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New Palestinian PM faces myriad challenges, say analysts

ANKARA: An escalation of heavy air and artillery strikes on Idlib in northwestern Syria on Wednesday night has raised doubts over the future of the Astana deal between Turkey, Russia and Iran.  Moscow claimed the bombing of Syria’s last rebel stronghold had been coordinated with Turkey, but this was denied by Ankara. Under the deal, Turkey…

New Palestinian PM faces myriad challenges, say analysts

ANKARA: An escalation of heavy air and artillery strikes on Idlib in northwestern Syria on Wednesday night has raised doubts over the future of the Astana deal between Turkey, Russia and Iran. 

Moscow claimed the bombing of Syria’s last rebel stronghold had been coordinated with Turkey, but this was denied by Ankara.

Under the deal, Turkey was expected to persuade rebel groups to remove heavy weaponry from a designated buffer zone, and convince hard-line groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliated Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), to withdraw completely from major highways as part of a “de-escalation” process.

But HTS fighters remain in place, controlling 80 percent of the region, and criticism of Ankara for failing to honor its part of the agreement is becoming more acute.

Some experts see the bombing as a sign that Moscow is turning the screw on Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, either to assume more responsibility or renegotiate the terms of the deal.

Turkey had already been discussing extending patrols to Tal Rifaat, in northern Aleppo, with the Russians after Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced similar cooperation would happen in Idlib.

“Perhaps Moscow is trying to raise the stakes to get constructive talks with Ankara on Idlib and find a solution to the future of HTS,” Anton Mardasov, military affairs expert and head of the Department of Middle Eastern Conflicts at the Moscow-based Institute for Innovative Development, told Arab News.

“It’s not profitable for Ankara to confirm the coordination of strikes with Moscow, though the strikes can be used by Turkey to increase pressure on HTS to accept their terms.   

“Negotiations will be beneficial for Russia, to demonstrate a successful Syrian strategy. For Turkey, it is also an opportunity to advance its agenda, although Ankara has long been thinking about balancing its position by intensifying negotiations with its European partners in NATO.”

Turkey is also discussing establishing a joint coordination center in Idlib to manage operations at the behest of the Kremlin, which has criticized Ankara’s lack of engagement in recent months. 

“If there is no political progress, Russia always resorts to hard power moves to motivate their partners. That’s how they will push Turkey to do more,” Yury Barmin, Middle East and North Africa director at the Moscow Policy Group, told Arab News. 

“These attacks are happening against the background of the EU Conference on Syria in Brussels. The Russians are trying to put Syria on the radar of the Europeans to intervene,” he added.

According to Joe Macaron, a resident fellow at the Arab Center in Washington, Ankara may have approved Russian operations against HTS, but would be reluctant to let its allies believe it was complicit in them. 

“With the current tensions in US-Turkish relations, Ankara has no option but to manage its marriage of convenience with Moscow,” he said.

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Middle East News

Algeria graft prosecutor refers two ex PMs to supreme court

ALGIERS: An Algerian prosecutor investigating graft allegations has referred two former prime ministers and five former ministers to the supreme court, Ennahar TV reported on Sunday citing a statement from the prosecution.Mass protests have broken out in Algeria demanding the removal of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people demonstrators regard as corrupt. The seven…

Algeria graft prosecutor refers two ex PMs to supreme court

ALGIERS: An Algerian prosecutor investigating graft allegations has referred two former prime ministers and five former ministers to the supreme court, Ennahar TV reported on Sunday citing a statement from the prosecution.Mass protests have broken out in Algeria demanding the removal of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people demonstrators regard as corrupt. The seven politicians will be investigated by the court over alleged corruption cases, Ennahar said, without providing details.They include former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal who served under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who resigned on April 2 after coming under pressure from protesters and the army.The list of the former ministers, who are under investigation, includes Amara Benyounes, Abdelakader Zaalane, Amar Ghoul, Karim Djoudi and Abdessalam Bouchouareb.They were in charge of the sectors of trade, transport, public works, finance and industry respectively.Their lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.The army is now the most powerful institution after the departure of Bouteflika, who had ruled the North African country since 1999.Army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah has said major corruption cases would be pursued to try to appease the protests that started on Feb.22.Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge over “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority.”At least five prominent businessmen have also been detained pending trial over involvement in corruption cases.Protesters also want the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Beoui, who are considered as part of the ruling elite that has run the country since independence from France in 1962.

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Middle East News

Sudan’s top opposition rejects strike call in protest rift

ALGIERS: An Algerian prosecutor investigating graft allegations has referred two former prime ministers and five former ministers to the supreme court, Ennahar TV reported on Sunday citing a statement from the prosecution.Mass protests have broken out in Algeria demanding the removal of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people demonstrators regard as corrupt. The seven…

Sudan’s top opposition rejects strike call in protest rift

ALGIERS: An Algerian prosecutor investigating graft allegations has referred two former prime ministers and five former ministers to the supreme court, Ennahar TV reported on Sunday citing a statement from the prosecution.Mass protests have broken out in Algeria demanding the removal of the ruling elite and the prosecution of people demonstrators regard as corrupt. The seven politicians will be investigated by the court over alleged corruption cases, Ennahar said, without providing details.They include former prime ministers Ahmed Ouyahia and Abdelmalek Sellal who served under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika who resigned on April 2 after coming under pressure from protesters and the army.The list of the former ministers, who are under investigation, includes Amara Benyounes, Abdelakader Zaalane, Amar Ghoul, Karim Djoudi and Abdessalam Bouchouareb.They were in charge of the sectors of trade, transport, public works, finance and industry respectively.Their lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment.The army is now the most powerful institution after the departure of Bouteflika, who had ruled the North African country since 1999.Army chief of staff Lieutenant General Ahmed Gaed Salah has said major corruption cases would be pursued to try to appease the protests that started on Feb.22.Bouteflika’s youngest brother, Said, and two former intelligence chiefs have been placed in custody by a military judge over “harming the army’s authority and plotting against state authority.”At least five prominent businessmen have also been detained pending trial over involvement in corruption cases.Protesters also want the resignation of interim president Abdelkader Bensalah and Prime Minister Noureddine Beoui, who are considered as part of the ruling elite that has run the country since independence from France in 1962.

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Iranian FM lands in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi counterpart

BAGHDAD: Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif landed in Baghdad on Saturday for talks with his Iraqi counterpart, an Arab News reporter confirmed. During his his two-day visit, Zarif will also meet the Iraqi president and Iraqi prime minister. On Sunday morning, Zarif will meet several senior politicians before he heads to Najaf to meet some clerics,…

Iranian FM lands in Baghdad for talks with Iraqi counterpart

BAGHDAD: Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif landed in Baghdad on Saturday for talks with his Iraqi counterpart, an Arab News reporter confirmed.

During his his two-day visit, Zarif will also meet the Iraqi president and Iraqi prime minister. On Sunday morning, Zarif will meet several senior politicians before he heads to Najaf to meet some clerics, sources told Arab News.

The discussions will mainly focus on the current crisis and its impacts on the two countries in addition to possible options to reinforce the attempts to start dialogues with the related sides to reach a compromise or solutions for the current standoff between Iran and US.

The Iranian official will leave Iraq on Monday.

More to follow…

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