Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his American counterpart Donald Trump have spoken over phone on the fate of Kurdish fighters that has triggered a war of words between the two NATO allies.
Erdogan told Trump during Monday’s conversation that he has no problem with the Kurds in Syria and that Ankara is only seeking to fight armed groups in the war-ravaged country which threaten its national security.
The Turkish leader discussed the planned US troop withdrawal from Syria and the establishment of a secure zone in northern Syria free of armed groups, a statement from the Turkish presidency said.
Erdogan has taken a strong exception to the Trump administration’s dictates on Kurdish fighters especially US concerns on the safety of its Kurdish allies, who helped Washington in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement: “The president expressed the desire to work together to address Turkey’s security concerns in northeast Syria while stressing the importance to the United States that Turkey does not mistreat the Kurds and other Syrian Democratic Forces with whom we have fought to defeat ISIS.”
According to the White House, Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford is set to meet with his Turkish counterpart Yasar Guler on Tuesday for further consultations.
‘A highly unreliable partner’
The Anadolu news agency reported that Erdogan also said he had no problem with the Kurds and that Turkey was only seeking to root out the remaining remnants of the ISIL, the PKK and its Syrian affiliate the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).
Ankara considers the US-allied YPG and its political wing – the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) – to be “terrorist groups” with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey.
For weeks it has vowed to carry out military operations against the YPG, and has condemned the US for its military relationship with the Kurdish fighters.
The Trump administration has defended its relationship with the YPG and on Sunday, the US President vowed to “devastate Turkey economically” if it targeted them.
Starting the long overdue pullout from Syria while hitting the little remaining ISIS territorial caliphate hard, and from many directions. Will attack again from existing nearby base if it reforms. Will devastate Turkey economically if they hit Kurds. Create 20 mile safe zone….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2019
….Likewise, do not want the Kurds to provoke Turkey. Russia, Iran and Syria have been the biggest beneficiaries of the long term U.S. policy of destroying ISIS in Syria – natural enemies. We also benefit but it is now time to bring our troops back home. Stop the ENDLESS WARS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 13, 2019
Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said “we are not scared of and will not be intimidated by any threats”. “Economic threats against Turkey will get nowhere.”
Turkey has said the US administration has been incoherent about the withdrawal process since Trump’s announcement as well as in its approach to different “terrorist groups”.
Yasin Aktay, who advises President Erdogan in his AK Party, said the US has been “a highly unreliable partner” to Ankara.
“The problems and misunderstandings between the US and Turkey are results of the confusion and cacophony between the actors at different levels of the US administration and institutions,” he told Al Jazeera.
‘Don’t mistreat the Kurds’
Anadolu added that the two leaders also discussed the need to complete a roadmap regarding Syria’s border town of Manbij, so as to avoid giving any opportunity to elements seeking to block the planned withdrawal of US forces.
Turkish and US troops began joint patrols in Manbij on November 1 as part of an agreement that focuses on the withdrawal of YPG fighters from the city to stabilise the region.
Last month, Trump said he would withdraw some 2,000 US troops from Syria in a statement that shocked several politicians in Washington as well as Western and Kurdish allies fighting alongside the US.
Trump’s decision to withdraw troops was initially expected to be carried out swiftly, but the timetable became vague in the weeks following his announcement.
France, Britain and local armed groups have also warned that ISIL has not been totally defeated yet.
Al Jazeera and news agencies
Sign language: Connecting people and cultures
The Deaf Friends team – KUNA photosSign language is a full-fledged means of communication for deaf people, depending on facial and body gestures that enable them to interact. The UN General Assembly set Sept 23 as the International Day for Sign Languages to highlight their importance, and how it was a major right for deaf…
The Deaf Friends team – KUNA photosSign language is a full-fledged means of communication for deaf people, depending on facial and body gestures that enable them to interact. The UN General Assembly set Sept 23 as the International Day for Sign Languages to highlight their importance, and how it was a major right for deaf people to have their own languages. The international day coincides with the establishment of the World Federation of the Deaf, founded in 1951.
“Sign language is multicultural and derived from the culture of every country,” said Hamad Al-Marri, President of Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf. Marri, also member of the higher council for the disabled, told KUNA deaf people will be using their hands and other body gestures to express themselves. Every country has a unique sign language depending on its culture, he explained. “There is an international sign language, an Arab sign language and a unique local sign language.”
Arabic days of the week in sign languageMarri said many deaf people have occupied senior positions because they excelled in the use of sign language. He added he proposed to the Civil Service Commission for the appointment of people with sign language expertise in government departments to help the deaf. Marri said HH the Crown Prince Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah instructed Kuwait National Guards personnel, when he was deputy chief of KNG, to learn sign language to communicate with the deaf.
Arabic alphabets in sign languageDr Mohammad Al-Ramzi, a sign language instructor, said sign language “is rich, expressive and complicated just like the spoken language, and it has a grammar framework similar to all human languages”. Speaking to KUNA, Ramzi said Arab countries unified their sign languages in 1999 and a dictionary was published with more than 3,000 signs. Kuwait was the first country in the world to interpret three TV news bulletins. The bulletins were raised to eight per day in 2020, he added.
Ismail Karam, Technical Director at Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf, said he learned sign language at Al-Amal (Hope) School for people with special needs, which he joined in 1960. After spending 12 years at the school, Karam graduated with the ability to write and sign. He then worked at the finance ministry’s printing press where he spent 30 years, during which he joined former classmates to establish the Kuwait Society for Deaf and Dumb in 1975. The society later changed its name to Kuwait Sport Club for the Deaf.
Al-Zahraa Al-Tamimi, member of the Deaf Friends team, said team members are teaching hearing-impaired people how to use sign language. The team, she told KUNA, sought to spread the use of sign language on social media, TV channels and public places. Kuwait is the second Arab country to introduce education of the deaf – the ministry of education issued a law in 1965 making it mandatory for people with special needs to get an education. – KUNA
Kuwaiti army chief, Australian commander discuss military issues
KUWAIT: Lieutenant General Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah receives Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Brigadier General David Paddison. – KUNAKUWAIT: Chief of the General Staff of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sheikh Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah discussed with the Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Brigadier General David Paddison important matters and topics of…
KUWAIT: Lieutenant General Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah receives Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Brigadier General David Paddison. – KUNAKUWAIT: Chief of the General Staff of the Kuwaiti Armed Forces Lieutenant General Sheikh Khaled Saleh Al-Sabah discussed with the Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force Brigadier General David Paddison important matters and topics of common interest, especially those related to the military. The general staff said in a press statement yesterday that Sheikh Khaled received Paddison along with his accompanying delegation during his official visit to the country.
During the meeting, the important matters and topics of common interest were discussed, where the chief of staff commended the depth of bilateral ties between both sides. The meeting was attended by Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Army Lt Gen Fahad Al-Nasser, Australian Ambassador to Kuwait Jonathan Gilbert and several senior army commanding officers. – KUNA
Myanmar will not address world leaders at UN General Assembly
Russia and China have reportedly agreed to allow Kyaw Moe Tun to keep Myanmar’s UN seat as long as he does not speak during high-level meeting.No representative from Myanmar is scheduled to address the annual high-level United Nations General Assembly next week, a UN spokesman said, amid rival claims for the country’s UN seat in…
Russia and China have reportedly agreed to allow Kyaw Moe Tun to keep Myanmar’s UN seat as long as he does not speak during high-level meeting.No representative from Myanmar is scheduled to address the annual high-level United Nations General Assembly next week, a UN spokesman said, amid rival claims for the country’s UN seat in New York after a military coup deposed the elected government.
“At this point, Myanmar is not speaking,” UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Friday.
Myanmar’s current UN Ambassador Kyaw Moe Tun – appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government – had initially been expected to address the 193-member General Assembly on Monday, the final day of the gathering.
But diplomats said China, Russia and the United States had reached an understanding, where Moscow and Beijing will not object to Kyaw Moe Tun remaining in Myanmar’s UN seat for the moment as long as he does not speak during the high-level meeting.
“I withdrew from the speaker list, and will not speak at this general debate,” Kyaw Moe Tun told Reuters the news agency, adding that he was aware of the understanding between some members of the UN credentials committee, which includes Russia, China and the US.
Myanmar’s military government has put forward military veteran Aung Thurein to be its UN envoy, while Kyaw Moe Tun has asked to renew his UN accreditation, despite being the target of a plot to kill or injure him for his opposition to the February coup.
UN accreditation issues are dealt with by a nine-member committee, whose members include the US, China and Russia. It traditionally meets in October or November.
Until a decision is made by the credentials committee, Kyaw Moe Tun will remain in the seats, according to the General Assembly rules. The same rule also applies to the representative of Afghanistan.
News of Kyaw Moe Tun’s absence on Monday comes as violence linked to the February 1 coup continues to displace thousands of civilians at home.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since Aung San Suu Kyi’s government was overthrown by the military in February, sparking a nationwide uprising that the military has tried to crush.
Attacks on the military have increased after lawmakers deposed by the generals called for a “people’s defensive war” earlier this month.
News of Kyaw Moe Tun’s absence on Monday comes as violence linked to the February 1 coup continues to displace thousands of civilians at home [File: Osamu Honda/AP]The latest violence was reported in Chin state and Sagaing region in the country’s northwest, with soldiers engaging in battles with armed local defence groups.
More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and nearly 8,000 arrested since the coup, according to local observers.
Coup leaders have defended its power grab by alleging massive fraud during elections in late 2020 which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy won by a landslide.
On Thursday, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, warned of a human rights catastrophe under military rule in Myanmar and urged the international community to do more to prevent the conflict in the country from getting worse.
“The national consequences are terrible and tragic – the regional consequences could also be profound,” she said in a statement.
“The international community must redouble its efforts to restore democracy and prevent wider conflict before it is too late.”