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Turkey and Qatar conclude two-day naval exercises in Doha

- 321221Image1 - Turkey and Qatar conclude two-day naval exercises in Doha

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region –Turkey and Qatar have concluded two-day-long naval exercises in the Gulf devoted to combating “terrorism,” piracy, and inspection of suspicious vessels amid a two-month blockade by neighboring countries.

“Qatar’s Royal Air Force and Special Naval Force and the General Directorate of Coast and Border Security participated in the exercise,” Lieutenant-Colonel Nawaf bin Mubarak al-Thani stated.

The joint Turkey-Qatar rapid response exercises were conducted in Qatari territorial waters and were aimed at combatting “terrorism,” as reported by Turkish Hurriyet Daily News. Sunday and Monday’s exercises utilized several Qatari missile boats in addition to an Turkish naval frigate.

An earlier Turkey-Qatar military exercise was completed on June 19 at Qatar’s Tariq bin Ziyad military base, just weeks after the blockade, in order to train the country’s gendarmerie forces.

Turkey and Qatar originally announced plans to open Turkey’s first military base in the Gulf in 2015. The base opened last year and new troops have arrived since the Gulf rift erupted.

Several Arab neighbors including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, which accused the small oil-rich country of having ties with “terrorist organizations” including the Muslim Brotherhood, cut diplomatic relations with Qatar on June 5 which also resulted in limitations on air, sea and land travel to the peninsular nation.

Thani has repeatedly denied that his country funded extremists.

The other Arab countries insisted Qatar accept a tough 13-point list of demands to end the rift, including shutting down news outlets including Al-Jazeera, cutting ties the Muslim Brotherhood, limiting ties with Iran and expelling Turkish troops stationed in the country.

Qatar refused, arguing that the demands were an effort to undermine its sovereignty.

The United States has urged the feud to be settled through the Gulf Cooperation Council.

The official Kuwait News Agency reported late Monday that retired U.S. Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Timothy Lenderking met with Kuwait’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled al-Jarallah and reiterated Washington’s support for Kuwait’s efforts to mediate the crisis.

Rudaw

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Middle East

Jalalabad bombing: Explosion at Save The Children offices in Afghan city as gunmen clash with security forces

- 1516778066 breaking - Jalalabad bombing: Explosion at Save The Children offices in Afghan city as gunmen clash with security forces


Attackers set off a car bomb near the office of the Save The Children aid agency in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Wednesday and then clashed with security forces, a provincial government spokesman said.

“There was a blast and the target was Save The Children,” said the spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani. A clash was going on after the blast, he said.

Khogyani had no word on casualties but the director of the provincial health department said 11 wounded people had been taken to hospital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

There were several other aid groups and government offices in the immediate area, raising the possibility that Save The Children was not the target.

Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar province, on the porous border with Pakistan.

The province has become a stronghold for Isis, which has grown to become one of Afghanistan’s most dangerous militant groups since it appeared around the beginning of 2015.

Backed by intensive US air strikes, Afghan forces have claimed growing success against the Taliban and other militant groups, including Isis, but attacks on civilian targets have continued, causing heavy casualties.

The attack in Jalalabad came just days after Taliban militants attacked the Hotel Intercontinental in the capital, Kabul, killing at least 20 people, including 13 foreigners. 

Reuters

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Middle East

Manbij becomes key as US looks to rein in Turkey’s Syrian offensive

- 1516747391 tirkey syria tank - Manbij becomes key as US looks to rein in Turkey’s Syrian offensive


The US is trying to prevent the fighting in Afrin between Turkish forces and Syrian Kurds spreading east into the main Kurdish enclave in Syria where US troops are based. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has threatened to drive the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters not just from Afrin, but from Manbij, a strategic town west of the Euphrates.

“Terrorists in Manbij are constantly firing provocation shots,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. “If the US does not stop this, we will stop it.”

Some 6,000 Turkish troops backed by 10,000 Free Syrian Army fighters controlled by Turkey are seeking to fight their way into the isolated Kurdish canton of Afrin in northern Syria. Their progress has so far been slow, with thick cloud hindering air strikes in the hilly terrain. The YPG and Turkish-led forces have been fighting for the Bursaya Hill, with the summit, which overlooks the eastern side of Afrin town, changing hands several times.

The US has so far given muted support to its Kurdish allies in Syria, who provided the ground troops for the successful campaign against Isis. The US has supported the YPG during the war against Isis with massive air power, military equipment and some 2,000 specialised US troops.

The US is hoping to keep the present fighting confined to Afrin, which is separate from the bulk of Kurdish territory. There have never been any US military forces in this enclave, though there were Russian observers that have now been withdrawn. But if Turkey attacks Manbij then the US will have to decide if it is going to be seen as betraying its Kurdish ally or risk a military confrontation with its Nato partner Turkey.  

The Kurdish authorities in north-east Syria are calling for a mass mobilisation in defence of Afrin. But they already have large numbers of experienced combat troops previously fighting Isis that they can deploy if they wish. “The Turkish state has been trying to enter north Syria for days, but it will not be able to,” said Siyamund Walat, a YPG general. “We have forces in Afrin, thousands… they are protecting the border and the people. If necessary all the soldiers will go to Afrin.”

It may be in the interests of the Syrian Kurds to prolong the fighting in Afrin so international diplomatic pressure increases on Turkey to end Operation Olive Branch, as it calls its campaign. On the other hand, Afrin is cut off from the rest of the Kurdish-held area and the one supply road to the south is held by the Syrian Army. Syrian soldiers have been refusing to allow refugees from Afrin through their checkpoints to reach Kurdish areas in Aleppo city 25 miles away.

Explosions as Turkey confirms airstrikes on Afrin, Syria

The Turkish campaign only became possible when Russia agreed not to oppose it and, above all, allowed Turkish jets to operate in Syrian airspace. This is under Russian control west of the Euphrates. The long-contemplated Turkish assault was finally provoked by the US announcement last week that its forces would be staying in Syrian Kurdish territory for the foreseeable future. This de facto guarantee of the Kurdish statelet, directed against the Syrian government and Iran by the US, radically changed the strategic balance in Syria. The US had assured the Turks since the end of 2014 that its military cooperation with the YPG was purely tactical, directed against Isis and would end when Isis was defeated.

Mr Erdogan is taking advantage of a wave of patriotic support in Turkey for the Afrin operation to arrest dozens of politicians, journalists and activists who are accused of criticising the offensive. Many of those arrested, often for critical media posts, belong to the pro-Kurdish HDP party. “Journalists are having their doors rammed down without anybody knocking,” said HDP spokesman Ayhan Bilgen. “People are [becoming] afraid of keyboards, pens, words and writing”

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Middle East

Syrian Kurds Refuse to Participate in Sochi Talks

- acdbaa5482f0c834200ff60cc8e9a0ad L - Syrian Kurds Refuse to Participate in Sochi Talks


ERBIL — Syrian Kurds will under no circumstances attend the Syrian National dialogue Congress in Sochi, said Aldar Khalil, the co-chairperson of the Democratic Society Movement (TEV-DEM).

Khalil said in an interview with Reuters that on one hand Russia consented Turkey’s attack on Afrin and on the other hand also invited the Syrian Kurds to participate in Sochi. 

“It is  contradictory,” he said, arguing that in such a situation, taking part in a Russian-brokered talk is of no significance.

He pointed out that the Kurdish participation in the congress is a weak possibility.

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