Syria Crisis: Russia, Iran To Hold Summit In Turkey

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will host his Russian and Iranian counterparts for a summit on Syria in Ankara on September 16, the presidential spokesman said.

Despite being on opposing sides in the Syrian conflict, Syria regime backers Iran and Russia have worked closely with rebel supporter Turkey to find a political solution.

“The president will host a three-way summit with the participation of Russia and Iran in Ankara,” spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said late Wednesday.

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The announcement of the meeting between President Vladimir Putin, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Erdogan comes at a time when Syrian forces have made advances into the last rebel stronghold of Idlib in Syria’s northwest.

Kalin said there was “no question” of moving one of its 12 observation posts in Idlib, despite it being cut off from the rest of the province by the advance of Syrian forces this week.

“The ninth observation post remains in its place. All the other observation posts foreseen or put in place under the Idlib agreement will continue to operate where they are,” Kalin said.

He was referring to a buffer zone agreement signed between Russia and Turkey last year that was supposed to protect Idlib from a government offensive.

That deal has come under increasing strain since the Syrian government began heavy bombardment of Idlib in April, raising fears in Turkey of a mass refugee exodus from the region of three million people.

The three presidents will discuss Idlib at next month’s meeting, as well as the establishment of a constitution commission and how the political process should continue, Kalin said.

Their last meeting was in February and the September event will be the fifth summit between Putin, Rouhani and Erdogan since November 2017.

Kalin said Erdogan would speak on the phone with Putin in the coming days, adding that preparations were being made for another call with US President Donald Trump.


Syria Crisis: Thousands Evacuated From Four Besieged Towns

Syrian Government says the operation to move people away from four besieged towns in the north western region has begun.

According to AFP reports, the people evacuated from Foah and Kefraya, two government-held towns, have arrived in Rashideen, west of Aleppo.

Similar operations have also begun in rebel-held Madaya, near Damascus.

In March, the United Nations described the situation in the towns as catastrophic, with more than 64,000 civilians trapped in a cycle of daily violence and deprivation.

Many people are reported to have died as a result of shortages of food or medicine.

Officials said more than 30,000 people would be moved.

Syria Presses Toward Aleppo, Tells Rebels To Leave

Syria, Allepo, UN, Boris JohnsonSyrian government and allied forces are pushing toward Aleppo, pursuing their week-old offensive to take the rebel-held part of the city after dozens of overnight air strikes.

The Syrian army told the insurgents to leave their positions, offering safe passage and aid supplies.

Syrian forces supported by Iranian-backed militias and Russian air power began their push to take the whole of the divided city after a ceasefire collapsed last month.

An air campaign by the Syrian government and its allies has been reinforced by a ground offensive against the besieged eastern half of Aleppo, where insurgents have been holding out. Hospitals have been badly hit in the assault, medics say.

Reuters reports that while Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State, John Kerry, spoke by phone to discuss normalisation of the situation, Britain said the bombing of hospitals by forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al Assad made it impossible to talk about peace.

“It is the continuing savagery of the Assad regime against the people of Aleppo and the complicity of the Russians in committing what are patently war crimes – bombing hospitals, when they know they are hospitals and nothing but hospitals – that is making it impossible for peace negotiations to resume,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Syrian military said on Sunday that the army and its allies had advanced south from the Handarat refugee camp north of the city, taking the Kindi hospital and parts of the Shuqaif industrial area.

Zakaria Malahifji, of the Aleppo-based rebel group Fastaqim, told Reuters there were clashes in this area on Sunday.

The Observatory said air strikes and shelling continued on Sunday and there was fierce fighting all along the front line which cuts the city in two.

The Syrian army said that rebel fighters should vacate east Aleppo in return for safe passage and aid supplies.
“The army high command calls on all armed fighters in the eastern neighborhood of Aleppo to leave these neighborhoods and let civilian residents live their normal lives,” a statement carried by state news agency SANA said.

East Aleppo came under siege in early July after its main supply route, the Castello Road, fell under government control.

International attempts to establish ceasefires to allow in United Nations humanitarian aid have failed, although other aid groups have brought in limited supplies.

Current Oil Prices Are Totally Unacceptable – Buhari

muhammadu-buhari-and-Sheikh-Tamim-Bin-Hammad-Al-Thani on Oil PricesPresident Muhammadu Buhari has decried the current situation in the crude oil market, which has seen oil prices plummet by 70 per cent since mid-2014, saying it is “totally unacceptable.”

He emphasised the need for cooperation among Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and non-OPEC member states to stabilise crude oil prices.

The Nigerian leader made the statement on Sunday in Doha at a bilateral meeting with the Emir of the State of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hammad Al-Thani.

Abundant Opportunities In Nigeria

“As members of OPEC and Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), our relations in the areas of oil and gas, which our two nations heavily rely on, need to be enhanced and coordinated for the benefit of our people.

“The current market situation in the oil industry is unsustainable and totally unacceptable.

“We must cooperate both within and outside our respective organisations to find a common ground to stabilise the market, which will be beneficial to our nations,” the President said on the second day of his state visit to Qatar.

The President also commended the existing cordial bilateral relations between Nigeria and Qatar.

He invited prospective Qatari investors to take advantage of the abundant opportunities in Nigeria and invest in the key areas of energy, agriculture, real estate development, banking and finance.

He assured prospective investors of the government’s protection of their persons and investment, noting that in the course of his visit, the delegations from Nigeria and Qatar would formalise at least two bilateral agreements to boost economic cooperation between both countries.

President Buhari also weighed-in on the situation in the Middle East, commending the role Qatar was playing in resolving the Syrian crisis, the Palestinian cause and efforts in reconstructing Gaza.

“The conflicts in Yemen and Syria, with their attendant humanitarian crisis, need genuine international effort to solve. Nigeria, as a peace loving country, identifies with the State of Qatar in all her peace efforts in the world to end terrorist activities.

“Nigeria is a victim of terrorism. It is with heavy heart that I stand before you and say activities of Boko Haram have led to loss of many lives and displacement of innocent people in our dear nation.

“We, however, take pride to inform you that since our coming to power, Boko Haram has been systematically decimated and are in no position to cause serious threat to our development programs.

“I wish to reiterate that Nigeria rejects violence and extremism in all their ramifications, and assure your Highness that we are with the State of Qatar in your efforts to fight terrorism and injustice in your region and in the world at large,” President Buhari stressed.

He also called for a lasting solution to the Israeli–Palestinian conflict , saying; “we in Nigeria, like the State of Qatar, favour a ‘Two State’ solution, with the State of Palestine living side by side with the State of Israel.

“I want to assure you that we will stand side by side with you, until our brothers and sisters in Palestine achieve their desired objectives.

“Our support for various Security Council resolutions restoring and respecting 1967 boundaries with Jerusalem as capital of Palestine is firm and unshaken”.

Syrian Border Town About To Fall As Islamic State Increases Assault

Syria-Kobani. Turkey’s president has warned that the Syrian State, Kobani is “about to fall” after Islamic State fighters advanced into the south west of the Kurdish town, pressing home a three-week assault that has cost a reported 400 lives.

The prospect that the town on the Turkish border could be captured by the militants has increased pressure on Turkey, with the strongest army in the region, to join an international coalition to fight against Islamic State.

Islamic State wants to take Kobani in order to strengthen its grip on the border area and consolidate the territorial gains it has made in Iraq and Syria in recent months. U.S.-led air strikes have so far failed to prevent its advance on Kobani.

Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan, said bombing was not enough to defeat the Islamic State and Turkey had made clear that additional measures would be needed.

“The problem of ISIS (Islamic State) … cannot be solved via air bombardment. Right now … Kobani is about to fall,” he said during a visit to a camp for Syrian refugees.

“We had warned the West. We wanted three things. No-fly zone, a secure zone parallel to that, and the training of moderate Syrian rebels,” he said.

He said Turkey would intervene if there were threats to Turkish soldiers guarding a historic site in Syria that Ankara regards as its territory. But so far Turkey has made no move to get involved in the fighting across the border.

Reuters reports that from across the Turkish border, two Islamic State flags could be seen flying over the eastern side of Kobani. Two air strikes hit the area and sporadic gunfire could be heard.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group said it had also documented 412 deaths of civilians and fighters during the three-week battle for Kobani.

On Tuesday, plumes of white smoke rose over eastern and central parts of Kobani and two ambulance crossed the border, travelling from Kobani to the Turkish side.

Islamic State fighters were using heavy weapons and shells to hit Kobani, senior Kurdish official Asya Abdullah told Reuters from inside the town.
“Yesterday there was a violent clash. We have fought hard to keep them out of the town,” she said by telephone. “The clashes are not in the whole of Kobani, but in specific areas, on the outskirts and towards the centre.”

Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, has ramped up its offensive in recent days against the mainly Kurdish border town, despite being targeted by U.S.-led coalition led air strikes aimed at halting its progress.

“There were clashes overnight. Not heavy but ISIS is going forward from the southwest. They have crossed into Kobani and control some buildings in the city there,” said Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Observatory, a group that monitors the conflict with a network on the ground. ISIS is a former name for Islamic State.

“They are about 50 metres inside the south-west of the city,” Abdulrahman said.

An estimated 180,000 people have fled into Turkey from the Kobani region following the Islamic State advance. More than 2,000 Syrian Kurds including women and children were evacuated from the town after the latest fighting, a member of the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) said on Monday.

Islamic State Accused Of War Crimes In Syria

ISISThe United Nations has accused Islamic State militants of committing “mass atrocities” in Syria, including the recruitment of children as fighters.

In a report, investigators also accuse the Syrian government of using chemical agents in eight separate incidents in western Syria this year.

Islamic State (IS), which now controls areas of Syria, is one of the groups fighting President Bashar al-Assad.

Some 200,000 have died since the conflict began in early 2011.

The findings are the result of six months of interviews and evidence collected between January and July this year as part of an inquiry into human rights violations inside Syria.

The period covered in the report coincides with the growth of IS in Syria. The group seeks to create an independent Islamic State in an area that stretches across Syria and Iraq.

It has attracted jihadists from across the region, as well as fighters from Western countries including the UK and the US.

Children Being Recruited

In their report, UN investigators said IS was waging a campaign of fear in northern Syria, including amputations, public executions and whippings.

“Bodies of those killed are placed on display for several days, terrorising the local population,” the document says.

“Women have been lashed for not abiding by IS’s dress code. In Raqqa, children as young as 10 are being recruited and trained at IS camps.”

On Wednesday IS’s supporters tweeted pictures allegedly showing militants executing Syrian army soldiers after capturing the government Tabqa airbase near Raqqa in eastern Syria. The pictures have not been verified.

Among the allegations of war crimes committed by the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad was the use of suspected chlorine gas, a chemical agent, in eight separate incidents in April and May of this year.

The report also detailed the use of barrel bombs by the Syrian Air Force, which were dropped on civilian neighbourhoods

The chairman of the UN panel, Paulo Pinheiro, said the international community had failed “in its most elemental duties – to protect civilians, halt and prevent atrocities and create a path toward accountability”.

One of the investigators, Carla del Ponte – a former chief prosecutor of two UN war crimes tribunals – has urged world powers to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court.

Syria Conflict: First Briton Convicted Of Terror Offences

Syria-conflictA 31-year-old man from Portsmouth has become the first British person to be convicted of terrorist offences in connection with the conflict in Syria.

Father-of-two Mashudur Choudhury was convicted of engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts.

He had travelled to Syria last October to attend a terrorist training camp and was arrested at Gatwick airport on his return to the UK later that month.

Choudhury had told the court he wanted to emigrate to avoid problems at home.

Prosecutors at the trial at Kingston crown court said Choudhury had wanted to be trained in the use of firearms and intended to pursue a “political, religious or ideological cause”.

They said Choudhury had left the UK on October 8, 2013, travelling on a commercial flight to turkey alongside four other men from the Portsmouth area.

He later travelled on to Syria, although prosecutors said it was not known what he had done there.

His conviction will be seen as a victory for the police’s counter-terrorism strategy of trying to persuade relatives, friends and associates to come forward if they suspect that an individual is planning to join the fighting in Syria.

Choudhury, dressed in a green polo shirt, did not react as the jury returned a unanimous verdict after four and a half hours of deliberation. The judge, Mr Justice Dodgson, warned him he faced a substantial custodial sentence, and adjourned the case for probation reports. Choudhury will be sentenced on 13 June.

Police sources said they were tipped off from within the Muslim community in Portsmouth that Choudhury and four other men had left for Syria last October. The men allegedly decided to go to training camps after another associate, Iftekhar Jaman, 29, had travelled to fight with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) earlier last year.

Assad tells UN envoy peace talks can succeed only if aid to rebels stops

Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, has stressed that talks to end the civil war would only succeed if foreign powers end support for rebels fighting to overthrow him.

Assad told UN envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, on Wednesday that “the success of any political solution is tied to stopping support for terrorist groups and pressuring their patron states.”

Brahimi is in Damascus to meet Syrian officials in an effort to shore up support for the faltering peace talks.

Assad’s government calls the armed opposition terrorists.

The “Geneva 2” talks, tentatively planned for November 23, aim to start a political process to end the civil war in which more than 100,000 people have been killed.

Brahimi has angered the opposition by saying that Iran, Assad’s main backer during the war, should attend Geneva. The rebels and political opposition say that any negotiations should be based on Assad’s removal.

Assad and Iran, however, have said they will only go to talks that set no preconditions. Assad said that “only the Syrian people are authorized to shape the future of Syria.”

The Iranian ambassador to Syria, Mohammad Riza Shebani, told reporters in Damascus on Wednesday that Iran was ready to attend the Geneva meeting.

“Of course, everyone knows Iran’s efforts to help a political solution to the Syrian crisis. Iran’s absence from this meeting does not benefit the meeting,” he said.

The Syrian conflict began in early 2011 as a peaceful protest movement against four decades of Assad family rule, but has degenerated into a sectarian civil war and forced millions to flee from Syria to neighbouring countries.


Syria Crisis: Army Forces Rebels Out Of City

Syrian army soldiers and tanks were a visible presence on the streets of Qusair today having earlier taking control of the city from rebel fighters in a significant advance for President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in the country’s civil war.

Hezbollah television station Al-Manar showed large numbers of soldiers on the streets as well as tanks and diggers clearing rubble as tanks moved around the damaged clock-tower in the centre of the city.

There was no sign of civilians with deserted cars and damaged buildings seemingly empty.

Rebels said they had pulled out of Qusair, which lies on a cross-border supply route with neighbouring Lebanon and where they had fought fierce battles with government forces and Hezbollah guerrillas for more than two weeks.

More than 80,000 people have been killed in the fighting and another 1.6 million Syrians refugees have fled a conflict which has fuelled sectarian tensions across the Middle East, spilled over into neighbouring Lebanon and divided world powers.