha, that Turkey preferred that the crisis be resolved through dialogue with all parties coming together, and that Turkey was ready to do its part as a mediator.

“Although the kingdom is a party in this crisis, we know that King Salman is a party in resolving it,” the Turkish minister said.

“We want to hear the views of Saudi Arabia regarding possible solutions and will share with them our views in a transparent way … We pay a great attention to our relations with them,” he said.

The top diplomat’s remarks follow the polarizing statements made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who said that the sanctions imposed against Qatar are unjustified and a huge mistake, and stressing Turkey’s continued support given to Qataris.

Cavusoglu later left for a tour to promote Turkey’s diplomatic and mediatory role, softening the strong language portrayed by Erdogan.

For his part, Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş said that there are high chances of Erdogan soon visiting Qatar.

A visit to Qatar may be made at any time, but its timing and conditions will be assessed in accordance with political developments, said Kurtulmuş .

He also praised the strong relations shared with Saudi Arabia, reassuring that they uphold a positive course.