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General: Refugees at Turkish Border a ‘Crisis’ That’s Getting Worse

Syrians fleeing civil war exceeds 100,000 as winter snow and cold approaches

A Syrian boy rides his bike in Karma Jabl district in Aleppo, Syria. With death lurking around every corner, the survival instincts of Aleppo’s population are being stretched to the limit every day.

A senior U.S. general warned Tuesday of a humanitarian crisis along the border of Syria and Turkey with refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria in record numbers and the steady approach of winter snows.

The number of refugees at the Syrian border attempting to escape the bloody fighting in their war-torn homeland is tens of thousands more than previous estimates, Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling told reporters at a breakfast meeting in Washington, exceeding the 100,000 limit Turkish officials said earlier in October that the country could withstand.

“It’s October. What [Turkey is] very concerned about is the approach of winter, and the way they can address the humanitarian crisis on the border,” Hertling says.

[GALLERY: Winter in Afghanistan]

The Turkish government has already spent nearly 400 million euros in relief efforts for the refugees.

This growing concern is further complicated by the NATO ally’s existing struggles against the outlawed Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, in that same region, making it difficult to determine the scope of the refugee situation.

The commander of Turkish land forces Gen. Hayri Kıvrıkoglu said last week there are nearly 140,000 refugees on the Syria-Turkish border, according to Hertling, who commands U.S. Army troops in Europe. Previous estimates had that number at 100,000, up from only 10,000 at the end of August.

A Turkish embassy spokesperson confirmed 100,363 Syrian citizens are in 13 separate Turkish tent cities as of Oct. 15. There are five of the camps in Hatay, three in Gaziantep, two in Sanliurfa and one in Kahramanmaras, Osmaniye and Adiyaman.

View Turkish Refugee Camps in a larger map

The embassy declined to comment on any future planning for the camps or the potential threats posed by the impending winter or PKK fighting.

Since April 2011, more than 143,000 Syrians have crossed the border, according to an Oct. 15 release provided by the embassy, and almost 43,000 have returned to Syria.

[PHOTOS: Violence in Syria Escalates]

“All kind of humanitarian aid supplies have been provided by [Turkish aid organizations] in camps for more than a year,” the release states. “Sheltering, food, health, security, social activities, education, worship, translatorship, communication, banking and other services have been provided in tent cities and containers by related organizations and institutions within the coordination of our Presidency.”

The Turkish government has already supplied aid, tents and other humanitarian efforts to the refugees, Hertling adds, and are anticipating the onset of winter.

http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2012/10/23/general-refugees-at-turkish-border-a-crisis-thats-getting-worse

Damascus agrees to 4-day Eid ceasefire across Syria, starting Friday

A unit of the Syrian armed forces carry out a military operation in the Khan al-Raslan neighbourhood of Syria’s northern city of Aleppo (AFP Photo / STR)

Damascus announced it has agreed to a four-day ceasefire across Syria for the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, the ‘Feast of Sacrifice.’ The truce will begin on Friday.

“We hope that they both realize the importance of a pause in the fighting… in the symbolic quieting, the silence of the guns,” UN deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said after a closed-door meeting of the 15-nation Security Council.

Eliasson confirmed that the temporary truce could “create a political environment, where political talks are possible.”

The ceasefire came after UN-Arab League peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi visited Syria earlier this week, and is one of the first real breakthroughs in halting violence in the war-torn country so far.

Brahimi proposed that both sides lay down their arms for the Islamic holiday celebrated by most of the world’s Muslims, which begins on Friday.

Syrian army command agreed to suspend military operations, but insisted on the right to retaliate against any rebel attacks.

During this period, it said, it would also respond to attempts to smuggle in arms from neighboring countries, and against any rebel group attempting to reinforce. The army also said it would prevent “terrorists” from crossing its borders.

The Free Syrian Army commander responded that the rebels would commit to the truce, on the condition that prisoners be released on Friday.

A spokesperson for the Islamist group Ansar al-Islam said that their fighters would not commit to the ceasefire, and expressed doubts that the Syrian Army would honor it.

http://rt.com/news/syria-ceasefire-eid-holiday-239/

Turkey spineless to start new war

Saudi Arabia and Qatar after the failed pan-Arab campaign against Syria seem to have found the country ready to get into a fight – Turkey. Erdogan urged his people to prepare for war because the parliament gave him a permission to do so. For Russia, this is the worst case scenario.

Saudi Wahhabi monarchies have become independent players in the Middle East. They have both the necessary influence and money. Their co-religionists in Turkey (incidentally, all leaders of the country came from the “Brotherhood”), too, strive for global leadership. Interestingly, the ill-fated Syrian shell landed on the Turkish soil on October 3, the day after Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi voiced his determination not to interfere in the internal affairs of Syria. The call of the Emir of Qatar for punitive action under the auspices of the Arab League made at the UN General Assembly found no supporters, and then the Turkish card was played. On October 4, the Turkish Parliament gave the green light for military operations outside its borders. On Sunday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on his people to be ready for war with its neighbor. “You have to be ready at any time to go to war, if necessary. If you are not ready for this, you are not a state, if you are not ready for this, you are not a nation,” said Erdogan.

However, such emotional appeals are a product for domestic consumption. In fact, Erdogan will not dare to launch a full-scale war against Syria, though he has a comparable army. First, Syria has a strongest ally in the religion – Shiite Iran. President Ahmadinejad vowed that an attack on Syria will automatically signify an attack on Iran, with all the consequences. It is unlikely that Ahmadinejad will allow the regime of Bashar Assad to fall – in this case, the Islamic Republic would lose its path to the Middle East and will be surrounded by enemies.

Second, for obvious reasons, albeit not openly, Syria is supported by Iraq where power is in the hands of the prime minister, Shiite Nouri al-Maliki. Iraq supplies to Syria oil despite the U.S. sanctions, and its airfields, according to the Americans, serve as transit bases for Iranian aircraft that bring arms to Assad. In Iraqi Kurdistan thousands of Syrian Kurds from Peshmerga unit (“going to die”) are undergoing military training. This is a formidable force, ready to cross the border at any moment, cross the sparsely populated southern Sunni Syria and come to the defense of Syrian Kurds who support pro-Assad position and fight against the so-called rebels, but in fact, mercenaries Wahhabis. The Turkish authorities clearly see the threat, and recently have been making strikes at such camps, despite warnings from Baghdad.  

This implies the third and most serious problem for Erdogan – the Kurdish one. If he starts a war, he will not be able to keep Turkish Kurdistan in the hands. There is already a large-scale war with the Kurds. This is indicated by the news about the losses in the ranks of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party last month – 500. According to Sinan Ulgen, chairman of the Turkish Center for Economic and Policy Studies (EDAM), the majority of the Turkish population believes that the government’s policy towards Syria is one of a hawk, and many people think that what is happening in Syria is the business of the Syrians and the international community should not interfere.

Fourth, the chances of support of such a war by the West are very slim. The United States has expressed “outrage” over shelling on the Turkish territory. Yet, President Obama has distanced himself from direct intervention. Similar statements of solidarity with Turkey were made by NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, but the topic of Syria and conflict on the border with Turkey was not included in the agenda of a meeting of NATO defense ministers on October 9-10. The United States and Europe simply have no money for a conflict that is likely to be a lengthy one. In addition, the fact that the West has lately seen enough (i.e., murder of the American ambassador in Benghazi) does not impress western politicians.

Fifth, what about Turkey’s desire to join the EU? They would have to say good bye to it, because a country cannot become a member if it is in a war with its neighbors.

Sixth, Putin will not let Erdogan get reckless. The victory of the Wahhabis in Syria would free up the gangsters who would rush to the Caucasus and other Muslim regions of Russia. This was indicated by head of the center of the Volga regional and ethno-religious Studies of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies Rais Sulemanov. According to him, a great number of radical Islamists from different regions, including Tatarstan, are fighting against Assad today. One group of Tatar Wahhabis returned to Almetyevsk, and then hastily moved to Mari El. According to him, “Tatar Wahhabis may join the underground Wahhabi in the Volga region who badly need people with terrorist skills. We shall see what the outcome of President Putin’s visit to Turkey on October 15 would be.  

Finally, there were signs that the Turks and the so-called “Syrian National Council” (SNA) are seeking to negotiate. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu suggested “replacing” President Assad with Syria’s Vice President Farouk al-Sharra, who in his opinion is a “reasonable man.” The same nomination was made by the SNA. Their leader Abdulbaset Sid said on Monday that he would not object to the participation of members of the ruling party “Baath” in the political future of the country provided that they have not participated in the killings during the revolt.

But the Syrian authorities feel that they can sustain their line, as long as they can save the president from direct physical elimination. “We are no longer living in the Ottoman Empire,” said Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi. He encouraged the Turkish government to stop pushing personalities acceptable to the Turkish people. The position of the legitimate government is simple: Assad will remain in office until his seven-year term expires in 2014. Then an election will be scheduled where the Syrians will choose a new president.

http://english.pravda.ru/hotspots/conflicts/17-10-2012/122480-turkey_war-0/

Iran and Turkey Join Syria Peace Envoy in Call for Truce

BEIRUT, Lebanon — Iran declared support on Wednesday for the new Syria peace envoy’s cease-fire proposal, joining Turkey in a rare moment of accord between two of the regional powers backing opposite sides in the 19-month conflict that has pitted the Syrian government against an array of armed opponents.

But the Syrian government expressed skepticism that rebels would honor a cease-fire, and the peace envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who represents both the United Nations and the Arab League, said a temporary halt to the fighting would constitute only a tiny step toward resolving the conflict, which has left more than 20,000 people dead.

A veteran Algerian statesman who has been on the job for less than two months, Mr. Brahimi has spent the last several days conferring with Middle East leaders about ways to break the Syria impasse. His predecessor, Kofi Annan, resigned in frustration at the end of August after his proposed peace plan slipped into seeming irrelevance.

On Monday, Mr. Brahimi proposed a cease-fire during the three-day Muslim holiday of Id al-Adha, which begins Oct. 26, hoping that a religious reprieve universally respected by Muslims could be the basis not only for a pause in the fighting but perhaps the beginnings of a dialogue in Syria.

Sunni Muslims constitute most of the Syrian population and virtually the entire insurgency, while President Bashar al-Assad is a member of the ruling Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot. The country is home to a variety of other religious minorities, including a significant Christian population.

Both Turkey and Iran publicly endorsed Mr. Brahimi’s effort on Wednesday. Those endorsements were significant because Iran is the most influential regional supporter of Mr. Assad’s, while Turkey supports Mr. Assad’s armed adversaries, is host to more than 100,000 Syrian refugees and has repeatedly called on Mr. Assad to resign.

In the past few weeks Turkey also has banned Syrian aircraft, moved armed forces close to its 550-mile border with Syria and engaged Syrian gunners in sporadic cross-border shelling, raising fears that the conflict in Syria could turn into a regional war.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, who met this week with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey at a regional summit meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan, was quoted by Iran’s state-run news media on Wednesday as saying he supported the Syria truce proposal and “any group that derives power through war and means to continue war has no future.”

The Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, was quoted by the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency of Turkey as saying a holiday cease-fire was desirable but that any longer-term truce would require “certain measures for its sustainability.”

Mr. Brahimi, who was visiting Lebanon on Wednesday, called on the Syrian government to back the cease-fire, saying he had guarantees from rebel leaders that they would observe it if the government acted first. But a Syrian government newspaper expressed doubt that insurgent units, who lack a unified command, would or could simultaneously uphold a cease-fire.

In Damascus, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, Jihad Makdessi, said in a statement released by the official Syrian Arab News Agency that his government would welcome any “constructive initiative” from Mr. Brahimi, who was widely expected to travel to Syria.

But the very modesty of Mr. Brahimi’s proposal seemed to be an indication that in recent months the conflict has drifted further from resolution. Random responses from ordinary Syrians reached by telephone seemed to reflect a similar assessment.

A resident in the embattled northern city of Aleppo, who gave only a nickname, Abu al-Hassan, said he believed neither side was willing to stop shooting. “What does this even mean?” he asked. “That instead of 40 martyrs we will have 20 martyrs a day?”

A Syrian businessman based in Damascus said Mr. Brahimi’s efforts would be better spent persuading the Syrian authorities to release the thousands of people arrested or abducted by pro-government militias during the conflict. “We got used to the gunfire — no need to cease it — but we will never get used to the absence of the detained and kidnapped people,” he said.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/18/world/middleeast/iran-and-turkey-join-syria-peace-envoy-in-truce-call.html?_r=0

Russia to target Turkey with anti-aircraft missiles

Hurriyet Daily News  Russia has begun installing a new state-of-the-art anti-aircraft weapon system in its southern military region with an eye toward targetingTurkey in response to a NATOmissile defense shield outpost that was recently established in East Anatolia, daily Hürriyet reported.

The installation will be completed by the end of this year, said RussianCol. Igor Gorbul, adding that the S-400 anti-aircraft missiles were capable of destroying all types of airplanes, as well as ultra-stratospheric and ballistic missiles.

Turkish-Russian tensions rose last week after Ankara forced down a Syrian passenger plane en route from Moscow to Damascus on suspicions that it was carrying weapons, but Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov moved to defuse tensions by saying the country’s bilateral relationship would not be damaged by the incident.

http://fromthetrenchesworldreport.com/russia-to-target-turkey-with-anti-aircraft-missiles/23881/

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