Assad’s opponents rage against Turkish call for ‘reconciliation’ with Syria

Published August 13, 2022
SYRIANS rally outside a Turkish military post in a rebel-held village near Idlib on Friday. The rally followed statements from Ankara about a rapprochement between the Syrian government and Turkiye.—AFP
SYRIANS rally outside a Turkish military post in a rebel-held village near Idlib on Friday. The rally followed statements from Ankara about a rapprochement between the Syrian government and Turkiye.—AFP

BEIRUT: Thousands of people staged protests across parts of rebel-held northern Syria on Friday after the Turkish foreign minister called for reconciliation between Syrian opposition groups backed by Ankara and the government of Syrian President Bashar al Assad.

More than 11 years after civil war broke out in Syria, the north-western region, near the Turkish border, is the last area still in the hands of fighters seeking to topple Assad, with control divided between jihadist factions and other rebels backed by Turkiye.

The Turkish government maintains thousands of troops in the area and backs a coalition of armed groups opposed to Assad under the banner of the Syrian National Army (SNA).

“We need to bring the opposition and regime together for reconciliation somehow, there will be no permanent peace otherwise,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara on Thursday.

After he spoke, protests began in parts of rebel-held Syria, with people carrying opposition flags through the streets on Thursday evening and pulling Turkish flags from police stations and administration offices.

“We have suffered under this criminal for 11 years and we will continue with our revolution,” Mahmoud Salo, a 45-year-old teacher, said at a protest in Azaz, Idlib.

Around 3,000 people gathered in Azaz on Friday while protests were also held in other parts of the north-western Idlib province and in northern parts of neighbouring Aleppo province.

Many Turkish advisers who work at a number of local institutions did not show up for work on Friday.

Ahmad Shawbak, a refugee from Aleppo working as an engineer in Azaz, said Cavusoglu’s comments were unacceptable.

“If Turkiye wants to stand with the world that is already against us, let it be, it won’t change much,” Shawbak said. “But we hope that Turkiye’s stance becomes more positive.”

Israeli shelling

Israeli shelling wounded two civilians in southern Syria’s Quneitra province near the occupied Golan Heights on Friday.

“Two civilians were wounded when a tank belonging to the Israeli occupation forces fired two shells near the village of Hamidiya,” Sana news agency said.

There was no immediate official reaction from Israel.

An army spokesman said: “We do not comment on reports in the foreign media.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the attack, adding that the two people, whom it did not identify, were in an area bordering the Israeli-occupied Golan.

Groups linked to Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement — a Damascus ally and sworn enemy of Israel — are active in the area, according to the war monitor.

Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2022

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