Dr. Bashar Al-Jaafari: Why They ‘Punish’ Syria

SEPTEMBER 27, 2022

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° 

Tim Anderson

Syria’s centuries-old refusal to take orders from foreign powers and its resistance to repeated foreign interventions has led to its ‘punishment’ by frustrated imperial forces, says Syria’s Vice Foreign Minister Dr. Bashar Al-Jaafari.

Syria’s centuries-old refusal to take orders from foreign powers and its resistance to repeated foreign interventions has led to its ‘punishment’ by frustrated imperial forces, says Syria’s Vice Foreign Minister Dr. Bashar Al-Jaafari. “We are like Cuba; or perhaps Cuba is like us”, said the veteran diplomat.

That independent history can be traced back to ancient times, when Queen Zenobia broke away from Roman rule. It was inflamed a century ago when Sultan Pasha Al-Atrash led the Great Arab Revolt of the 1920s against the French colonial power. And it rose again with Syria’s defeat of a massive, decade-long proxy war, driven by Washington and other NATO states, “Israel” and some of the Gulf monarchies.

But while Syria, at great cost, has defeated mass terrorism, according to Dr. Al-Jaafari, the “unprecedented” military interventions, occupations and economic war remain. The USA and Turkey, two NATO states, occupy huge swathes of Syrian land in the north and east and the Israeli occupation remains in the south. Each provides safe haven for terrorist groups.

These days Washington does not even bother to deny that it is stealing Syrian oil and wheat. It even signs UN declarations supporting the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of Syria, while occupying Syrian land out of spite, to punish and divide the peoples of the region, for the benefit of Israeli and US hegemony.

Syria as an Arab nation once included current-day Iskenderun, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan. Colonists tried to crush its Pan-Arab ideology, which rose against the French and the British, leading to the hard-fought renewal of independence in 1947. Dr. Al-Jaafari says Pan-Arabism, which forms the basis of the Syrian Arab Baath Party and other groups (like Nasserites and the SSNP), is a reflection of the region’s Arab-speaking peoples, with a shared history, aspiration and culture.

Further, Syria, almost uniquely in the region, has led the process of separating religion from politics which, in turn, supports its broader, inclusive Arab traditions and historic defense of multiple and rich social communities. Syria’s famous pluralism was attacked by the NATO-sponsored terrorist groups, mainly Jabhat al Nusra and ISIS/DAESH, who abused minority communities while slaughtering anyone who backed the Damascus government.

The country remains under a severe US economic blockade, backed by the European Union, and subject to multiple foreign occupations. Repeated ‘chemical weapons of mass destruction’ scams, false flag massacres, fake claims of ‘freedom and democracy’, ‘moderate armed opposition’ slogans and the demonizing of President Assad were all part of a war to destroy, not just the Syrian government, but the Syrian state.

Dr. Al-Jaafari says that “from day one the Western strategy was based on making Syria a failed state”. That meant undermining Syria’s means of subsistence and strength – wheat, water, oil, the Tabqa dam, irrigation for agriculture, health systems and energy sources. “When you are a failed state, you lose your sovereignty; once you lose your sovereignty they can do to you whatever they want, because there is no state.”

“Our strength,” he says, “was to counter this strategy; and that is why they are extremely upset. We resisted their strategy and they failed It cost them trillions of dollars, eleven years of depriving the Syrian people of their basic needs. But they failed … We won the war, diplomatically speaking … militarily speaking, not yet”.

“The game is over … I think we preserved what is essential, we preserved the state, the country, the dignity, the independence and the political independence. It is costly yes, it has been so costly. But nowadays nobody says that we are wrong.”

Yet they do try to falsify history. If we look at the distorted ‘open source’ site Wikipedia we will see that ‘The Dirty War on Syria’ is listed as the ‘Syrian Civil War’. It is nothing of the sort. It is one of more than 20 proxy wars Washington has driven in the first two decades of this century.

Dr. Al-Jaafari points out that a UN sub-committee on Afghanistan’s Taliban in 2017 listed 101 countries as having exported terrorists to Syria. A number, like Indonesia, had governments friendly to Syria. On top of this, Israelis and the two largest NATO armies still occupy Syria. This is hardly a ‘civil war’.

Even though the Astana process (involving Russia, Iran and Turkey) has made some progress, by helping create ‘de-escalation zones’, Turkey under Erdogan has done tremendous damage to Syria. Dr Bashar says: “the Turkish policy has caused Syria and the Syrian people great damage, great damage.” On top of its support for the terrorist groups, the Turkish government has attacked critical civilian infrastructure.

Syria had an agreement with Turkey on sharing water which committed to passing 500 cubic meters per second, down the Euphrates. Yet for the last 10 years, “they have allowed less than half of this”, causing great damage to the electricity-generating Tabqa dam: “They did the same to a station in Al-Hasakah governate.”

So there have been chronic shortages of water for agriculture, as well as the theft of oil and wheat by the Americans. In Iraq, the situation is even worse. “Now the Iraqis walk in the [bed of the Tigris] river”.

Turkey is part of NATO and “is benefiting greatly from the American wrongdoings in the region… sharing benefits from the chaos that they themselves created.”

The Vice Minister made two points about aid and the refugees. He tells countries saying they want to provide ‘aid’: “We don’t need” your aid. He says Syria needs to rebuild its own capacities, reopening factories and creating employment.

He tells them “lift the sanctions so that the refugees can go back to their villages. “However these countries “know what they are doing … they spent millions of dollars on the refugees so that they don’t go back to their homeland.”

These foreign states use correct words about refugees having “dignified and safe” lives. But their programs serve to keep them forever in the camps. “They will not come back because they don’t have jobs and homes.”

Instead of spending billions of dollars on the refugees, Dr. Al-Jaafari aks, “why not give them all $10,000 each, enough to restart their lives back home? Why not pay them $10,000 once, instead of the same amount every year?”

What the enemies of Syria did to Syria “has gone beyond the threshold”, he says. “In my opinion, they did it … because we did not punish them for what they did in Iraq … that was the biggest mistake ever.”

Yet there have been great geopolitical changes in recent years. “The whole world is shifting”, he says, with the rise of BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), and other blocs. “The whole Asian part of the world” has given up on Western-dominated organizations like the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank.

“They don’t believe in that anymore and they want to create alternatives … let me say eastern alternatives, and this is very important.” The geopolitical center is shifting because the west has committed so many errors. This “might be a positive development, it might be a prelude to further confrontation, or it might be both.” In any case, he says, it is a sign that “enough is enough”.

Asked if Syria has applied to join the SCO, Dr. Al-Jaafari replies “of course, we submitted our request … recently.”

‘Regime change’ in Hamas and a return to Syria

The removal of Khaled Meshaal from power was necessary for normalization with Damascus to occur

September 26 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By The Cradle’s Palestine Correspondent

In mid-September, Palestinian resistance movement Hamas issued a statement indicating that it had restored relations with Syria after ten years of estrangement, effectively ending its self-imposed exile from Damascus.

After the outbreak of the Syrian crisis in March 2011, at the height of the so-called Arab Spring, Hamas – in line with its parent organization, the Muslim Brotherhood (Ikhwan) – turned its back on its once-staunch Syrian ally and threw its support behind the mostly-Islamist “revolution.”

As governments collapsed in key Arab states, the Ikhwan felt the time was ripe for their organization to ascend to a leadership role from Gaza to Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Syria.

Yet the decision by Hamas’ leadership to leave Damascus was met with strong opposition from influential circles within the movement, especially in its military arm, the Al-Qassam Brigades.

Despite Hamas’ official position toward Syria, internal opposition to the break in relations remained for years, most notably from Hamas co-founder Mahmoud Al-Zahar, and a number of Al-Qassam Brigades leaders such as Muhammad al-Deif, Marwan Issa, Ahmad al-Jabari and Yahya al-Sinwar.

Today, that balance has shifted notably. Sinwar is currently Hamas’ leader in the Gaza Strip, and his alliance is in strong ascendence within the movement.

From Amman to Damascus to Doha

But back in 2011, the person with the final say over the decision to abandon its Syrian ally was the then-head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal.

Meshaal was the director of the Hamas office in Amman in 1999 when the Jordanian government decided to expel him. He travelled between the airports of a number of Arab capitals, which refused to receive him, under the pretext that there were agreements with a superpower requiring his extradition.

Only Damascus agreed to receive him. Despite the tension that historically prevailed in the Syrian state’s relationship with the Muslim Brotherhood, Meshaal was given freedom to work and built a personal relationship with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. In the years that followed, Hamas was granted facilities and resources that it did not enjoy in any other Arab capital.

Syria opened its doors to train hundreds of resistance fighters from the Al-Qassam Brigades and to manufacture quality weapons, such as missiles and reconnaissance drones.

One Syrian source told The Cradle that the privileges enjoyed by Hamas leaders and members in Syria were not available even to Syrian citizens. In addition to the high cost of Meshaal’s residence and security in Damascus, the state provided him and his associates with dozens of luxury homes in the capital’s most affluent neighborhoods.

Syria was also at the forefront of countries that facilitated the arrival of high-quality weapons into the besieged Gaza Strip. A source in the resistance tells The Cradle that the first Kornet missile to reach Gaza between 2009 and 2011 came from Syria with the approval of President Assad, and was received by then-Chief of Staff of Al-Qassam Brigades Ahmed al-Jabari.

Also crucial to the Palestinian resistance was the arrival of Iranian and Russian missiles that entered Gaza via Syrian arms depots.

Meshaal chooses Doha

It is important to recognize that while the decision to leave Damascus was not by any means unanimously agreed upon within Hamas, as political bureau chief, it was ultimately Meshaal’s call.

A Hamas source informed The Cradle that in September 2011, six months after the outbreak of the Syrian crisis, Meshaal received an invitation from the Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time, Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani, to visit Doha. Recall that Qatar was one of the first states to fund and arm the Islamist opposition in the brutal Syrian war.

According to al-Thani’s estimates, the “Syrian revolution” was likely to end in the overthrow of the Assad government. He is reported to have advised Meshaal to abandon the sinking ship, so to speak, because if the rebellion is successful, “those who stayed with him [Assad] will drown, as happened with the late President Yasser Arafat, when Saddam Hussein was defeated in Gulf War,” the source described.

In an attempt to win over Hamas from Iran’s patronage, al-Thani offered to financially support the movement and to provide a geographical space for operations in the Qatari capital and in Turkish territory.

Meshaal is said to have informed his host that such a decision could not be taken unilaterally, and that he needed to refer to Hamas’ Political Bureau and Shura Council for buy-in.

Internal dissent 

On his way back to Damascus, Meshaal made pit stops in a number of regional countries to inform Hamas’ leadership of the Qatari offer. Suffice it to say, the deal was rejected by the majority of members of the Political Bureau and the Al-Qassam Brigades.

The Hamas source says: “The second man in Al-Qassam, Ahmad Al-Jabari, rejected the treachery against the Syrian leadership, along with Mahmoud al-Zahar, Ali Baraka, Imad al-Alami, Mustafa al-Ladawi, and Osama Hamdan.

On the other hand, Meshaal had the support of Musa Abu Marzouk, Ahmed Yousef, Muhammad Ghazal, Ghazi Hamad and Ahmed Bahr, in addition to a number of the movement’s sheikhs such as Younis al-Astal, Saleh Al-Raqab, and Ahmed Nimr Hamdan, while the head of the Hamas government in Gaza at the time, Ismail Haniyeh, did not have a decisive position.

Meshaal’s opponents were of the opinion that as Hamas is a resistance movement, it would be ill-advised to sever ties with the region’s Axis of Resistance – Iran, Hezbollah and Syria – and that leaving this alliance left little options other than to join the “Axis of Normalization” [with Israel].

Meshaal then received a call from Kamal Naji, Secretary-General of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in which he was informed that the Syrians “are aware of all the details of your visit to Qatar, and of the discussion taking place in the Hamas leadership.”

According to the source, Naji advised Meshaal that Hamas “will not find a warm embrace like Syria, and that despite its historical disagreement with the Muslim Brotherhood, Damascus will not ask Hamas to take any declared position on the Syrian crisis.”

The source in Hamas told The Cradle: “The Qataris felt that Meshaal was unable to take such a fateful stance.” At this point, Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi (considered to be the spiritual guide of the Ikhwan) intervened to pressure both Haniyeh and Abu Marzouk, who had not yet made up their minds.

Fateful meetings

Meshaal was later invited to visit Turkey, where he met leaders of Syrian armed groups, accompanied by the Qatari Minister of Intelligence and officers from Turkish intelligence.

They convinced him that “a few steps separate the opposition from the Republican Palace in the Mezzeh neighborhood of Damascus, and that the days of the Assad regime are numbered.”

The meeting of Hamas’ political bureau in Sudan was the turning point. In that gathering, to the surprise of some participants, both Haniyeh and Abu Marzouk weighed in to side with Meshaal, and it was decided to “discreetly” withdraw from Damascus.

After the decision was taken, the Qataris worked to further enhance Meshaal’s position within Hamas, through an extraordinary visit by the Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, to the Gaza Strip – the first for an Arab head of state. During this visit, al-Thani provided generous support with more than $450 million provided for reconstruction and the implementation of development projects.

Hamas’ fateful decision to abandon Damascus, however, was not met with the same enthusiasm by the movement’s military wing, who believed the move made little strategic sense.

Back to Damascus

In the following years, major regional changes contributed to the downfall of Khaled Meshaal and his removal from his position leading Hamas’ Political Bureau.

The Syrian state remained steadfast in the face of collective NATO-Gulf efforts to unseat Assad; Russian military intervention altered the battlefield balance of power; the Syrian political and armed opposition began to disintegrate and suffer heavy losses; the Ikhwan’s rule in Egypt and its control over Libya and Tunisia began to collapse; and a stand-off with Qatar caused Saudi Arabia and the UAE to alter their position on Syria.

With these stunning regional setbacks, it quickly became apparent that neither Qatari nor Turkish support offered any real strategic value for Hamas’ resistance model – nor could they hope to fill the void left by the reduction in Iranian and Syrian military support.

Moreover, Al-Qassam Brigades found itself facing severe financial difficulties, unable to secure the salaries of its members, let alone sustain any meaningful armed resistance against Israel’s continuous assaults and occupation.

At the time, Hamas’ revenues were derived mainly from taxes imposed on Gaza’s residents, while Qatari support, under US supervision, was limited to providing the expenses of the Hamas leadership in Qatar, and providing seasonal financial grants to government employees in Gaza.

Meshaal’s fall from power  

Cumulatively, these events and the stagnation of the Palestinian resistance convinced Hamas’ leadership of the need to reshuffle its regional cards. The freed prisoner, Yahya al-Sinwar, was the initial spark to revamp a fresh new agenda, following his sweeping victory as the new Hamas leader in Gaza.

Sinwar, one of the historical leaders of Al-Qassam Brigades, decided to reset relations with Iran and Hezbollah, and work toward the movement’s eventual return to Damascus.

Meshaal, realizing that regional changes were no longer in his favor, tried to flatter the Syrian state more than once in media statements. But a firm decision had already been taken across the Axis of Resistance that Meshaal was no longer a welcome or trustworthy figure.

This was especially the case after it became clear to the Syrian security services that Meshaal was involved, along with dozens of Hamas members, in supporting armed groups, exposing secret sites of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Lebanese resistance Hezbollah, smuggling weapons to armed opposition in the strategically-located Yarmouk refugee camp and eastern Ghouta region, and providing them with expertise in digging secret tunnels.

Meshaal’s isolation became crystal clear at the end of December 2021, when Hezbollah refused to receive him during a Beirut visit, even though he was officially the external relations officer for Hamas.

According to the Hamas source, Meshaal tried to disrupt the consensus of the leadership of the Political Bureau and the Shura Council on restoring relations with Syria, when he “leaked, at the end of last June, the decision taken in the Political Bureau meeting to return to Damascus.”

Hamas, post-Meshaal

Meshaal’s leak caused media chaos, followed by attempts to pressure Hamas to reverse course. A statement issued by eight of the most important Muslim Brotherhood scholars, advised Hamas to reconsider its decision because of the “great evils it carries for the Ummah.”

Meshaal meanwhile, remained busy trying to restore relations with Jordan, in parallel with Iran, Lebanon and Syria. However, with the recent announcement by Hamas that it would return to Syria, “the efforts made by Meshaal and the Qataris behind him have gone unheeded,” says the movement’s source.

The normalization of relations between Hamas and Syria is significant, not only for the military dividend it could reap for the Palestinian resistance, but also because it can pave the way for Turkey and Qatar to re-establish their Syria ties, although Doha would do so very reluctantly.

With the decision to sideline the Meshaal camp within Hamas, it would seem that Hamas – and not Syria – has ultimately been the subject of regime change in this regional geopolitical battle for influence.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Dismantling ‘Israel’

20 Sep 2022 23:52 

Source: Al Mayadeen English

Liberal Zionists, unhappy with the fascist brand, already working on a post-apartheid regime is clear proof that the dismantling of Apartheid “Israel” may come sooner than expected.

Tim Anderson 

Director of the Sydney-based Centre for Counter Hegemonic Studies.

The future of the Apartheid Israeli regime in Palestine is often seen as either (1) maintenance of the racist “state”, with more than half the population excluded and brutally repressed or (2) complete collapse of the regime and Palestinian liberation – a simple dichotomy. 

However, tensions among Zionist elites and the historic unraveling of previous racist regimes suggest that the dismantling of Apartheid “Israel” may come sooner than expected but in a more complicated manner. Racist states have often been dismantled with serious compromises. 

The combined forces of steadfast Palestinian Resistance and the plummeting “international legitimacy of Israel” are certainly powerful agents working toward a democratic Palestine. Yet, liberal Zionists, unhappy with the fascist brand, are already working on a post-apartheid regime. This group does not currently have the upper hand in occupied Palestine, but they do have greater say with the colony’s chief sponsor, the USA. 

Meanwhile, the disunity of Palestinian factions – actively encouraged by the Zionist regime – undermines their bargaining position. That leaves the door open for dirty deals.

Let’s remember that the ‘abolition’ of mass slavery in the USA was followed by another century of brutal ‘Jim Crow’ racial discrimination, a system which has often been called ‘slavery by another name’. This next stage racist system was given a legal blessing by the ‘separate but equal’ Supreme Court decision in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), a decision not overturned until Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka decision (1954). So ‘abolition’ did not mean emancipation.

Correctly pointing to parallels with the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa, Omar Barghouti calls for an increase in boycott and sanction initiatives against “Israel”. Yet, he does not refer to the compromises involved in the South African transitional process, which led to extreme economic inequality and post-apartheid South Africa becoming one of the most unequal countries on earth.

Perhaps even more relevant are the compromises made when the racial regime in Zimbabwe (formerly ‘Rhodesia’) was dismantled at the end of the 1970s. Talks hosted in Britain led to the ‘Lancaster House Accords’ with the following features.

First ‘equal citizenship’ was created, but it was accompanied by several protective provisions. A ‘white roll’ was created to maintain ten (of 40) ‘white’ senators and 20 (of 100) ‘white’ reps in the Assembly. There were then requirements for a 70% parliamentary agreement for constitutional changes. A unanimous requirement to change “the separate representation of the white minority in parliament” gave that group veto power. 

Second, under the “freedom from deprivation of property” provisions, the compulsory acquisition of property was banned and consensual compensation provisions were required. Protective provisions to privilege white minority representation and ban state acquisition of land could, for a period of ten years, only be carried out “by the unanimous vote of the House of Assembly”. That ‘froze’ white colonist control of most of the country’s arable land.

Nevertheless, the Lancaster House agreement went on to claim that “the question of majority rule … has been resolved”. Britain promised to provide capital for land buyouts but failed to do so. Twenty years after independence, as the Mugabe government attempted to ‘fast track’ land reforms, Britain and the USA imposed coercive ‘sanctions’ on the country. 

The land question is particularly important in Palestine, where steady land grabs, house thefts, and demolitions committed by “Israel” have economically marginalized the indigenous population, and in the process exposed the seven-decade-long myth of the ‘two states’. 

Yet, the cost of destroying that myth, for the Zionists, is the naked reality of apartheid, now recognized by six independent reports. Two former Israeli leaders, both of the ‘liberal zionist’ faction, have warned of the existential threat the apartheid brand poses to their dream of a ‘Jewish state’. In 2007, Ehud Olmert warned that “Israel” faces an “apartheid-like struggle” if the “two-state” myth collapses. Similarly, in 2017, Ehud Barak warned that his “state” was “on a slippery slope” toward apartheid.

This matter is of less concern for the more openly fascist Zionists, who dominate the regime these days. However liberal Zionists, with greater influence in the USA, have not been sitting on their hands. They are alarmed at the damage to the reputation of their ‘Jewish state’, by being labeled an apartheid regime and therefore, by the 1973 UN Convention, a crime against humanity and a regime that must be dismantled. 

For these reasons, we see influential former liberal Zionists openly agitating against the apartheid regime. They are not prepared to live with that “shame” and are looking for their own type of restructure. For example, former Israeli negotiator Daniel Levy, now President of the US-based Middle East Project, told the United Nations Security Council that the notion of an ‘Arab state’ was dead and that apartheid in Palestine was a reality. Similarly, Peter Beinart, an editor at Jewish Currents and contributor to The Atlantic and CNNwrote in the New York Times about fake Zionist claims of ‘anti-Semitism’. He said that Zionist groups were “abandoning a traditional commitment to human rights out of blind support for Israel”. 

These developments have important implications for the dismantling of the Zionist regime. The liberal Zionists will use their influence with Washington and London to get sponsorship for talks over a deal with compliant and property-owning elements of the Palestinian community. Almost certainly, the emerging deal will involve the protection of ‘settler rights’, Zionist privileges, and a freeze on property relations. The ‘right to return’ will also be subject to a deal.

Palestinian collaborators in this will not be the small-time agents who acted as informants and later sought refuge in “Tel Aviv” with temporary residence permits which do not allow them to work or get health benefits. Washington and “Tel Aviv” will abandon them.

The likely Palestinian collaborators for a ‘New Israel’ will be those linked to the Arab monarchies, with both property and embedded interests in the Palestinian Authority, which has long functioned as a municipality of the Apartheid “regime”. Religion will be no barrier, as secular collaborators will be joined by those who threw in their hands with the Muslim Brotherhood players, notably Qatar and Turkey, leading ‘false friends’ of the Palestinian cause. 

The Palestinian Resistance and its allies face new challenges. There is a real risk that a coalition of Washington, liberal Zionists, and Palestinian collaborators will begin to cut a deal behind closed doors, regardless of the legacy of Palestinian sacrifice and resistance. Such struggles are often betrayed at the last moment. 

That deal could include a last-minute grab for land, the freezing of property relations, and transitional provisions to protect the colonists. If deep divisions persist among Palestinian resistance factions, that deal will be easier to sell to an unsuspecting Palestinian and world audience. The dismantling of the ‘Old Israel’ will be so dramatic that few will pay attention to key details of the ‘New Israel’. But those details will be very important for the long-suffering Palestinian population.

The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

‘Samarkand Spirit’ to be driven by ‘responsible powers’ Russia and China

The SCO summit of Asian power players delineated a road map for strengthening the multipolar world

September 16 2022

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Pepe Escobar

Amidst serious tremors in the world of geopolitics, it is so fitting that this year’s Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) heads of state summit should have taken place in Samarkand – the ultimate Silk Road crossroads for 2,500 years.

When in 329 BC Alexander the Great reached the then Sogdian city of Marakanda, part of the Achaemenid empire, he was stunned: “Everything I have heard about Samarkand it’s true, except it is even more beautiful than I had imagined.”

Fast forward to an Op-Ed by Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev published ahead of the SCO summit, where he stresses how Samarkand now “can become a platform that is able to unite and reconcile states with various foreign policy priorities.”

After all, historically, the world from the point of view of the Silk Road landmark has always been “perceived as one and indivisible, not divided. This is the essence of a unique phenomenon – the ‘Samarkand spirit’.”

And here Mirziyoyev ties the “Samarkand Spirit” to the original SCO “Shanghai Spirit” established in early 2001, a few months before the events of September 11, when the world was forced into strife and endless war, almost overnight.

All these years, the culture of the SCO has been evolving in a distinctive Chinese way. Initially, the Shanghai Five were focused on fighting terrorism – months before the US war of terror (italics mine) metastasized from Afghanistan to Iraq and beyond.

Over the years, the initial “three no’s” – no alliance, no confrontation, no targeting any third party – ended up equipping a fast, hybrid vehicle whose ‘four wheels’ are ‘politics, security, economy, and humanities,’ complete with a Global Development Initiative, all of which contrast sharply with the priorities of a hegemonic, confrontational west.

Arguably the biggest takeaway of this week’s Samarkand summit is that Chinese President Xi Jinping presented China and Russia, together, as “responsible global powers” bent on securing the emergence of multipolarity, and refusing the arbitrary “order” imposed by the United States and its unipolar worldview.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov pronounced Xi’s bilateral conversation with President Vladimir Putin as “excellent.” Xi Jinping, previous to their meeting, and addressing Putin directly, had already stressed the common Russia-China objectives:

“In the face of the colossal changes of our time on a global scale, unprecedented in history, we are ready with our Russian colleagues to set an example of a responsible world power and play a leading role in order to put such a rapidly changing world on the trajectory of sustainable and positive development.”

Later, in the preamble to the heads of state meeting, Xi went straight to the point: it is important to “prevent attempts by external forces to organize ‘color revolutions’ in the SCO countries.” Well, Europe wouldn’t be able to tell, because it has been color-revolutionized non-stop since 1945.

Putin, for his part, sent a message that will be ringing all across the Global South: “Fundamental transformations have been outlined in world politics and economics, and they are irreversible.” (italics mine)

Iran: it’s showtime

Iran was the guest star of the Samarkand show, officially embraced as the 9th member of the SCO. President Ebrahim Raisi, significantly, stressed before meeting Putin that “Iran does not recognize sanctions against Russia.” Their strategic partnership will be enhanced. On the business front, a hefty delegation comprising leaders of 80 large Russian companies will be visiting Tehran next week.

The increasing Russia-China-Iran interpolation – the three top drivers of Eurasia integration – scares the hell out of the usual suspects, who may be starting to grasp how the SCO represents, in the long run, a serious challenge to their geoeconomic game. So, as every grain of sand in every Heartland desert is already aware, the geopolitical pressure against the trio will increase exponentially.

And then there was the mega-crucial Samarkand trilateral: Russia-China-Mongolia. There were no official leaks, but this trio arguably discussed the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline – the interconnector to be built across Mongolia; and Mongolia’s enhanced role in a crucial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) connectivity corridor, now that China is not using the Trans-Siberian route for exports to Europe because of sanctions.

Putin briefed Xi on all aspects of Russia’s Special Military Operation (SMO) in Ukraine, and arguably answered some really tough questions, many of them circulating wildly on the Chinese web for months now.

Which brings us to Putin’s presser at the end of the summit – with virtually all questions predictably revolving around the military theater in Ukraine.

The key takeaway from the Russian president: “There are no changes on the SMO plan. The main tasks are being implemented.” On peace prospects, it is Ukraine that “is not ready to talk to Russia.” And overall, “it is regrettable that the west had the idea to use Ukraine to try to collapse Russia.”

On the fertilizer soap opera, Putin remarked, “food supply, energy supply, they (the west) created these problems, and now are trying to resolve them at the expense of someone else” – meaning the poorest nations. “European countries are former colonial powers and they still have this paradigm of colonial philosophy. The time has come to change their behavior, to become more civilized.”

On his meeting with Xi Jinping: “It was just a regular meeting, it’s been quite some time we haven’t had a meeting face to face.” They talked about how to “expand trade turnover” and circumvent the “trade wars caused by our so-called partners,” with “expansion of settlements in national currencies not progressing as fast as we want.”

Strenghtening multipolarity

Putin’s bilateral with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi could not have been more cordial – on a “very special friendship” register – with Modi calling for serious solutions to the food and fuel crises, actually addressing the west. Meanwhile, the State Bank of India will be opening special rupee accounts to handle Russia-related trade.

This is Xi’s first foreign trip since the Covid pandemic. He could do it because he’s totally confident of being awarded a third term during the Communist Party Congress next month in Beijing. Xi now controls and/or has allies placed in at least 90 percent of the Politburo.

The other serious reason was to recharge the appeal of BRI in close connection to the SCO. China’s ambitious BRI project was officially launched by Xi in Astana (now Nur-Sultan) nine years ago. It will remain the overarching Chinese foreign policy concept for decades ahead.

BRI’s emphasis on trade and connectivity ties in with the SCO’s evolving multilateral cooperation mechanisms, congregating nations focusing on economic development independent from the hazy, hegemonic “rules-based order.” Even India under Modi is having second thoughts about relying on western blocs, where New Delhi is at best a neo-colonized “partner.”

So Xi and Putin, in Samarkand, for all practical purposes delineated a road map for strengthening multipolarity – as stressed by the final  Samarkand declaration  signed by all SCO members.

The Kazakh puzzle 

There will be bumps on the road aplenty. It’s no accident that Xi started his trip in Kazakhstan – China’s mega-strategic western rear, sharing a very long border with Xinjiang. The tri-border at the dry port of Khorgos – for lorries, buses and trains, separately – is quite something, an absolutely key BRI node.

The administration of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in Nur-Sultan (soon to be re-named Astana again) is quite tricky, swinging between eastern and western political orientations, and infiltrated by Americans as much as during the era of predecessor Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan’s first post-USSR president.

Earlier this month, for instance, Nur-Sultan, in partnership with Ankara and British Petroleum (BP) – which virtually rules Azerbaijan – agreed to increase the volume of oil on the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline to up to 4 million tons a month by the end of this year. Chevron and ExxonMobil, very active in Kazakhstan, are part of the deal.

The avowed agenda of the usual suspects is to “ultimately disconnect the economies of Central Asian countries from the Russian economy.” As Kazakhstan is a member not only of the Russian-led Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), but also the BRI, it is fair to assume that Xi – as well as Putin – discussed some pretty serious issues with Tokayev, told him to grasp which way the wind is blowing, and advised him to keep the internal political situation under control (see the aborted coup in January, when Tokayev was de facto saved by the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO]).

There’s no question Central Asia, historically known as a “box of gems” at the center of the Heartland, striding the Ancient Silk Roads and blessed with immense natural wealth – fossil fuels, rare earth metals, fertile agrarian lands – will be used by the usual suspects as a Pandora’s box, releasing all manner of toxic tricks against legitimate Eurasian integration.

That’s in sharp contrast with West Asia, where Iran in the SCO will turbo-charge its key role of crossroads connectivity between Eurasia and Africa, in connection with the BRI and the International North-South Transportation Corridor (INSTC).

So it’s no wonder that the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait, all in West Asia, do recognize which way the wind is blowing. The three Persian Gulf states received official SCO ‘partner status’ in Samarkand, alongside the Maldives and Myanmar.

A cohesion of goals

Samarkand also gave an extra impulse to integration along the Russian-conceptualized Greater Eurasia Partnership  – which includes the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) – and that, just two weeks after the game-changing Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) held in Vladivostok, on Russia’s strategic Pacific coast.

Moscow’s priority at the EAEU is to implement a union-state with Belarus (which looks bound to become a new SCO member before 2024), side-by-side with closer integration with the BRI. Serbia, Singapore and Iran have trade agreements with the EAEU too.

The Greater Eurasian Partnership was proposed by Putin in 2015 – and it’s getting sharper as the EAEU commission, led by Sergey Glazyev, actively designs a new financial system, based on gold and natural resources and counter-acting the Bretton Woods system. Once the new framework is ready to be tested, the key disseminator is likely to be the SCO.

So here we see in play the full cohesion of goals – and the interaction mechanisms – deployed by the Greater Eurasia Partnership, BRI, EAEU, SCO, BRICS+ and the INSTC. It’s a titanic struggle to unite all these organizations and take into account the geoeconomic priorities of each member and associate partner, but that’s exactly what’s happening, at breakneck speed.

In this connectivity feast, practical imperatives range from fighting local bottlenecks to setting up complex multi-party corridors – from the Caucasus to Central Asia, from Iran to India, everything discussed in multiple roundtables.

Successes are already notable: from Russia and Iran introducing direct settlements in rubles and rials, to Russia and China increasing their trade in rubles and yuan to 20 percent – and counting. An Eastern Commodity Exchange may be soon established in Vladivostok to facilitate trade in futures and derivatives with the Asia-Pacific.

China is the undisputed primary creditor/investor in infrastructure across Central Asia. Beijing’s priorities may be importing gas from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and oil from Kazakhstan, but connectivity is not far behind.

The $5 billion construction of the 600 km-long Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan (Pakafuz) railway will deliver cargo from Central Asia to the Indian Ocean in only three days instead of 30. And that railway will be linked to Kazakhstan and the already in progress 4,380 km-long Chinese-built railway from Lanzhou to Tashkent, a BRI project.

Nur-Sultan is also interested in a Turkmenistan-Iran-Türkiye railway, which would connect its port of Aktau on the Caspian Sea with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea.

Türkiye, meanwhile, still a SCO observer and constantly hedging its bets, slowly but surely is trying to strategically advance its own Pax Turcica, from technological development to defense cooperation, all that under a sort of politico-economic-security package. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan did discuss it in Samarkand with Putin, as the latter later announced that 25 percent of Russian gas bought by Ankara will be paid in rubles.    

Welcome to Great Game 2.0

Russia, even more than China, knows that the usual suspects are going for broke. In 2022 alone, there was a failed coup in Kazakhstan in January; troubles in Badakhshan, in Tajikistan, in May; troubles in Karakalpakstan in Uzbekistan in June; the non-stop border clashes between Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan (both presidents, in Samarkand, at least agreed on a ceasefire and to remove troops from their borders).

And then there is recently-liberated Afghanistan – with no less than 11 provinces crisscrossed by ISIS-Khorasan and its Tajik and Uzbek associates. Thousands of would-be Heartland jihadis have made the trip to Idlib in Syria and then back to Afghanistan – ‘encouraged’ by the usual suspects, who will use every trick under the sun to harass and ‘isolate’ Russia from Central Asia.

So Russia and China should be ready to be involved in a sort of immensely complex, rolling Great Game 2.0 on steroids, with the US/NATO fighting united Eurasia and Turkiye in the middle.

On a brighter note, Samarkand proved that at least consensus exists among all the players at different institutional organizations that: technological sovereignty will determine sovereignty; and that regionalization – in this case Eurasian – is bound to replace US-ruled globalization.

These players also understand that the Mackinder and Spykman era is coming to a close – when Eurasia was ‘contained’ in a semi-disassembled shape so western maritime powers could exercise total domination, contrary to the national interests of Global South actors.

It’s now a completely different ball game. As much as the Greater Eurasia Partnership is fully supported by China, both favor the interconnection of BRI and EAEU projects, while the SCO shapes a common environment.

Yes, this is an Eurasian civilizational project for the 21st century and beyond. Under the aegis of the ‘Spirit of Samarkand.’

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

Turkey informs ‘Syrian opposition coalition’ of need to leave: Sputnik

13 Sep 2022 22:41

Source: Sputnik

By Al Mayadeen English 

The Turkish intelligence service informs the members of the ‘Syrian Opposition Coalition’ that they need to “end all political and media activities related to the coalition on the Turkish territories, by the end of this year at the latest.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu with officials from the so-called ‘Syrian opposition coalition’, August 24, 2022 (Anadolu Agency)

Informed sources told Sputnik on Tuesday that a Turkish intelligence service “informed the members of the so-called ‘Syrian Opposition Coalition’ of the need to leave the Turkish territories by the end of this year.”

Read: Ankara orders ‘Syrian Opposition Coalition’ to leave Turkey

The sources added that “this statement, which constitutes a turning point for this [political] entity, whose activities are based in Turkey, came after a political decision that was taken in Turkey recently against the background of the Syrian-Turkish rapprochement under the auspices of Russia.”

Sputnik revealed that “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government decided to close all offices of the opposition coalition in Turkey and to stop funding its members in accordance to a specific timetable that ends by the end of this year at the latest.”

The sources added, “A number of members of the Syrian Opposition Coalition were informed by the Turkish security services that they need to find another place to carry out their political activity outside the Turkish territories and to end all political and media activities related to this coalition by the end of this year at the latest.”

“Those from the coalition members having Turkish citizenship or permanent residence who wish to stay on the Turkish territories will be allowed to, but without engaging in any political or media activity,” the sources confirmed.

Read: US, Turkish occupation of Syria must end: Syrian Defense Minister

In this context, the sources indicated that “the members of the coalition have already begun to search for other options to open offices in some Gulf countries.”

Over the past years, Ankara has been securing special offices for the so-called “Syrian Opposition Coalition” on its territory, in addition to providing its members with monthly salaries in addition to a package of other privileges.

Read: Supporters of armed groups attack Turkish checkpoints in Idlib, Aleppo

What to Expect at the Arab League Summit in Algiers

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360°  

Amin Qammouria

Algeria’s strong anti-colonial stance and ties to Russia, Syria and Iran ensures that the upcoming Arab League Summit in Algiers will be anything but business-as-usual

Algeria will be taking the political centre stage in the Arab world when it hosts the 31st Arab League Summit on 2 November, the first after a three-year pandemic hiatus.

As a former revolutionary state – once at the forefront of resistance against the western settler-colonialism of the twentieth century, and still today a champion of Arab resistance – it is no surprise that majority-Sunni Algeria continues to take positions that are at odds with those of western-backed Sunni Arab governments of West Asia and North Africa.

Algeria’s principles that irk the region’s pro-west monarchies include its vehement opposition to Zionism, support of the Palestinian cause, insistence on maintaining relations with Iran, and engagement with Syria, with Algiers adamantly demanding that the Syrian state be readmitted to the Arab League.

Diplomacy or distraction?

The host country is pinning great hopes on the success of this summit for several reasons, the most important of which is its desire for a major event that restores vitality to Algerian diplomacy.

The state’s regional clout had receded during the years of former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s prolonged illness and death, which inhibited his ability to exercise his duties. During this period, widespread street protests thwarted Bouteflika’s plans to extend his presidential term, ultimately bringing down his administration.

By hosting the summit, Algiers seeks an opportunity to shine regionally and highlight its diplomatic reach, distracting Algerians from the daily grind they’ve endured for years. It is a formula Iraq’s prime minister has used to some degree of success.

In this context, Algeria’s leaders have ensured the summit coincides with the 68th anniversary of the launch of their revolution against colonial France, and have planned an elaborate series of political, cultural, youth and artistic activities to burnish Algeria’s image as a regional powerhouse.

These are intended to project the North African state as the new ‘Mecca of Arab diplomacy,’ just as it remains a hub for liberation movements across the Global South and the ‘Mecca for revolutionaries’ since the 1960s.

It’s not such a wild idea. Algeria has come into play in recent years, not just for championing popular Arab worldviews, but for its geopolitical choices that are now in ascent. Like Syria, Algeria’s military is heavily invested with Russian equipment, training, and know-how. The energy-producing state is also receiving windfall profits from skyrocketing fuel and gas prices globally. And the increasing Russian, Iranian and Chinese (RIC) influence in West Asia – concurrent with the receding US presence – places Arab Algiers in a strong starting position.

Energy and food security

Recent global and regional developments, however, may make this Arab League meeting one of its most complex summits. The reverberations of Russia’s military operations in Ukraine just as the world began to emerge from the repercussions of the pandemic, have added a slate of pressing issues to Algiers’ table in November.

The impact of these two events have reshuffled geopolitical cards everywhere, and caused a global energy crisis that has placed several nations on the brink of severe economic and food crises.

In the unlikely scenario that the war in Ukraine ends before this year’s Arab Summit, its impact will remain on the top of the agenda. On the economic level, oil and gas prices will be a priority for both energy-producing and energy-consuming Arab countries, with expectations that the price of a barrel of oil will exceed $160 if the situation continues as is.

Another important agenda item is food security – especially vital crops such wheat and maize. It is expected that the summit will study the possibility of inter-cooperation to develop agriculture within regional states, with the hope that the studies will not remain as ink on paper as is the usual outcome of these gatherings.

Algeria calls for Syria’s return

Syria’s return to the Arab League after its highly politicized and unprecedented suspension in 2011 is another important challenge facing the summit. Algeria, which has maintained good relations with Damascus, has been adamant that Syria should be re-admitted to the League.

Algiers’ position is supported by several Arab countries such as Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq, the UAE and Bahrain. But Syria’s return depends on buy-in from the remaining members too – with Qatar playing spoiler to Damascus’ regional rehabilitation. This too may change in time, as even Doha’s close Turkish allies are working toward normalizing relations with the Syrian government.

Syria’s membership was suspended at a highly-irregular emergency meeting of Arab foreign ministers in Cairo in November 2011. The move came after the Syrian government failed to implement the terms of the “Arab initiative” that gave President Bashar Al-Assad an unrealistic two weeks to conduct a political dialogue with the opposition, form a “national unity government” within two months, and conduct early presidential and parliamentary elections.

Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit has said Syria’s participation in the upcoming Arab summit “is still subject to an Arab consensus,” which has not yet been achieved.

It does not seem that the countries that demanded the suspension of Syria’s membership will agree to its return as long as the conditions of suspension still exist. In turn, Damascus is unenthusiastic about returning to the League before certain Arab countries apologize for their material support of the Syrian armed opposition.

In fact, on 4 September, in a phone call with his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra, Syrian Foreign Minister Faysal Mikdad appeared to unilaterally bow out from the November summit, saying he “prefers not to raise” Syrian’s readmission to the League at this time.

Mikdad said his decision was made to keep the Arab focus on more urgent issues facing the region: “[To] contribute to uniting the Arab world and ranks in facing the challenges posed by the current situation at the regional and international levels.”

Israel’s presence at Algeria’s border

The most pressing diplomatic issue for Algiers though has been its fallout with neighboring Rabat, particularly following the latter’s decision to resume relations and sign defense agreements with Tel Aviv, which has heightened security concerns in Algeria.

It remains to be seen whether Morocco will participate in the summit after Algiers severed diplomatic relations with Rabat in August 2021.

At the heart of the neighbors’ spat is a territorial dispute in the Western Sahara. Both states have long been at odds over this sparsely-populated desert terrain where the Algiers-backed Polisario Front is seeking independence from Rabat’s rule. Morocco, in turn, is believed to have secured Washington’s recognition of its ‘sovereign claim’ to the Western Sahara in exchange for normalizing relations with Tel Aviv.

Morocco fears that, as the summit’s host, Algeria will be able to advance the momentum on this contentious issue and win over other Arab states to its side.

With the escalation in tension between the two countries, Algerian political writer Ahmed Boudaoud expects Morocco to be absent from this summit or reduce its level of representation: “especially with the assurances of Algerian officials that their country’s position will not change as long as the reasons that led to the diplomatic rupture between the two countries persist.”

In order to legitimize the diplomatic and economic estrangement with Rabat, Algeria may insist at the summit on issuing a statement condemning the wave of Arab normalization with Israel.

But such a statement will not be unanimously approved as long as there are influential countries, in addition to Morocco, with which Israel has peace treaties, such as Egypt, Jordan, the UAE, Sudan and Bahrain.

Unwavering Palestinian solidarity

As is customary in all Arab summits, the Palestinian issue is given priority on the agenda – though typically without any practical measures that actually support Palestinians and their oft-neglected cause.

But Algerian President Abdel Majid Tebboune made a special gesture toward Palestinians in an attempt to reconcile key factions at the summit, particularly Fatah and Hamas.

On 6 July, Tebboune brought together Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the head of the Hamas’ political bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, during their attendance at the 60th anniversary celebrations of Algeria’s independence.

Despite the meeting being praised as “historic” after years of estrangement, the gloomy looks on the faces of those present, and the statements issued thereafter, indicated that reconciliation is far from being achieved.

The limits of Algerian diplomacy

The situation in neighboring Libya, around which both regional and European schisms are intensifying, will be another important issue expected to be discussed in Algiers.

Algeria seeks to consolidate Arab consensus around the  adoption of a “Libyan-Libyan solution” which rejects any external interference that might hinder the unification of the Libyan parties and disrupt the course of upcoming presidential elections.

Some Arab countries such as Morocco, however, have accused Algeria of interference in Libya with the intention to dominate its neighbor’s political discourse – taking particular aim at Algiers’ own diplomatic shortcomings in Libya and its failed mediation attempt in the Egyptian-Ethiopian dispute over the Renaissance Dam.

Cracks in Arab “unity” will also appear in discussions on the growing Iranian and Turkish influence in a number of Arab countries.

Given the significant Arab differences over basic regional and global issues, and the preoccupation of each of states with their internal problems and priorities, the Algeria summit will likely be similar to the summits that preceded it: Luxurious receptions, resonant speeches, projects, plans, and decisions that expire the moment participants return to their respective countries.

Although swimming against a powerful tide of Arab states still servile to western diktats, an Algeria noted for its revolutionary struggle toward genuine independence will not entirely be faulted for sticking to its principles. Instead, Algiers will be able to collect its ‘summit success’ from the popular sentiment of the Arab street, which still shares its worldview stances.

A Turkish warship docks in Haifa Port for first time in 12 years

September 3, 2022

Source: Israeli Media

By Al Mayadeen English 

A Turkish military frigate docks for the first time in over a decade as part of a NATO patrol.

The Turkish frigate TCG Kemalreis (F-247)

    A Turkish warship docked Saturday in the Haifa port in occupied Palestine as part of a mission for NATO forces in the region, for the first time in 12 years.

    The Israeli Kan channel reported that the Turkish frigate TCG Kemalreis (F-247), accompanied by the USS Forrest Sherman, an American-guided missile destroyer arrived at the Haifa port as part of a NATO patrol.

    A spokesperson for Haifa Port mentioned that the frigate will remain in the port for several days.

    Kan cited the captain of the Turkish warship as saying that the Israeli Ministry of Interior prevented the navigators from disembarking the TCG Kemalreison under the pretext of not holding official passports, adding that they were planning to tour Haifa and occupied Al-Quds.

    The captain added that the navigators and soldiers on board the military naval vessels of the fleets of NATO countries travel using cards issued by the alliance.

    Israeli media pointed out that this is the first Turkish warship to dock in an Israeli port since 2010, noting that the ship is participating in maneuvers carried out by NATO in the Mediterranean.

    The Jerusalem Post quoted an Israeli occupation forces (IOF) spokesperson as saying that “The docking is part of Israel’s cooperation with and support of NATO.”

    The arrival of the Turkish warship comes in light of the recent improvement in relations between the Israeli occupation and Turkey after years of estrangement.

    Relations between Ankara and “Tel Aviv” had reached their lowest level after Israeli occupation commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara ship that was carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip in 2010, which led to the deaths of nine Turks.

    After a reconciliation deal in 2016, tensions escalated again between the two sides when both exchanged withdrawing ambassadors in 2018 over the IOF killing Palestinian protesters in Gaza, and after the US moved its embassy to occupied Al-Quds.

    However, in recent months, Israeli-Turkish relations have witnessed a remarkable improvement. In March, Israeli occupation President Isaac Herzog visited Ankara and met his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    In August, Turkey and “Israel” agreed to mutually reappoint ambassadors and restore full diplomatic ties.

    The announcement came less than two weeks after the Israeli occupation launched a brutal aggression on Gaza that left at least 49 martyrs, including 16 children.

    It is noteworthy that according to The Jerusalem Post, Turkey and “Israel” had for years “been close allies in the defense industry, security cooperation, intelligence sharing, and military training.”

    Macron Insulted Africans’ Intelligence by Claiming That Multipolar Powers Manipulate Them

    Global Research, August 29, 2022

    By Andrew Korybko

    Region: Europesub-Saharan Africa

    Theme: Intelligence

    All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version).

    To receive Global Research’s Daily Newsletter (selected articles), click here.

    Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to our Telegram Channel. Feel free to repost and share widely Global Research articles.

    ***

    The shameless ethno-nationalist supremacy associated with his hateful remark will result in Africans doubling down on their anti-imperialist and Pan-Africanism activism since no self-respecting person would ever capitulate in the face of such blatantly racist pressure and thus voluntarily submit themselves to being dominated by their abuser.

    French President Macron claimed during his latest trip to Algeria that “Many of the (information) networks that are covertly pushed (in Africa) – … by Turkey… by Russia… by China – have an enemy: France.” This was a supreme insult to all Africans’ intelligence since it channeled the discredited racist trope that they’re supposedly so stupid as to be easily manipulated by multipolar powers. Instead of acknowledging the genuinely grassroots and politically legitimate reasons why many Africans are actively rebelling against French influence in its self-proclaimed “sphere of influence” in so-called “Françafrique” like Turkiye’s Foreign Ministry suggested that he do, Macron chose to once again spew unsubstantiated smears similar in spirit to those malicious ones that it earlier made against Mali.

    The reality is that the global systemic transition to multipolarity that unprecedentedly accelerated since the latest US-provoked phase of the Ukrainian Conflict has served to inspire the entire BRICS-led Global South to push back against the US-led West’s Golden Billion at this pivotal moment in the New Cold War between those two polar opposite models of socio-economic and political development. Moreover, many Africans felt emboldened to further intensify their efforts after President Putin unveiled his global revolutionary manifesto in late July that was followed shortly thereafter by Foreign Minister Lavrov pledging that Russia will help Africa fully complete its decolonization processes ahead of his successful trip to the continent.

    Video: Freedom Convoy Solidarity in Alberta. Agreement with RCMP

    Africa’s Role In The New Cold War” is destined to be that of a major battleground between the Golden Billion and the Global South precisely because its people refuse to be subjugated any longer by the former after having ruthlessly been exploited by them for half a millennium. France, which is among the most powerful of the Golden Billion’s hegemons in Africa and even surpasses the US’ influence in some parts of the continent, isn’t even hiding its neo-colonial intentions anymore after Macron ripped off his mask and started insulting Africans’ intelligence in the extremely racist way that he just did. The so-called “battle for hearts and minds” has already been won by the Global South’s multipolar Great Powers like Russia and China, who are helping to liberate all African countries with no strings attached.

    They’d never dare disrespect their partners, let alone in the crude way that Macron just did, especially because they themselves have been victimized by similar forms of verbal abuse. Africans are well aware not only of those two and others’ proud anti-colonial histories, but also of just how sincerely they respect all others in contrast to the behavior exemplified by Western leaders like the French one and his peers. Macron’s racist insult of all Africans’ intelligence isn’t just rude, but also suggests that the Golden Billion is done “playing nice” after having abandoned all pretenses of their faux “politeness” that they unconvincingly attempted to practice in the past. As Western “thought leaders” never tire of reminding everyone, “might makes right” in their eyes, hence why they’re now sowing chaos across Africa.

    This isn’t speculation either but documented fact after Mali recently accused France of supporting those Al Qaeda-connected terrorists that declared war on its Russian partner in late June and then the joint US- and Egyptian-led but TPLF-driven Hybrid War of Terror on Ethiopia resumed shortly thereafter on the other side of the continent. In fact, that second-mentioned conflict that first went hot in November 2020 after years of multilateral planning can be seen in hindsight as the new template that the West and its regional vassals like Egypt are employing since it was hatched as punishment for Ethiopia’s principled neutrality in the New Cold War between the US-led West’s Golden Billion and the BRICS-led Global South. It therefore follows that similarly multipolar states like Mali and others will be punished too.

    Macron made a major mistake though by letting his mask slip after spewing his racist innuendo about Africans supposedly lacking the intelligence to not be manipulated by foreign powers. The shameless ethno-nationalist supremacy associated with his hateful remark will result in Africans doubling down on their anti-imperialist and Pan-Africanism activism since no self-respecting person would ever capitulate in the face of such blatantly racist pressure and thus voluntarily submit themselves to being dominated by their abuser. Far from helping the Golden Billion’s hegemonic cause like his twisted mind imagined that his crude insult would supposedly do, the French leader’s public embrace of racist tropes against Africans will only serve to accelerate the decline of the US-led West’s hegemony over that continent.

    *

    Note to readers: Please click the share buttons above or below. Follow us on Instagram and Twitter and subscribe to our Telegram Channel. Feel free to repost and share widely Global Research articles.

    This article was originally published on OneWorld.

    Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare. He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

    He is a regular contributor to Global Research.

    Featured image is from OneWorld

    The original source of this article is Global Research

    Copyright © Andrew Korybko, Global Research, 2022


    Comment on Global Research Articles on our Facebook page

    Become a Member of Global Research

    Erdogan Asks Russia to Return the Crimean Peninsula to Ukraine: Who Does Turkey Support?

    Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° 

    Yoselina Guevara Lopez

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently pointed out in a video message that “The return of Crimea to Ukraine, of which it is an inseparable part, is essentially a requirement of international law”, statements he made within the framework of the second international summit of the Crimean Platform. Erdogan added that “ensuring the safety and well-being of our Crimean Tatar compatriots is also among Turkey’s priorities”.  The president again called for the release of Nariman Dzhelyal, deputy speaker of the Crimean Tatar “parliament”, and at least 45 other Tatars who remain detained on the peninsula.

    The Crimean Platform Summit, which Kiev held online,  bringing together the leaders of Western countries, more strongly maintained its anti-Russian character this year, without losing one iota of the characteristics with which last year Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov described it as a witches’ meeting (Sabbat, coven) in which “the West will continue to cultivate the neo-nazi and racist sentiments of the current Ukrainian authorities.”

    For this reason the position of the skilled politician that is Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not surprising. In fact, since the beginning of the Russian military operation in Ukraine, Ankara has been able to play with two hands, maintaining a balance between the West, represented by the United States and its NATO allies, and the Russian Federation. It is precisely this quality of expert balancing act that has led it to play the role of mediator because Turkey has powerful interests on both sides of the conflict.

    At the level of Moscow, Ankara is one of the main commercial partners of the gas giant Gazprom, with which it has established a series of agreements for energy supplies from the Russian Federation. For example, in 2021 Russia supplied Turkey with 5 million 800 thousand cubic meters of gas. Moscow has also sold Ankara the famous S-400 missile systems. On the other hand, if we analyze Turkey’s relationship with the West, it cannot be overlooked that since 1952, Ankara has been a member of NATO, and hosts numerous bases, including the Incirlik Air Base which has served as a command base for NATO operations in the Middle East. There is no doubt that for NATO, staying on Turkish territory gives it a geostrategic advantage. As for the migration problem, Ankara functions as a containment wall for the numerous migrants seeking to enter Europe through the Balkan Route.

    But Turkey, independently of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, has other objectives on the table that indirectly affect what happens between Kiev-Moscow. In the Balkans, for example, Erdogan wants to start bilateral collaboration with Belgrade, especially in the area of arms exports, which on the one hand, will allow modernizing the Serbian armed forces and, on the other hand, will give Turkey the opportunity to exercise a greater presence, both military and of its war industry, in the heart of Europe; with a turnover that, according to some analysts, would be close to 15 million euros. Just as it is no secret that Turkey also wants to expand its sphere of influence and investments towards Asia; the decisions it has taken amply demonstrate this willingness to expand diplomatic and political relations with this area. It is no coincidence that Ankara has made huge investments with the aim of being able to connect Central Asia with Anatolia through major infrastructures: railroads, ports in the Caspian Sea and energy facilities, through Kazakhstan to China, which can reinforce its role as an energy hub.

    If Erdogan succeeds in his role as mediator, he will gain international recognition as a “peacemaker” or “the one who achieved world peace”, which could mean that Erdogan will continue to play his role as a mediator in the coming days. This could mean for Erdogan, in addition to going down in history, being rid, once and for all,  of the image of dictator placed on him after he imposed strict policies against dissidents of his government in 2013, without disdaining all his warlike wanderings in different places. The chessboard is still open, the game has not been closed, the political players are still moving the pieces.


    Yoselina Guevara L.(@lopez_yoselina)is an international policy political analyst, correspondent and recipient of the Simón Bolívar 2022 National Journalism Award (Opinion) and Anibal Nazoa 2021 (Venezuela).

    Putin To Macron: Ukraine’s Shelling Near Zaporozhye Nuclear Plant Poses Danger of Large-scale Disaster

    August 21, 2022

    By Staff, Agencies

    Russian President Vladimir Putin and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron have had their first phone call in almost three months to discuss the Ukraine conflict and nuclear security in the area of Zaporozhye, the Kremlin announced on Friday.

    The call was initiated by the French side and saw the two leaders discuss “various aspects of the situation around Ukraine,” according to the Kremlin’s readout.

    Putin emphasized that “the systematic shelling of the territory of the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant by the Ukrainian military poses a danger of a large-scale disaster that could lead to radiation spillover onto a large territory,” Moscow said.

    The two leaders agreed that a mission under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] should be dispatched to the NPP “as soon as possible” in order to assess the situation on site.

    “The Russian side confirmed it’s ready to provide the Agency’s inspectors with all the necessary assistance,” the Kremlin said.

    According to the Elysee Palace, Putin agreed that the IAEA mission to Zaporozhye NPP would be dispatched on the terms already arranged by Ukraine and the United Nations. This would mean that the IAEA delegation might travel via the territory currently controlled by Kiev’s forces. Previously, Moscow insisted that such a mission could arrive only via Russian-controlled territory.

    The two sides will address this issue again in the coming days, after technical teams discuss the matter in detail, the Elysee said.

    According to the Kremlin, Putin once again invited international experts to visit a detention facility in Yelenovka, in the Donetsk People’s Republic. An artillery attack on the prison, which Moscow says was carried out by Kiev’s forces, killed 50 Ukrainian POWs and injured dozens more last month.

    Putin also informed Macron on the implementation of the deal for Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea. This agreement, which was brokered by the UN and Turkey, is also supposed to allow Russia to deliver fertilizers and food products to the global markets. However, the Kremlin noted, “obstacles for the Russian grain [export] persist,” which continues to have an adverse effect on global food security.

    The most recent call between the two leaders took place on May 28 and also involved German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. During that conversation, Putin blamed Ukraine for the stalled peace talks, assuring his counterparts that Moscow remained ready to negotiate an end to the ongoing conflict and condemning the West for supplying Kiev with weapons.

    المعاقل الكردية تحت النار: «قسد» تُناور… في انتظار واشنطن

     الخميس 18 آب 2022

    تحاول «قسد» التشويش على أيّ محاولات تقارب بين الجانبَين السوري والتركي (أ ف ب)

    سوريا أيهم مرعي

    الحسكة | يكاد لا يمرّ يوم واحد على مدن الشريط الحدودي السوري مع تركيا وبلداته، من دون أن تتعرّض لقصف مدفعي أو صاروخي أو مسيّر تركي، أو من فصائل «الجيش الوطني» التابع لأنقرة، في محاولة لاستنزاف «قسد»، وإجبارها على سحب قوّاتها بعمق 30 كلم عن الحدود. وتعمّد الجيش التركي، أخيراً، استهداف القوات الكردية في معاقلها في كلّ من عامودا والدرباسية والقامشلي في الحسكة، وعين العرب في ريف حلب، لإثبات جدّية مطالبه في إخلاء كامل الشريط الحدودي، وليس فقط تل رفعت ومنبج، اللتين يُعتقد أنهما ستكون هدفاً أوّل لأيّ عملية عسكرية جديدة. وتريد تركيا، من وراء هذا التصعيد أيضاً، التأكيد أن وجود مناطق مشتركة بين «قسد» والجيش السوري أمر مرفوض، لأنه سيبقي الخطر على حدودها، وهو ما أشار إليه صراحة وزير الخارجية، مولود تشاويش أوغلو، في تصريحات سابقة، بالقول إن «الاحتماء بعلَم النظام أو ارتداء لباسه، لن يضلّل تركيا في استهداف الإرهابيين». وتَركّز القصف الأخير على مدن لم تطلْها المعارك منذ بداية الحرب على سوريا، كعامودا والدرباسية والقحطانية والقامشلي في الحسكة، بالإضافة إلى عين العرب. واستهدفت الطائرات والمدفعية التركية، أوّل من أمس، مركز مدينة عين العرب، وعشر قرى وبلدات في أريافها، بالإضافة إلى قرية سنجق سعدون في ريف عامودا شمال الحسكة، ما أدّى إلى مقتل خمسة من عناصر «قسد»، ومدنيَين اثنَين وإصابة آخرين.

    وجاء هذا التطوّر بعد وقت قصير من تصريحات لتشاويش أوغلو، تحدّث فيها عن لقاء سريع جمعه مع نظيره السوري، فيصل المقداد، مشدّداً على «ضرورة إيجاد آلية للمصالحة بين النظام والمعارضة وتوحيد الجهود ضدّ الإرهابيين»، في إشارة إلى «قسد». كما أتى بعد تداول وسائل إعلام تركية معلومات عن عزم رئيس «حزب الوطن» التركي، الحليف لإردوغان من خارج الحكومة، دوغو بيرينتشيك، ورجل الأعمال إيتهام سانجاك، وآخرين، زيارة سوريا خلال الأيام المقبلة، حيث سيلتقون الرئيس بشار الأسد وشخصيات رفيعة المستوى. وأمام ذلك، ربّما رأت «قسد» أنه من الضروري التشويش على أيّ محاولات تقارب بين الجانبَين السوري والتركي، وتقويض الجهود الروسية – الإيرانية في هذا السياق، من خلال اللجوء إلى استهداف مخفر حدودي تركي من داخل قرية تل جارغلي في ريف عين العرب الغربي، بعدّة قذائف صاروخية، ما أدّى إلى مقتل جندي تركي وإصابة 4 آخرين، وفق إعلان والي أورفة. وسارعت «قسد» إلى نَفي ضلوعها في العملية، على رغم تأكيد مصادر أهلية وميدانية أن القصف تمّ من منصّة صواريخ نصبتها «قسد» لوقت قصير في قرية تل جارغلي المقابلة للمخفر المستهدَف، قبل أن يغادر عناصرها المكان. وفي المقابل، اعتبرت أنقرة أن الاستهداف فرصة لتوجيه ضربة لـ«قسد»، وإيصال رسائل إلى الجيش السوري، وفي الوقت نفسه استرضاء الفصائل المسلّحة الموالية لها، وامتصاص الغضب الذي اشتعل ضدّها في مدن الشمال، بعد تصريحات تشاويش أوغلو.

    ترشح معلومات عن عزم شخصيات سياسية تركية غير حكومية زيارة سوريا خلال الأيام المقبلة


    ومع تزايد حدّة التصعيد الميداني التركي، أكّد القائد العام لـ«قسد»، مظلوم عبدي، في تصريح إلى قناة «الحرة»، أن «هناك إجماعاً على رفض العملية العسكرية التركية شمال سوريا (…) ونحن على تواصل مستمرّ مع الولايات المتحدة الأميركية والتحالف الدولي بشأن التهديدات التركية»، مضيفاً أن الموقف «أقوى من العامَين 2018 و2019، وهو موقف إيجابي». وتابع أن «كامل المؤسّسات الأميركية أبدت معارضتها للعملية العسكرية التركية (…) وقيل لنا إنه في الاجتماع الأخير بين الرئيس جو بايدن والرئيس التركي الذي عقد في مدريد، هناك أيضاً أبدت أميركا موقفاً واضحاً من العملية»، مستدركاً بأن هذا «ليس على مستوى تطلّعاتهم، لأن التهديدات مستمرّة». ويشي كلام عبدي بأن «قسد»، وعلى رغم كلّ الحديث عن التقارب مع موسكو ودمشق، لا تزال تعوّل على المدَد الأميركي، مع أن واشنطن أبلغتها رسمياً أن غالبية المناطق المهدَّدة بالاجتياح التركي، تقع ضمن مناطق النفوذ الروسية. كما لم يُسجّل الأميركيون أيّ موقف تجاه سقوط قذيفة في محيط قاعدة لـ«التحالف الدولي» منذ عدّة أيام في محيط بلدة القحطانية في ريف الحسكة الشمالي، في ظلّ شكوك متزايدة بتزويد واشنطن، أنقرة، بإحداثيات عن تحركات «قسد» ومواقعها في المنطقة. وفي خضمّ ذلك، توحي المعطيات الميدانية بأن التصعيد التركي سيتواصل إلى حين قبول «قسد» بإخلاء مواقعها على الشريط الحدودي، وبعمق 30 كلم. وبهذا، تضيق خيارات «الإدارة الذاتية» في ظلّ غياب أيّ تحرّك لصالحها من الأميركيين، وإصرار الروس على مقترحهم بتسليمها الشريط الحدودي وجنوبه بعمق 30 كلم إلى الجيش السوري، أو مواجهة الهجوم التركي وحيدة.

    من ملف : أنقرة – دمشق: بداية تطبيع صعب

    مقالات ذات صلة

    مقالات ذات صلة

    Peace with Syria: The final piece in Turkey’s foreign policy puzzle

    August 15 2022

    Ankara has managed to reset relations with several neighbors, yet normalization with Damascus has remained the most elusive, until recently. Why now? And what will it take?

    Photo Credit: The Cradle

    By Hasan Ünal

    The 5 August meeting in Sochi between Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin has given rise to speculation in the west over Turkish-Russian rapprochement – and its possible negative impact on western efforts to curtail the imminent multipolar order.

    Western NATO states have reason to be concerned about Ankara’s recent moves, given the momentum created on 19 July during Astana talks in Tehran – between Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, Erdogan, and Putin – geared to resolve the Syrian crisis.

    United against the States

    What was striking about the meeting in the Iranian capital was its defiant tone, slamming US-led unipolarity (the so-called rules-based order), and accusing Washington of looting Syria’s resources and sponsoring terrorism, all while demanding that the US exits the region immediately.

    Washington has long sought to undermine the Astana Process, launched in January 2017 by Russia, Iran and Turkey to demilitarize the Syrian conflict and establish ceasefires. To that end, it manipulated Turkey’s ill-defined Syria policy, expecting that Ankara and Moscow would collide head-on over “opposition-controlled” Idlib or elsewhere, thereby hindering possible rapprochement between the two Eurasian states.

    However, it seems as if the Erdogan-Putin meeting has instead advanced beyond their earlier encounter on 29 September 2021, also held in Sochi, where it was then leaked that the two leaders had somewhat agreed on a broad geopolitical vision.

    The two leaders focused on a wide range of areas of close cooperation – particularly on trade and economy – but also on prospective fields of mutual benefit such as defense industry ventures, as well as on regional issues like Syria, Crimea, and Cyprus.

    Turkey’s shift on Syria

    Although few details have been released following that closed-door meeting, it is interesting to note the discernable change in Ankara’s stance on Syria since then.

    There is now serious talk of normalization with Damascus and a renewal of the Syrian-Turkish 1998 Adana Agreement, which will entail a joint effort to defeat US-sponsored Kurdish separatists in Syria, especially in the areas to the east of the Euphrates where the latter are striving to install a US-backed statelet.

    As things stand, there is no reason why Erdogan and Putin could not iron out a deal to end the Syrian conflict, especially since Ankara – in an 18-month flurry of diplomatic outreach to regional foes – has largely given up on its Muslim Brotherhood-oriented foreign policy by mending ties with Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and even Israel.

    Today, Erdogan’s personal obstinacy over Syria remains the main hurdle obstructing an overall peace with Turkey’s war-stricken southern neighbor.

    Why make peace?

    The Turkish president certainly has a lot to gain from a well-orchestrated rapprochement with the Syrian government. For starters, Ankara and Damascus could agree on a protocol to repatriate millions of Turkish-based Syrian refugees back to their places of origin, and renew the Adana Agreement to create a common front against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and its Syrian affiliates.

    Conceivably, Erdogan could even ask Damascus to recognize the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus – a very dear issue for Ankara – in return for Turkey’s full support for the re-establishment of Syrian sovereignty over all its territories, including those areas currently under Turkish occupation.

    With strong Russian guidance, is not entirely inconceivable that the two states could return to a comfortable neighborly states quo, with trade, investment, and reconstruction activities leading the way.

    It would be a far cry from the 1998 to 2011 Syrian-Turkish ‘golden era,’ when Ankara studiously worked to bolster friendly relations with Damascus, to such an extent that joint-cabinet meetings were occasionally held between the administrations of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Erdogan, where the latter would refer to the former as “my brother.”

    Today, the emerging multipolar order makes diplomatic and economic re-engagement all the more conducive, because as NATO’s Madrid Summit demonstrated, the west needs Turkey more than ever, and Ankara’s moves to normalize relations with Damascus is less likely to incur a significant cost than before the Ukraine crisis erupted.

    Indeed, even before events in Europe unfolded, Turkey undertook several military operations against the PKK/ Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria, much to Washington’s dismay and outrage.

    Ankara could proceed with these operations with less censure today, but it has not. Turkey appears to have realized – possibly under Russian advisement – that without normalization with Damascus, Turkish military moves on Kurdish separatists would yield significantly fewer results.

    Problems closer to home

    Moreover, Erdogan’s administration has been beset by the contentious domestic issue of the millions of Syrian refugees who remain inside Turkey. The days when the president and his close associates were preaching Islamic solidarity in defense of hosting Syrian refugees have long past.

    The mood across Turkey has changed dramatically amid rising inflation, a collapse of the lira, and the general public’s disenchantment with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). For the first time since Erdogan’s ascension to power in 2003, the masses sense that his once-unbeatable, Islamist-leaning populist party may be defeated in upcoming presidential polls slated for May-June next year.

    True or not, there are public rumblings that the AKP – to escape an election loss – plans to bestow millions of Syrian refugees with Turkish citizenship, allowing them to vote in the pivotal polls.

    The disoriented outlook of Turkey’s main opposition party has always played to Erdogan’s advantage in previous elections. The feeble-looking Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who took the helm of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) after a sex scandal involving its previous leader, has never managed to rally the public around him.

    Importantly, Kılıçdaroğlu has typically trailed behind Erdogan in opinion polls because of his pro-American, pro-EU approach to almost everything – at a time when anti-US sentiment in the country polls at a startling 85 to 95 percent of the population.

    Repatriating refugees

    Furthermore, Kılıçdaroğlu and his party do not make any clear-cut pronouncements about a peace with Syria. If anything, the CHP was as critical of Assad as Erdogan’s AKP, and its spokespeople barely weighed in on the divisive Syrian refugee issue, even though economically-challenged Turkey currently hosts more refugees than any other country.

    The entry of a new figure – Ümit Özdağ, a professor of Political Science and International Relations, who recently formed the Party of Victory (Zafer Partisi) – onto the Turkish national political scene, has introduced a radical change in the discourse about Syrian refugees and their repatriation.

    Almost overnight, Özdağ has gained widespread support from voters across the political spectrum. His unexpected surge in the polls has clearly contributed to a reassessment by the government and ruling party on the Syrian issue.

    Ankara needs Damascus

    Today, almost all voices from the CHP to the AKP are floating arguments for some sort of repatriation, but as even the Turkish public understands, this cannot be done without normalization with Damascus.

    Hence, Erdogan’s test-balloon musings to Turkish journalists on his flight back from Sochi, hinting that Putin had repeatedly recommended that Ankara coordinate with Damascus on any military operation in Syria to rout out the PKK/SDF.

    Despite the positive national outlook on normalizing with Syria, Erdogan won’t have a smooth path ahead. Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s untimely remark a few days ago that Ankara should try to bring the Syrian opposition (a clear reference to the Turkish-backed Syrian National Army) and the Assad government together with a view to striking a deal, didn’t go down well at all with those oppositionists.

    It almost led to an uprising in Syrian areas under Turkish control – particularly in Azaz, where militants burned down Turkish flags and vowed to fight to the bitter end against the “Assad regime” and even Turkey.

    Same old foreign policy

    The statement the Turkish Foreign Ministry issued following these events underlined the long hard slog to a Syrian peace settlement, and revealed the depth of the Erdogan government’s involvement with these militants.

    As it has predictably done since 2011, the FM statement conveniently shifted blame back onto the Syrian government for foot-dragging toward overall peace and reconciliation.

    But Ankara desperately needs to drop its tired old refrain: demanding that Damascus agrees to a new constitution, pushing for federalization of the state, and insisting on new Syrians elections, under a care-taker government, composed of opposition politicians, and preferably without Assad at its helm.

    Having failed to oust Assad militarily, Turkey once imagined it could unseat him through this convoluted political and electoral formula. Erdogan’s logic was that the millions of Syrians under Ankara’s influence – both in Turkey, as well as in Turkish-controlled Syrian territories – in addition Syrian Kurds in areas under the PKK/PYD, especially to the east of the Euphrates, would vote Assad out.

    Trading the ‘rebels’ for the Kurds

    This ‘fantasy’ contrasts sharply with realities on the Syrian ground, and also totally undermines Turkey’s own national interests.

    Years of these haphazard AKP policies, premised on the unrealistic scenario of a sudden collapse of Assad’s government, all while stealthily transforming the country into a jihadist paradise – in the name of democracy – has instead become Ankara’s biggest foreign policy quagmire, and has emboldened its separatist Kurdish foes as never before.

    Furthermore, Erdogan’s disastrous Syria policy has isolated Turkey for almost a decade in the region, even among Sunni states, and threatened to set off a conflagration with Russia, a major source of energy and tourism for the Turkish economy.

    In fairness, the Turkish leader appears to be making some sound political maneuvers of late, and reaching out to Damascus is the most important of these for the region’s stability. Whether Erdogan will crown his new grand foreign policy moves with a Syrian peace by normalizing relations with Damascus remains to be seen.

    If he doesn’t take this bold step, particularly in advance of Turkey’s presidential elections, Erdogan runs the risk of joining the long list of politicians determined to oust Assad, who have themselves left or been ousted from office under the weight of the so-called “Assad Curse.”

    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

    Author

    أنقرة تُغضب جماعاتها: خطوة أولى نحو دمشق

    السبت 13 آب 2022

    خرجت الإضرابات في بعض مناطق الشمال السوري عن السيطرة بعد إحراق العلم التركي (أ ف ب)

     علاء حلبي 

    لم يخرج مولود جاويش أوغلو، في تصريحاته الأخيرة حول محادثاته مع فيصل المقداد، عن المؤشّرات التي ما فتئت أنقرة تبعث بها في الآونة الأخيرة، حول رغبتها في الانفتاح التدريجي على دمشق، بهدف إيجاد حلول لأزمة اللاجئين وتحقيق مكاسب ميدانية، يمكن رجب طيب إردوغان تجييرُها لمصلحته في الانتخابات الرئاسية. وعلى رغم أن تلك التصريحات أثارت موجة غضب ورفض في الشمال السوري، قادتها أطراف عدّة تجمع في ما بينها المصلحة في بقاء الوضع القائم، إلّا أن تركيا بدت راغبة في ضبط الشارع بما يتوافق مع تكتيكاتها السياسية، وفي الوقت نفسه استثماره في الضغط على شريكَي «أستانا»، موسكو وطهران، ومِن خَلفهما دمشق


    خلال مؤتمر صحافي لوزير الخارجية التركي، مولود جاويش أوغلو، وفي ردّه على سؤال يتعلّق بالأوضاع في سوريا، أجاب رأس هرم الدبلوماسية التركية باستفاضة، شارحاً موقف بلاده من الانفتاح على دمشق، والذي وضع له شروطاً متّصلة بـ«الحرب على الإرهاب»، في إشارة إلى «قسد» التي تَراها أنقرة امتداداً لحزب «العمال الكردستاني»، مشيراً في الوقت ذاته إلى الاقتناع الذي بات مترسّخاً لدى تركيا بضرورة إجراء ما سمّاه «مصالحة» بين الحكومة والمعارضة لضمان وحدة الأراضي السورية. أوغلو أشار أيضاً، في سياق حديثه، إلى «لقاء عابر على الواقف» أجراه مع وزير الخارجية السوري، فيصل المقداد، على هامش اجتماع مجموعة دول «حركة عدم الانحياز» في بلغراد، في تشرين الأول من العام الماضي، نافياً وجود أيّ تواصل مباشر بين الرئيسَين التركي رجب طيب إردوغان، والسوري بشار الأسد، مفنّداً بذلك شائعات أطلقتها وسائل إعلام مرتبطة بحزب «العدالة والتنمية» الحاكم في تركيا بهذا الخصوص، كانت قد نفتها دمشق أيضاً. غير أنه عاد وأكد أن موسكو تدفع في الاتّجاه المذكور، والذي تريد تركيا، في المقابل، أن يبدأ بلقاءات أمنية في الوقت الحالي، تتركّز، بحسب ما يُفهَم من كلامه، على «اتفاقية أضنة» المُوقَّعة عام 1998 بين سوريا وتركيا.
    ولم يكد الوزير التركي ينتهي من تصريحاته، حتى بدأت تَظهر دعوات في الشمال السوري إلى الخروج في تظاهرات رافضة لها، تحت عناوين عديدة؛ أبرزها «لا للصلح». على إثر ذلك، شهدت مناطق عدّة تسيطر عليها فصائل تابعة لأنقرة، وأخرى في إدلب التي تَحكمها «هيئة تحرير الشام»، تظاهرات تخلّلتها – في ريف حلب الشمالي – عمليات إحراق للعلم التركي، وهتافات مناوئة لأنقرة. وأفادت مصادر ميدانية، «الأخبار»، بأن هذه التظاهرات خرجت لدوافع عديدة، بعضها شخصي يتعلّق بوجود تيّارات رافضة لأيّ انفتاح على دمشق، وبعضها الآخر مرتبط بجهات بعينها لا ترغب في تغيير الوضع القائم، من بينها صناعيون وتجّار يملكون استثمارات عديدة ويستفيدون من ارتباط مناطقهم بالاقتصاد التركي، وبعضها الثالث تقف وراءه تيّارات تابعة لـ«الإخوان المسلمين»، الذين بدأ نشاطهم يطفو على السطح في أعقاب عمليات إعادة هيكلة قامت بها تركيا لـ«الائتلاف» المعارض، قلّصت بموجبها حضورهم داخله.

    تزامنت حركة الإضرابات في الشمال السوري مع ظهور موجة رفض للسلطة الأمنية التي تفرضها تركيا


    وجاءت موجة الاحتجاج الجديدة تلك، بالتزامن مع ظهور بوادر تمرّد على السلطة الأمنية التي تفرضها تركيا في الشمال، تجلّت في عمليات شطب لعبارات مؤيّدة لأنقرة، واستبدال أخرى بها ترَفض هذه التبعية، وهو ما أعقبته حملة أمنية ألقت خلالها الفصائل القبض على عدد من الأشخاص، وعمّمت أسماء آخرين، بتهمة «الإساءة لتركيا». ويبدو أن حركة الإضرابات هذه خرجت عن السيطرة في بعض المواقع، وخصوصاً بعد إحراق العلم التركي، والذي استنفرت أنقرة على إثره قادة الفصائل وبعض المؤثّرين في الشارع من أجل استنكار الواقعة بوصْف المحروق «راية مقدسة»، والدعوة إلى احترام «التضحيات التركية والعلاقة المتينة مع أنقرة». كما أصدر «المجلس الإسلامي»، الذراع الدينية لأنقرة في الشمال، بياناً اتّهم فيه «مندسّين» بالوقوف وراء ما سمّاه «حرْف الأمر عن مساره وتهديد مصالح الثورة». وفي السياق نفسه، كشفت المصادر الميدانية أن اجتماعاً عقده مسؤولون أمنيون وعسكريون أتراك، مع قادة بعض الفصائل في ريف حلب الشمالي، أبلغوا فيه الأخيرين ضرورة منع انزلاق الشارع إلى معاداة تركيا، بشتّى السبل، ومن بينها اعتقال الأشخاص «المسيئين»، مُتوقّعة اعتقال مَن أحرقوا العلم وردّدوا شعارات مناوئة لأنقرة بتهم عدّة؛ من بينها «الإساءة لتركيا»، و«إلحاق الضرر بالمال العام»، ولا سيما مع انتشار فيديو الإحراق في وسائل الإعلام التركية، وإثارته مخاوف من موجات عنف جديدة ضدّ اللاجئين السوريين في تركيا. وعلى عكْس حالة الانفلات التي ظهرت في مناطق سيطرة الفصائل، لم تشهد إدلب، التي يُحكِم أبو محمد الجولاني سيطرته عليها، أيّ حوادث تُذكر، في ما من شأنه أن يضيف نقطة إضافية إلى رصيد الجولاني الذي ترغب أنقرة في توحيد مناطق نفوذها تحت سيطرته.
    بالتوازي مع ذلك، وفي محاولة لتخفيف حدّة الاحتقان، وفي الوقت نفسه استثمار حركة الشارع في الضغط على دمشق، خرج المتحدّث باسم الخارجية التركية، تانجو بيلجيتش، ببيان لتفسير تصريحات أوغلو، ذكر فيه أن تركيا أدت دوراً رائداً في الحفاظ على وقف إطلاق النار، وإنشاء «اللجنة الدستورية» من خلال عمليّتَي أستانا وجنيف، وقدّمت الدعم الكامل للمعارضة ولجنة التفاوض في العملية السياسية، مُحمِّلاً دمشق مسؤولية عرقلة الحلّ السياسي. وختم بيانه بالتأكيد أن تركيا «ستواصل مساهمتها النشطة في الجهود المبذولة لتهيئة الظروف المناسبة للعودة الطوعية والآمنة للاجئين، وإيجاد حلّ للنزاع وفقاً لخريطة الطريق المنصوص عليها في قرار مجلس الأمن الدولي الرقم 2254، بالتعاون مع جميع أصحاب المصلحة في المجتمع الدولي. وبينما اشتعلت مواقع التواصل الاجتماعي بمواقف رافضة لأيّ انفتاح تركي على دمشق أطلقها قياديون في الفصائل، لم تَخرج عن «الائتلاف» أيّ تصريحات في هذا السياق، في استمرار لسياسة الصمت التي اتّبعها طوال الشهر الماضي، بعد توالي التصريحات التركية حول الرغبة في التعاون مع الحكومة السورية. وتفسّر المصادر نفسها التي تحدّثت إليها «الأخبار»، ذلك، بأنه رغبة من أنقرة في فصْل ما يجري في الشارع عن المسار السياسي، لاستثمارهما معاً في الضغط على دمشق وموسكو وطهران، ما يعني في المحصّلة ربْط أيّ خطوة نحو دمشق باستمرار المصالح التركية، وما ينجم عنها من مكاسب.

    فيديوات ذات صلة

    مقالات ذات صلة

    Supporters of armed groups attack Turkish checkpoints in Idlib, Aleppo

    12 Aug, 2021

    Source: Agencies

    By Al Mayadeen English 

    Following Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu’s proposal to reconcile between the Syrian government and the opposition factions, supporters of armed groups staged massive protests in the countryside of Idlib and Aleppo.

    Thousands of supporters of armed groups took to the streets on Friday to protest against Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu for proposing reconciliation between the Syrian government and the opposition factions.

    Turkey’s top diplomat revealed on Thursday that he had a brief meeting with his Syrian counterpart Faisal Mekdad in October in Belgrade and that communication between the two countries intelligence agencies had resumed.

    Cavusoglu added, “We have to somehow get the opposition and the regime to reconcile in Syria. Otherwise, there will be no lasting peace, we always say this.”

    Cavusoglu also stated that there must be strong administration in Syria to prevent any division of the country, adding that “the will that can dominate every corner of its lands can only be achieved through unity and solidarity.”

    Supporters of the so-called Turkish-backed National Army took to the streets in major northern cities including Azaz, Al-Bab and Afrin to protest Cavusoglu’s comments.

    Some protesters burned a Turkish flag, while others removed Turkish flags displayed throughout major northern cities.

    Meanwhile, armed groups summoned supporters to protest in major northern cities, which are under the control of Turkish forces, under the slogan: “No reconciliation”.

    Activists confirmed that dozens of demonstrations took place in several areas of Idlib and Aleppo’s countryside, emphasizing their rejection of Cavusoglu’s proposal, which contradicts the Tukey’s claims that the Syrian state is obstructing the country’s political process. 

    These protests demonstrate that armed groups are the impediment to any political process that leads to stability in the country and a resolution to the 11-year-long crisis.

    Samarkand at the crossroads: from Timur to the BRI and SCO

    August 11, 2022

    From its ancient Silk Road role to China’s BRI project, Uzbekistan is set to remain an important geoeconomic hub in Central Asia

    by Pepe Escobar, posted with the author’s permission and widely cross-posted

    SAMARKAND – The ultimate Silk Road city, set at an unrivaled Eurasian trade crossroads, is the ideal spot from which to examine where the New Silk Roads adventure is heading next. For starters, the upcoming summit of heads of state of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will take place in Samarkand in mid-September.

    The ancient city dazzled Alexander the Great in 329 BC and made the Tang dynasty crazy for its golden peaches. This was a cosmopolitan hub that embraced Zoroastrian fire-worship and even flirted with Nestorian Christianity, until Arab conquerors under the banner of the Prophet arrived in 712 and changed everything forever.

    In the 13th century, the Mongols irrupted on the scene with the proverbial bang. But then Timur, the Turco-Mongol conqueror who founded the Timurid Dynasty in the late 14th century, set to embellish Samarkand into a resplendent diamond, drawing artists from across his vast empire – Persia, Syria, India – to make it “less a home than a marvelous trophy.”

    And yet, ever the quintessential nomad, Timur lived in swank tents and gardens on the outskirts of his urban jewel.

    The Silk Road trade frenzy died down in the 16th century after the Europeans finally “discovered” their own Maritime Silk Road.

    Russia conquered Samarkand in 1868. It was, briefly, the capital of the Socialist Republic of Uzbekistan before the transfer to Tashkent and then, up to 1991, mired into invisibility. Now the city is all set to revive its ancient glory, as a key hub of the Eurasian Century.

    What would Timur make of all this?

    “Conqueror of the World”

    Timur was born in a little village outside of Samarkand, into a clan of Turkicized Mongols, only a century after the death of Genghis Khan. Hit by arrows in his right shoulder and hip when he was only 27, he got slapped with the pejorative Persian nickname Timur-i-Leme (“Timur the Lame”), later Latinized into Tamerlane.

    Just like with Genghis, you wouldn’t want to pick a fight with Timur. He single-mindedly set out to become “Conqueror of the World,” and delivered in droves.

    Timur defeated the Ottoman Sultan Beyazid in Ankara (don’t mention that to Turks); destroyed the Golden Horde in the Kazakh steppes; bombed Christian armies in Smyrna (today’s Izmir) with cannonballs made of severed heads.

    In Baghdad in 1401 – they still remember it, vividly, as I heard it in 2003 – his soldiers killed 90,000 residents and cemented their heads in 120 towers; he ruled over all trade routes from Delhi to Damascus; he evoked poetry by Edgar Allan Poe, drama by Christopher Marlowe, opera by Vivaldi.

    The zombified, woke, collective west would deride Timur as the proverbial autocrat, or a “dictator” like Vladimir Putin. Nonsense. He was Islamicized and Turkicized – but never religiously fanatic like today’s Salafi-jihadis. He was illiterate, but spoke Persian and Turkic fluently. He always showed enormous respect for scholars. This is a nomad always on the move who supervised the creation of some of the most dazzling urban architecture in the history of the world.

    Every night at 9 pm, in front of the psychedelic lighting enveloping the architectural treasure of the Registan (“sandy place”), originally a bazaar in a trade crossroads, amidst the blurred conversations of countless Samarkand families, Timur’s words still resonate: “Let he who doubts our power look upon our buildings.”

    Timur died in 1405 in Otrar – today in southern Kazakhstan – when he was planning the Mother of All Campaigns: the invasion of Ming China. This is one of the greatest “what ifs” in history. Would Timur have been able to Islamicize Confucianist China? Would have he made his mark just like the Mongols who are still very much present in the Russian collective unconscious?

    All these questions swirl in our mind when we are face to face with Timur’s tomb – a stunning slab of black jade in the Gur-i-Mir, actually a very modest shrine, surrounded by his spiritual adviser Mir Sayid Barakah and family members such as his grandson, star astronomer Ulug Beg.

    From Timur to Putin and Xi

    Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin are no Timur material, of course, much less current Uzbek President Shavkat Mirzoyoyev.

    What’s striking now, as I’ve seen on the ground in bustling Tashkent and then on the road to Samarkand, is how Mirzoyoyev is skillfully profiting from both Russia and China via his multi-vector policy to configure Uzbekistan as a Central Asian – and Eurasian – powerhouse by the 2030s.

    The government is heavily investing in a massive Center of Islamic Civilization in Tashkent, nearby the landmark Khast-Imam square, home to the deeply influential al-Bukhari Islamic Institute, and is also building a whole new business complex in the outskirts of Samarkand for the SCO summit.

    The Americans have invested in a business center in Tashkent complete with a brand new slick Hilton attached; only a block away the Chinese are building their own version. The Chinese will also be involved in the construction of an essential New Silk Road transportation corridor: the $5 billion Pakistan-Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Pakafuz railway, also known as Trans-Afghan Railway.

    Uzbekistan has not bought into the idea – at least not yet – of the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which calls for free movement of goods, people, capital and services. The country privileges its own autonomy. Russia accepts this because bilateral relations with Tashkent remain strong, and there’s no way the latter will get closer to NATO.

    So from Moscow’s perspective, getting cozier with post-Islam Karimov Uzbekistan remains a must, at the same time without coercing it to join the Eurasia integration institutions. That may come in time; there’s no rush. Russia enjoys huge approval ratings in Uzbekistan – even though not as high as in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

    As many as 5 million migrants from the Central Asian “stans” are working in Russia – mostly Uzbeks and Tajiks, even as they now also seek jobs in the Persian Gulf, Turkey and South Korea.

    As one of its top “secured” spheres of influence, Moscow regards Central Asian states as critical partners, part of a consolidated Eurasian vision which is in total contrast with the western borderlands and the fast disintegrating Ukraine.

    All roads lead to BRI

    The Chinese angle, defined by its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), is way more nuanced. For all of Central Asia, BRI equals infrastructure development and integration in global trade supply chains.

    Uzbekistan, like its neighbors, linked its national development strategy to BRI under President Mirziyoyev: that’s inbuilt in the official “Strategy of Actions in Five Priority Directions of Development.” Uzbekistan is also an official member of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

    China’s relationship with Central Asia draws of course on the Soviet era, but also carefully takes into account territorial divisions and mind-boggling border issues.

    The collapse of the USSR saw, for instance, a river, an irrigation ditch, a bunch of trees or even a roadside brutalist monument suddenly converted into external borders of new sovereign nations – with unpredictable results.

    In the Ancient Silk Road era this made no sense. Timur conquered everything from northern India to the Black Sea. Now, it’s hard to find somebody in Tashkent to take you across the border to Turkestan via Shymkent – both now in southern Kazakhstan – and back, with minimum border hassle. Sultan Erdogan wants to bolster Turkestan’s reputation by naming it the capital of all Turkic peoples (that’s hugely debatable, but another long story).

    And we’re not even talking about the hotbed of the Ferghana valley, still prone to the fanatical jihadi influence of outfits of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) kind.

    All that was festering for three decades as each of these new Central Asian nations had to articulate a distinct national ideology coupled with a vision for a progressive, secular future. Under Karimov, Uzbekistan swiftly recovered Timur as its definitive national hero and heavily invested in reviving all the glory of the Timurid past. In the process, Karimov could not miss the opportunity of expertly styling himself as the modern Timur in a business suit.

    Back to the geoeconomic limelight

    The SCO shows how China’s approach to Central Asia is defined by two central vectors: security and the development of Xinjiang. Stronger regional states such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan deal with Beijing, as with Moscow, via their carefully calibrated multi-vector foreign policy.

    Beijing’s merit has been to expertly position itself as a provider of public goods, with the SCO functioning as a top lab in terms of multilateral cooperation. This will be bolstered even more at the Samarkand summit next month.

    The destiny of what is in effect Inner Eurasia – the heartland of the Heartland – is inescapable from a subtle, very complex, multilevel competition between Russia and China.

    It’s crucial to remember that in his landmark 2013 speech in Nur-Sultan, then Astana, when the New Silk Roads were formally launched, Xi Jinping stressed that China stands “ready to enhance communication and coordination with Russia and all Central Asian countries to strive to build a region of harmony.”

    These were not idle words. The process involves a conjunction of BRI and the SCO – which has progressively evolved into a mechanism of economic cooperation as much as security.

    In the 2012 SCO summit, then Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister Cheng Gouping had already been adamant: China would absolutely not allow the unrest that happened in West Asia and North Africa to happen in Central Asia.

    Moscow could have said the exact same thing. The recent (failed) coup in Kazakhstan was swiftly dealt with by the six-member, Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

    China is increasingly invested in using the SCO to turbo-charge a geoeconomic overdrive – even as some of its proposals, such as establishing a free trade zone and a joint SCO fund and development bank still have not materialized. That may eventually happen, as in the wake of western Russophobic sanctions hysteria the SCO – and BRI – progressively converge with the EAEU.

    At every SCO summit, Beijing’s loans are gleefully accepted by Central Asian actors. Samarkand next month may herald a qualitative convergence leap: Russia and China even more involved in bringing back Inner Asia to the geoeconomic limelight.

    International condemnation against Israel grows as Gaza blitz continues

    Russia referred to the Israeli strikes as a ‘provocation’, and has urged all sides to exercise restraint

    August 06 2022

    The father of five-year old Palestinian Alaa Qadoum carries her body during her funeral in Gaza City on 5 August, 2022. (Photo credit: REUTERS/Ashraf Amra)

    ByNews Desk- 

    Many nations have issued condemnations of Israel’s brutal airstrikes on the besieged Gaza Strip that started on 5 August.

    So far, Tel Aviv’s bombing campaign has left over 100 injured and caused the deaths of 13 Palestinians, including a five-year old girl and three commanders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ).

    Palestinian resistance groups have launched several rocket attacks in retaliation, targeting nearby illegal settlements.

    Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, condemned on 6 August the escalation that “was provoked by Israeli air strikes,” adding that Moscow is deeply concerned over the breakout of large-scale conflict.

    The official also called all sides to “exercise maximum restraint.”

    Egypt has also condemned the attacks and warned against escalation, with an anonymous Egyptian security source telling Arab media: “We hope to reach a consensus to return to calm as soon as possible.”

    Another Egyptian source revealed that a PIJ delegation may travel to Cairo on 6 August for talks with Egyptian officials.

    In another strong condemnation of the Israeli aggression, Qatar called on the international community to “move urgently” to stop Israel’s continuous violence against civilians.

    The Gulf state’s foreign ministry affirmed via statement the kingdom’s “firm position on the justice of the Palestinian cause, the legitimate rights of the brotherly Palestinian people, and the establishment of their independent state on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

    Jordan also called on Israel to “immediately stop its aggression,” warning of the dangerous consequences of increased escalation.

    The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan vehemently denounced Tel Aviv’s actions on Saturday, with the Taliban foreign ministry calling on the international community to perform its duty and prevent Israeli crimes against Palestinians.

    On the same day, the Islamic Republic of Iran issued its own condemnation of the attacks on Gaza.

    “In its last night’s crime, the Zionist regime once again showed its occupier and aggressor nature to the world, but the resistance of the people of Gaza will speed up the decline of this child-killing regime,” Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said on the morning of 6 August.

    A statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on 5 August “strongly” condemned the Israeli bombardment, referring to the loss of civilian life as “unacceptable,” and urging “restraint and common sense.”

    Turkey has recently strengthened its diplomatic relationship with Israel after a long period of tension, and has reportedly been deporting members of the Hamas resistance faction at Tel Aviv’s request and in a bid to further improve relations with Israel.

    Related Videos

    The rockets of the Palestinian resistance rain anger over the settlers in various areas
    The battle of attrition… and the unity of the squares
    special coverage | The Israeli aggression on Gaza and the confrontation of the resistance

    Related News

    MBS: Despot in The Desert

    July 31, 2022 

    Nicolas Pelham- The Economist

    No one wanted to play football with Muhammad bin Salman. Sure, the boy was a member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, but so were 15,000 other people. His classmates preferred the company of his cousins, who were higher up the assumed order of succession, a childhood acquaintance recalls. As for the isolated child who would one day become crown prince, a family friend recounts hearing him called “little Saddam”.

    Home life was tricky for bin Salman, too (he is now more commonly known by his initials, [MBS]. His father, Salman, already had five sons with his first wife, an educated woman from an elite urban family. MBS’s mother, Salman’s third wife, was a tribeswoman. When MBS visited the palace where his father lived with his first wife, his older half-brothers mocked him as the “son of a Bedouin”. Later, his elder brothers and cousins were sent to universities in America and Britain. The Bedouin offspring of Prince Salman stayed in Riyadh to attend King Saud University.

    As young adults, the royals sometimes cruised on superyachts together; MBS was reportedly treated like an errand boy, sent onshore to buy cigarettes. A photo from one of these holidays shows a group of 16 royals posing on a yacht-deck in shorts and sunglasses, the hills of the French Riviera behind them. In the middle is MBS’s cousin, Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a billionaire investor dubbed “the Arabian Warren Buffett”. MBS, tall and broad-shouldered in a white t-shirt, is pushed to the farthest edge.

    Fast forward to today, and MB has moved to the center of the frame, the most important decision-maker in Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy but MBS’s 86-year-old father, though nominally head of state, is rarely seen in public anymore. It has been clear for several years that MBS is in charge. “In effect,” a former Saudi intelligence agent told me, “King Salman is no longer king.”

    At first glance the 36-year-old prince looks like the ruler many young Saudis had been waiting for, closer in age to his people than any previous king – 70% of the Saudi population is under 30. The millennial autocrat is said to be fanatical about the video game “Call of Duty”: he blasts through the inertia and privileges of the mosque and royal court as though he were fighting virtual opponents on screen.

    His restless impatience and disdain for convention have helped him push through reforms that many thoughts wouldn’t happen for generations. The most visible transformation of Saudi Arabia is the presence of women in public where once they were either absent or closely guarded by their husband or father. There are other changes, too. Previously, the kingdom offered few diversions besides praying at the mosque; today you can watch Justin Bieber in concert, sing karaoke or go to a Formula 1 race. A few months ago, I even went to a rave in a hotel….

    But embracing Western consumer culture doesn’t mean embracing Western democratic values: it can as easily support a distinctively modern, surveillance state. On my recent trips to Saudi Arabia, people from all levels of society seemed terrified about being overheard voicing disrespect or criticism, something I’d never seen there before. “I’ve survived four kings,” said a veteran analyst who refused to speculate about why much of Jeddah, the country’s second-largest city, is being bulldozed: “Let me survive a fifth.”

    The West, beguiled by promises of change and dependent on Saudi oil, at first seemed prepared to ignore MBS’s excesses. Then, in late 2018, Saudi officials in Istanbul murdered a Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi, and dismembered his body with a bone saw. Even the most pro-Saudi leaders turned away.

    …. After Putin invaded Ukraine in February, the price of crude shot up. Boris Johnson was on a plane within weeks. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, previously a sworn enemy of the crown prince, embraced MBS in Riyadh in April. War even forced America’s president into a humiliating climbdown. On the campaign trail in 2020 Joe Biden had vowed to turn Saudi Arabia into a “pariah”. But on July 15th he went to make his peace with MBS– trying to avoid shaking MBS’s hand, he instead opted for a fist bump that left the two looking all the chummier. Even critics at home acknowledged MBs’s victory. “He made Biden look weak,” said a Saudi columnist in Jeddah. “He stood up to a superpower and won before the world.”

    For MBS, this is a moment of triumph. His journey from the fringe of a photograph to the heart of power is almost complete. He will probably be king for decades. During that time, his country’s oil will be needed to sate the world’s enduring demand for energy.

    A kingdom where the word of one man counts for so much depends utterly on his character. The hope is that, with his position secure, MBS will forswear the vengefulness and intolerance that produced Khashoggi’s murder. But some, among them his childhood classmates, fear something darker. They are reminded of the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, a one-time modernizer who became so addicted to accumulating power that he turned reckless and dangerous. “At first power bestows grandeur,” a former Western intelligence officer told me, of MBS. “But then comes the loneliness, suspicion and fear that others will try to grab what you grabbed.”

    During the early years of MBS’s ascent, I was vaguely aware of him as one prince among many. I probably wouldn’t have paid him much attention if an old contact of mine hadn’t joined his staff. His new boss, my contact said, was serious about shaking things up. He arranged the meeting at a faux-ancient mud-brick village on the outskirts of Riyadh in 2016. As my Economist colleagues and I approached, the gates of MBS’s compound suddenly slid open, like a Bond-villain’s lair. In the inner chamber sat MBS.

    Reform has often been promised in Saudi Arabia – usually in response to American hectoring – but successive kings lacked the mettle to push change through. When the Al-Saud conquered Arabia in the 1920s, they made an alliance with an ultra-conservative religious group called the Wahhabis. In 1979, after a group of religious extremists staged a brief armed takeover of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, the Al-Saud decided to make the kingdom more devout to fend off a possible Islamic revolution, as had just happened in Iran. Wahhabi clerics were empowered to run society as they saw fit.

    The Wahhabis exercised control through the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, otherwise known as the religious police. They whacked the ankles of women whose hair poked through their veil and lashed the legs of men who wore shorts. The arrangement suited the House of Saud. Wahhabism provided social control and gave legitimacy to the Saudi state, leaving the royals free to enjoy their oil wealth in the more permissive environments of London and Paris, or behind the gates of their palaces.

    I’m loth to admit it now, but as the prince talked in Riyadh about his plans to modernize society and the economy, I was impressed by his enthusiasm, vision and command of the details. He gave what turned out to be accurate answers about how and when his reforms would happen. Though he was not yet crown prince, he frequently referred to Saudi Arabia as “my” country. We arrived at around 9pm. At 2am, MBS was still in full flow.

    MBS was affable, self-assured, smiling. His advisers were more subdued. If they spoke at all, it was to robotically repeat their master’s lines. Yet when MBS left the room to take a call, they started chatting animatedly. As the prince re-entered, silence fell.

    Like many in those early years, I was excited about what MBS might do for the kingdom. When I returned to the capital a few months later I saw a number of men wearing shorts. I kept looking over my shoulder for the religious police, but none came – they had been stripped of their powers of arrest.

    As crown prince, MBS introduced a code of law so that judicial sentencing accords with state guidelines, not a judge’s own interpretation of the Koran. He criminalized stoning to death and forced marriage. The most overt change involved the role of women. MBS attacked guardianship laws that prevented women from working, travelling, owning a passport, opening a business, having hospital treatment or divorcing without approval from a male relative. In practice, many Saudi women have found these new rights hard to claim in a patriarchal society, and men can still file claims of disobedience against female relatives. But MBS’s reforms were more than cosmetic. Some clerics were jailed; the rest soon fell into line.

    For foreigners, Riyadh is less forbidding these days. “I’m afraid I’ll be caught for not drinking,” a teetotal businessman told me. “There’s cocaine, alcohol and hookers like I haven’t seen in southern California,” says another party-goer. “It’s really heavy-duty stuff”.

    When MBS first entered public life, he had a reputation for being as strait-laced as his father, rare among royals. That quickly changed. Many of the people interviewed for this article said that they believe MBS frequently uses drugs, which he denies. A court insider says that in 2015 his friends decided that he needed some r&r on an island in the Maldives. According to investigative journalists Bradley Hope and Justin Scheck in their book “Blood and Oil”, 150 models were recruited to join the gathering and were then shuttled “by golf cart to a medical center to be tested for sexually transmitted diseases”. Several international music stars were flown in, including Afrojack, a Dutch dj. Then the press blew MBS cover.

    Thereafter, the prince preferred to unwind off the Red Sea coast. At weekends his entourage formed a flotilla by mooring their yachts around his, Serene, which has a driving range and a cinema. According to a former official, “dj MBS”, as his friends called him, would spin the discs wearing his trademark cowboy hat. The yacht is only one of the luxuries MBS has splurged on. He also bought a £230m ersatz French chateau near Versailles, built in 2008 (the meditation room doubles as an aquarium). He is said to have boasted that he wanted to be the first trillionaire.

    We put these and other allegations in this article to MBS’s representatives. Through the Saudi embassy in London, they issued a broad denial, saying “the allegations are denied and are without foundation.”

    MBS’s loosening of social mores reflects the values of many of his youthful peers, in Saudi and beyond – as does his taste for the flashier side of life. Yet despite the social revolution, the prince is no keener than Wahhabi clerics on letting people think for themselves. Shortly before lifting a ban on women driving in 2018, MBS’s officials imprisoned Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the leaders of the campaign for women’s rights. Her family say jailers waterboarded and electrocuted her, and that Saud al-Qahtani, one of MBS’s closest advisers, was present during her torment and threatened to rape her. [A un investigation found reasonable grounds to believe that Qahtani was involved in the torture of female activists. Qahtani allegedly told one of these women: “I’ll do whatever I like to you, and then I’ll dissolve you and flush you down the toilet.”] Hathloul was charged with inciting change to the ruling system. The message was clear: only one person was allowed to do that.

    MBS is ruthlessly ambitious – he reportedly loved reading about Alexander the Great as a teenager – but he also owes his rise to some extraordinary twists of fortune. Succession can be an unpredictable affair in Saudi Arabia. The monarchy is only two generations old, founded in 1932, and the crown has so far moved from brother to brother among the founding ruler’s sons. That has become harder as the prospective heirs age. MBS’s father wasn’t tipped to be king, but after his two older brothers died unexpectedly in 2011 and 2012, he was catapulted up the line of succession.

    When Salman became the heir-designate aged 76, he needed a chief of staff. Most courtiers expected him to choose one of the suave, English-speaking children of his first wife. Instead he appointed a son who spoke Arabic with a guttural Bedouin accent. [MBS has learned English fast since then: when we met in 2016 he sometimes corrected his translator.]

    The choice to elevate MBS was less surprising to those who knew his father well. Salman had dedicated himself to his job as governor of Riyadh rather than chasing more lucrative commissions, and was a stickler for 8am starts, even in his 70s. He was known as the family disciplinarian, not averse to giving wayward royals a thwack with his walking stick or even a spell in his private prison. He clearly saw something of himself in his sixth son. MBS might love video games, but he was also a hard worker and keen to advance.

    MBS put few limits on what he was prepared to do to achieve control. He earned the nickname Abu Rasasa – father of the bullet – after widespread rumors that he sent a bullet in the post to an official who ruled against him in a land dispute [Saudi officials have previously denied this rumor]. He was fearsome in private, too. “There are these terrible tempers, smashing up offices, trashing the palace,” says a source with palace connections. “He’s extremely violent.” Several associates describe him as having wild mood swings. Two former palace insiders say that, during an argument with his mother, he once sprayed her ceiling with bullets. According to multiple sources and news reports, he has locked his mother away.

    It’s hard to say how many wives he has; officially, there’s just one, a glamorous princess called Sara bint Mashour, but courtiers say he has at least one more. MBS presents his family life as normal and happy: earlier this year he told the Atlantic magazine that he eats breakfast with his children each morning [he has three boys and two girls, according to Gulf News – the eldest is said to be 11]. One diplomat spoke of MBS’s kindness to his wife. But other sources inside the royal circle say that, on at least one occasion, Princess Sara was so badly beaten by her husband that she had to seek medical treatment.

    We put this and other allegations in this piece to MBS’s representatives, who described them as “plain fabrication”, adding that “the kingdom is unfortunately used to false allegations made against its leadership, usually based on politically [or other] motivated malicious sources, particularly discredited individuals who have a long record of fabrications and baseless claims.”

    MBS finally got a taste of political power in 2015 when Salman became king. Salman appointed his son deputy crown prince and minister of defense. One of MBS’s first moves was to launch a war in neighboring Yemen. Even America, the kingdom’s closest military ally, was told only at the last minute.

    There was an obvious obstacle in MBS’s path to the throne: his cousin, the 57-year-old heir-designate, Muhammad bin Nayef. Bin Nayef was the intelligence chief and the kingdom’s main interlocutor with the CIA. He was widely credited with stamping out al-Qaeda in Saudi after 9/11. In June 2017 bin Nayef was summoned to meet the elderly king at his palace in Mecca.

    The story of what happened next has emerged from press reports and my interviews. It seems that bin Nayef arrived by helicopter and took the lift to the fourth floor. Instead of the monarch, MBS’sagents were waiting. Bin Nayef was stripped of his weapons and phone, and told that a royal council had dismissed him. He was left alone to consider his options. Seven hours later, a court videographer filmed the charade of MBS kissing his cousin, then accepting his abdication as crown prince. King Salman kept a back seat throughout. Bin Nayef is now in detention [his uncle, who also had a claim to the throne, apparently intervened to try and protect bin Nayef, but was himself later detained]. The staged resignation – an old trick of Saddam Hussein’s – would become MBS’s signature move.

    That was just the warm-up act. In October 2017 MBS hosted an international investment conference at the Ritz-Carlton in Riyadh. At “Davos in the desert”, the likes of Christine Lagarde, Son Masayoshi and other business glitterati listened to MBS’s pitch for Saudi Arabia’s post-oil future, including the construction of Neom, a new $500bn “smart city”. The event was a hit. Diplomatic grumblings about the war in Yemen or the fate of America’s security partner, Muhammad bin Nayef, faded.

    The gathering was also an opportunity to invite back royals who were often abroad. Once the foreigners had left, MBS pounced. Hundreds of princes and businessmen were swept up. According to a biography of MBS by Ben Hubbard, a New York Times journalist, one of them realized something was amiss only when they got to their hotel room: there were no pens, razors or glasses – nothing that could be used as a weapon.

    MBS held the detainees in the Ritz-Carlton for several weeks [the Marriott and other hotels were also commandeered to house the overflow]. Prisoners’ phones were confiscated. Some were said to have been hooded, deprived of sleep and beaten until they agreed to transfer money and hand over an inventory of their assets. All told, MBS’s guests at the Ritz-Carlton coughed up about $100bn.

    Even royals previously thought untouchable, such as the powerful prince who ran the national guard, got similar treatment. Princess Basma, the youngest child of the second king of Saudi Arabia, was jailed for three years without charge or access to a lawyer; after being released she still had to wear an electronic ankle bracelet, according to a close associate of hers.

    The crushing of the royals and business elite was billed as a crackdown on corruption – and undoubtedly it netted many corruptly acquired assets, which MBS said would be returned to the Saudi treasury. The methods, however, looked more like something from a gangster film than a judicial procedure.

    Interrogations were overseen by Saud al-Qahtani, who reported directly to MBS whenever a detainee broke and gave out their bank details. [All the allegations in this piece concerning Qahtani were put to him via his lawyer. No response was given.] Qahtani had installed himself as one of MBS’s favored henchmen, though earlier in his career, he’d plotted against Salman and his son, trying to sideline them with rumors that Salman had dementia. Qahtani was so loyal to the former faction that he’d named his son after his then boss. According to a former courtier, on the day of the old king’s funeral the two men had it out: MBS slapped Qahtani in the face. Later, MBS let Qahtani prove his worth and brought him on to his staff. Qahtani duly named his younger son Muhammad.

    On paper, Qahtani was a communications adviser, a former journalist who understood Twitter and used an army of bots and loyal followers to intimidate critics on social media [his office included giant screens and holograms that staff used for target-practice with laser guns]. In practice he was entrusted with MBS’s most important and violent missions – the ones that established his grip on power.

    His remit extended far beyond Saudi’s borders. In 2016 he kidnapped Prince Sultan, a minor royal who had been bad-mouthing MBS. MBS offered his jet to fly Sultan from Paris to Cairo – instead, the plane was diverted to Saudi Arabia. According to Hope’s and Scheck’s book, Qahtani posed as Captain Saud, an airline pilot, though surprisingly one who had an expensive Hublot watch.

    Even people who have nothing to do with politics have become afraid to speak near a functioning mobile phone

    With rendition strategies like this, and the cash tap shut off, even royals who weren’t inside the Ritz-Carlton felt the pressure to divest themselves of ostentatious assets. The father of the Saudi ambassador to Britain put Glympton Park, his beloved 2,000-acre estate in the Cotswolds, up for sale. Riyadh’s jewellers did a roaring trade pawning the diamonds of lesser royals. “It’s like the Romanovs selling their Fabergé eggs,” said an adviser to an auction house.

    Many commoners rejoiced at the downfall of their entitled elite. Princes and princesses who once lived off huge handouts began looking for jobs. Their titles became irrelevant. Unable to afford the cost of irrigation, their green ranches became desert again. Banks turned them away. One financial adviser recalled his response to princes trying to get credit on the strength of their royal status: “You call yourselves princes, but they say there’s only one prince now.”

    The Ritz-Carlton episode was just one element of an extraordinary project of centralization. MBS yanked control of various security services back from the princes. He took charge of Aramco, the semi-autonomous state oil company. He installed himself as boss of the sovereign-wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund. “He destroyed all the powerful families,” says a retired diplomat. By late 2017, law, money and security in Saudi all flowed directly from him.

    Among those who lost out were the fellow princes who had pushed a young MBS to the edge of the family photo on the yacht all those years ago. Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, in the center of that shot, surrendered part of his $17bn wealth. As the shakedown widened, MBS’s elder half-siblings put up their yacht for sale. Many of his cousins were locked up. “Payback time,” one victim said.

    While MBS was squeezing the elite at home, he was forging some important friendships abroad.

    MBS and Donald Trump, who was elected president in 2016, had a lot in common. Both had the hunger of the underdog and loathed the snooty policymaking establishments in their countries; they reveled in provocation. The historic compact, by which Saudi Arabia provided oil to American consumers and America guaranteed the country’s security, had frayed in recent years. Barack Obama’s hurried exit from Iraq in 2011 and his nuclear deal with Iran in 2015 had left Saudi Arabia worried that it could no longer rely on American protection. America’s development of its own shale-oil reserves had also reduced its dependence on Saudi oil. Then Trump and MBS got cozy.

    With the Trump administration’s tacit [and sometimes explicit] support, MBS set about treating the entire Middle East much as he did Saudi Arabia, trying to push aside rulers whom he found to be inconvenient. He announced a blockade of Qatar, a tiny gas-rich state to the east of Saudi Arabia. In 2017, angered by Lebanon’s dealings with Iran, MBS invited the prime minister, Saad Hariri, a long-time beneficiary of Saudi patronage, on a starlit camping trip. Hariri turned up, had his phone confiscated and soon found himself reading out a resignation speech on tv.

    Both moves ultimately backfired. But Trump’s Middle East adviser, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, did little to discourage such antics. Together, he and MBS dreamt up a new regional order over WhatsApp, calling each other “Jared” and “Muhammad”. Their rapport was so great that, at Kushner’s prompting, MBS started the process of recognizing “Israel”. His father, still officially king, put a stop to that.

    MBS visited America in March 2018, hanging out in Silicon Valley with Peter Thiel and Tim Cook, and meeting celebrities, including Rupert Murdoch, James Cameron and Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. Many people were keen to meet the man who controlled a $230bn sovereign-wealth fund. To his frustration, they were less willing to reciprocate by investing in the kingdom.

    That October the intercontinental bonhomie came to an abrupt halt. I was due to go to a conference in Turkey that month. A Saudi journalist I knew, Jamal Khashoggi, got in touch to suggest meeting up: he was also going to be in Istanbul, for an appointment at the consulate. Khashoggi was a court insider whose criticisms of MBS in the Washington Post and elsewhere had attracted much attention. He seemed to be making more effort than usual to stay in touch. While I was at the conference a friend of his phoned me: Jamal still hadn’t emerged from the consulate, he said. By the time I got there, Turkish police were cordoning off the building.

    The full story soon came out in leaked intelligence reports and, later, a un inquiry. A Saudi hit squad, which reportedly coordinated with Saud al-Qahtani, had flown to Istanbul. As they waited for Khashoggi to enter the consulate, they discussed plans for dismembering his body. According to tapes recorded inside the consulate by Turkish intelligence, Khashoggi was told, “We’re coming to get you.” There was a struggle, followed by the sound of plastic sheets being wrapped. A CIA report said that MBS approved the operation.

    MBS has said he takes responsibility for the murder, but denies ordering it. He sacked Qahtani and another official implicated in the intelligence reports. The fallout was immediate. Companies and speakers pulled out of that year’s Davos in the desert; the Gates Foundation ended its partnership with Misk, an artistic and educational charity set up by the prince. Ari Emanuel, a Hollywood agent, cancelled a $400m deal with the kingdom.

    The crown prince seems to have been genuinely surprised at the animus – “disappointed”, says an associate. Hadn’t he committed to all the reforms the West had been asking for? Perhaps he had underestimated the outcry provoked by going after a well-connected international figure, as opposed to a royal unknown outside Saudi Arabia. Or perhaps he understood Western governments’ priorities better than they did themselves. They had done little when Muhammad bin Nayef, their partner in battling terrorism, had disappeared; they had shrugged at reports of torture in the Ritz-Carlton, and at MBS’s reckless bombardment of Yemen. Why did they have so much to say about the killing of a single journalist?

    Three years after the Khashoggi killing, Davos in the desert opened with the singer Gloria Gaynor. As images of smiling children flashed up on a giant screen behind her, she broke into her disco anthem, “I Will Survive”, asking the audience: “Did you think I’d crumble? Did you think I’d lay down and die?”

    The chief executives of private-equity giants BlackRock and Blackstone were back, as were the heads of Goldman Sachs, SocGen and Standard Chartered. Even Amazon sent a representative despite the fact that its boss, Jeff Bezos, owns the Washington Post, the paper that employed Khashoggi. Meanwhile, Qahtani was creeping back into favor at the royal court – although he had been implicated by the un for Khashoggi’s murder, a Saudi court took the decision not to charge him.

    MBS revitalized the near-dormant sovereign-wealth fund, pumping tens of billions of dollars into tech, entertainment and sports, to create a softer, more appealing image of Saudi and co-opt new partners. In April 2020, the fund led a consortium to buy Newcastle United, a premier-league football team [the deal took 18 months]. The following year it launched an audacious bid to create Saudi’s own golf tour, the LIV series, hoping to lure players with a prize pot of $255m, far larger than that of American tournaments. At the first LIV tour this year, some top players boycotted the event, others went for the cash.

    Joe Biden has proved tougher to woo. Soon after becoming president, Biden withdrew American military support for the war in Yemen. He wouldn’t talk to MBS, insisting that communications go through King Salman instead. He didn’t even nominate an ambassador to Riyadh for 15 months. The chat everywhere was that Saudi-American relations were in a deep freeze. Then, in February 2022, MBS had a stroke of luck: Russia invaded Ukraine.

    In the days after war broke out, Biden himself tried to call MBS. The crown prince declined to speak to the president. He did take Putin’s call, however. The two men were already close. MBS had personally brought Russia into an expanded version of the OPEC cartel in order for Saudi Arabia to keep control of global oil production. Putin cemented the friendship in 2018 at the g20 summit in Buenos Aires, which took place weeks after the Khashoggi killing. While Western leaders shunned MBS, Putin gave the Saudi ruler a high-five before sitting down next to him.

    MBS’s defiance of America seems to have paid off. After months of evasion, Biden reluctantly agreed to meet MBS in Jeddah in July, on the prince’s own turf and his own terms. The visit gave MBS recognition but did little to rebuild relations. There wasn’t even a concrete assurance of increasing oil production.

    Some in the American foreign-policy establishment remain hopeful that MBS could become a helpful partner in the region, pointing to his recent retreat from confrontation with Qatar and his eagerness to find a diplomatic exit from Yemen. Perhaps, they say, he is maturing as a leader.

    This seems optimistic. MBS’s disastrous campaign in Yemen was ostensibly in support of the country’s president but in April, hours after being summoned to a meeting and offered Arabic coffee and dates, Yemen’s president was reading out a resignation speech on tv. MBS took it upon himself to get rid of him personally – suggesting that his mode of international diplomacy remains as high-handed as ever. “What they’ve learned”, says one foreign analyst, “is don’t murder journalists who dine regularly with congressmen in the United States.”

    The West has taught MBS something else, too – something that autocrats the world over may draw comfort from. No matter the sin, they would argue, if you sit tight through the odium and fury, eventually the financiers, the celebrities, even the Western leaders, will come running back. At 36, MBS has time on his side. Some observers fear that he may become only more dangerous as oil reserves start to decline and the treasure trove shrinks. “What happens when he’s a middle-aged man ruling a middle-income country and starts to get bored?” asks a diplomat who knows MBS personally. “Will he go on more adventures?”

    Earlier this year, I visited an old friend in his office in Saudi Arabia. Before we started talking, he put his phone in a pouch that blocks the signal, to prevent government spies from listening in. Dissidents do that kind of thing in police states like China, but I’d never seen it before in Saudi Arabia. It isn’t just people involved with politics who are taking such precautions: most Saudis have become afraid to speak near a functioning mobile phone. People used to talk fairly openly in their offices, homes and cafés. Now, they are picked up for almost nothing.

    As we chatted over the whir of his office air conditioning, my friend reeled off a list of people he knew who had been detained in the past month: a retired air-force chief who died in prison, a hospital administrator hauled away from his desk, a mother taken in front of her seven children, a lawyer who died seven days after his release from prison. “These people aren’t rabble rousers,” my friend said. “No one understands why.”

    Officially, the government says it has no political prisoners. Rights groups reckon that thousands have been swept up in MBS’s dragnet. I’ve covered the Middle East since the 1990s and can’t think of anywhere where so many of my own contacts are behind bars.

    Few ordinary Saudis predicted that when MBS was done trampling on the elites and the clerics, he would come for them next. Bringing Saudis into the modern, networked, online world has made it easier for the state to monitor what they are saying. A Red Crescent employee called Abdulrahman al-Sadhan used to run a satirical Twitter account under a pseudonym. In 2018 MBS’s agents arrested him and held him incommunicado for two years. American prosecutors later charged two former Twitter employees with allegedly handing over the real names behind various accounts to a Saudi official – al-Sadhan’s family believes that his name was among them. [The trial of one employee is ongoing; he denies passing on information to Saudi officials.]

    On the face of it, MBS has nothing to worry about. Public opinion polls – if they can be trusted – suggest he is popular, particularly with younger Saudis. But there is a growing sense that discontent is brewing beneath the surface. MBS has broken crucial social contracts with the Saudi populace, by reducing handouts while, at the same time, dispensing with the tradition of hearing the feedback of ordinary people after Friday prayers.

    It isn’t hard to imagine some of the issues they’d raise if they had the chance. Many people are struggling as the cost of living rises. When other governments were cushioning their citizens during the pandemic, MBS slashed fuel subsidies and tripled vat. Unable to afford the cost of pumping water, some farmers left crops to wither in the field. Fees for permits and fines have spiraled, too. Though MBS speaks eloquently about the country’s youth, he is struggling to find them jobs. Unemployment remains stubbornly stuck in double digits. Half of the jobless have a university degree, but most white-collar workers I met on MBS’s mega-projects were foreign.

    Saudi Arabia’s attempts to diversify its economy – and so compensate for the long-term decline of oil reserves – isn’t going well either. The pandemic delayed plans for a rapid increase in international tourism. Extorting billions of dollars from your relatives may not be the best way to convince investors that the kingdom is a liberal haven.

    The young prince has reversed even the baby steps towards democracy taken by previous kings. Municipal elections have been suspended – as a cost-cutting exercise, explains the supine press. The Shura Council, a consultative body of 150 people, has only met online since the pandemic [other institutions have gathered in person for months]. “I wish I had more of a voice,” said one member. Whenever I mentioned the prince, his leg twitched.

    A frequent visitor to the royal court says MBS now gives the impression of someone who’s always thinking that people are plotting against him. He seems to be preoccupied with loyalty. He fills key posts either with young royals, foreigners with no local base to threaten him or people he has already broken. A government minister, Ibrahim Assaf, was one of those locked up in the Ritz-Carlton – two months later MBS sent him to the World Economic Forum as his representative. A senior executive on one of his construction projects is someone who says he was tortured in one of his prisons. “He went from being strung naked from his ankles, beaten and stripped of all his assets to a high-level project manager,” says a close acquaintance of the man.

    All remain vulnerable to MBS’s tantrums. Saudi sources say he once locked a minister in a toilet for ten hours. [The minister later appeared on tv blabbering platitudes about the prince’s wisdom.] A senior official I’ve spoken to says he wants out. “Everyone in his circle is terrified of him,” says an insider. And that could make it hard for him to govern a country of 35m people effectively. Former courtiers say no one close to MBS is prepared to offer a truthful assessment of whether his increasingly grandiose schemes are viable. “Saying no”, says one, “is not something they will ever do.”

    If MBS has a mission beyond extending his power, you might expect to find it in Neom, the city he promised to build in the desert. Neom would be nothing less than “a civilizational leap for humanity”, he said in 2017. Head-spinning details followed. The city’s food would be grown on hydroponic walls on a floating structure. It would be powered by the world’s largest green-hydrogen plant. Thousands of snow-blowers would create a ski resort on a nearby mountain. One day it would have driverless cars and passenger drones.

    According to the official timetable, the main city would be completed by 2020. Further districts would be added by 2025. The prince’s tourism minister, Ahmed al-Khateeb, dismissed rumors that the timetable was proving over-ambitious. “Come see with your eyes and not with your ears,” he urged. So, I went.

    Finding Neom was the first problem. There were no road signs to it. After three hours’ drive we came to the spot indicated by the map. It was bare, but for the odd fig tree. Camels strolled across the empty highway. Piles of rubble lined the road, remnants of the town bulldozed to make way for the mighty metropolis.

    The designated area is nearly the size of Belgium. As far as I could tell, only two projects had been completed, MBS’s palace, and something Google Earth calls “The Neom Experience Centre” [when I drove to see it, it was obscured by a prefabricated hut]. The only other solid building I could see was a hotel constructed before Neom was conceived: The Royal Tulip. A poster in the lobby urged me to “Discover Neom”. But when I asked for a guide the hotel manager cursed my sister with Arabic vulgarities and tried to shoo me away. There was no sign of the media hub with “frictionless facilitation”, “advanced infrastructure” and “collaborative ecosystems” promised by the Neom website. Neom’s head of communications and media, Wayne Borg, said he was “out of Kingdom at present”.

    The hotel restaurant was teeming with consultants – all the ones I met were foreign. I later found a Saudi project manager. “We think we’re about to start working, but every two months the consultants coin a new plan,” he told me. “They’re still doing plans of plans.” There was a kind of manic short-termism among these foreigners. Many were paid $40,000 a month, plus handsome bonuses. “It’s like riding a bull,” one of the Neom consultants told me. “You know you’re gonna fall, that no one can last on a bull longer than a minute and a half, two minutes, so you make the most of it.”

    Despite the high salaries, there are reports that foreigners are leaving the Neom project because they find the gap between expectations and reality so stressful. The head of Neom is said by his friends to be “terrified” at the lack of progress.

    Eventually, I found a retired Saudi air-force technician who offered to drive me around the city for $600. He took me to a sculpture standing in the desert with the words, “I love Neom”. A short way farther on we found a new stretch of tarmac, said to mark the edge of the dream city. Beyond it, the lone and level sands stretched far away.

    From Balkh to Konya: Discovering Rumi’s spiritual geopolitics

    July 30 2022

    By Pepe Escobar

    Source

    While Jalal al-Din Rumi is synonymous with Islamic mysticism, a deeper dig brings to light the West Asian political changes and upheaval that shaped his world and other-worldly view.

    KONYA – Mystic poet, Sufi, theosophist, and thinker, Jalal al-Din Rumi remains one of the most beloved historical personalities in history, east and west. A wanderer in search of the light, he famously characterized himself thus: “I am nothing more than a humble lover of God.”

    The era of Rumi’s father – Sultan Bahaeddin Veled (1152-1231) and son (1207-1273) – was an extraordinary socio-political rollercoaster. It’s absolutely impossible for us today to understand the ideas, allusions and parables that trespass Rumi’s magnum opus, the six-volume Masnevi , in 25,620 couplets, without delving into some serious time travel.

    In the Masnevi , written in Persian – the prime literary language in West and Central Asia in those times – Rumi used poetry essentially as a tool for teaching divine secrets, explaining them via parables. The Rumi Project is to show Man the path to Divine Love, leading him from a low stage to the highest. Squeezed and subdued by the techno-feudalism juggernaut, we may now need to heed these lessons more than ever in history.

    The Masnevi became hugely popular across Eurasia immediately after Rumi’s death in 1273 – from India, Pakistan and Afghanistan to Central Asia, Iran and Turkey. Then, slowly but surely, the man and the opus ended up reaching even the collective west (Goethe was mesmerized) and inspiring a wealth of learned commentaries, in Persian, Ottoman Turkish, Urdu and English.

    “The master from Anatolia”

    Let’s start our time travel in the 11th century, when some Turkish tribes, after crossing Transoxiana, began to settle in northern Persia. These new Turkish tribes – from the Ghaznavids to the Seljuks (actually the branch of a Turkoman tribe) – constituted fabulous dynasties that played a key role in the inter-mixing of Turkic and Persian culture (what the Chinese today, applying it to the New Silk Roads, call “people to people contacts”).

    Islam spread very fast in Persia under the rule of the religiously tolerant Samanids. That was the foundation stone for Mahmud of Ghazna (998-1030) to form a great Turkish empire, from northeastern Persia to very remote parts of India. Mahmud made a great impression on Rumi.

    While the Ghaznavids remained powerful in eastern Persia, the Seljuks established a powerful empire not only in parts of Iran but also in the remote lands of Anatolia (called Arz-I Rum). That’s the reason why Rumi is called Mavlana-yi Rum (“the master from Anatolia”).

    Rumi as a kid lived in legendary Balkh (part of Khorasan in northern Afghanistan), capital of the Khwarazm empire. When he and his father were still there, the king was Ala al-Din, who came from a dynasty established by a Turkish slave.

    After a series of incredibly messy kingdom clashes, Ala al-Din saw himself pitted in battle against the king of Samarkand, Osman Khan. That ended up in a massacre in 1212, in which Ala al-Din’s soldiers killed 10,000 people in Samarkand. The young Rumi was shocked.

    Ala al-Din wanted to be no less than the absolute ruler of the Muslim world. He refused to obey the Caliph in Baghdad. He even started entertaining designs on China – where Genghis Khan had already conquered Pekin.

    Ala al-Din sent an envoy to China who was very well treated by Genghis, who had an eye on – what else – good business between the two empires (the Silk Road bug, again). Genghis sent his ambassadors back, full of gifts. Ala al-Din received them in Transoxiana in 1218.

    But then the governor of one of his provinces, a close relative, robbed and killed some of the Mongols. Genghis demanded punishment. The Sultan refused. Well, you don’t want to pick up a fight with Genghis Khan. He duly started a series of massacres in Persia, and inevitably the Khwarazm empire – along with its great cities, Samarkand, Bukhara, Balkh, Merv – collapsed. By then, Rumi and his father had already left.

    Like Baghdad, each of these fabulous cities was a center of learning. Rumi’s Balkh had a mixed culture of Arabs, Sassanians, Turks, Buddhists and Christians. After Alexander The Great, Balkh became the hub of Greco-Bactria. Just before the coming of Islam, it was a Buddhist hub and a center of Zoroastrian teaching. All along, one of the great centers of the Ancient Silk Roads.

    On the road with 300 camels

    The hero of Rumi’s Masnevi, Ibrahim Adham, like the Buddha, had relinquished his throne for the love of God, setting the example for the Sufism that later came to flourish across these latitudes, known as the Khorasani school.

    As Prof Dr Erkan Turkmen, who was born in Peshawar and today is a top scholar at Karatay University in Konya, and author, among others, of a lovely volume, ‘Roses from Rumi’s Rose Garden’ says, there are two top reliable sources for the extraordinary pilgrimage of Rumi’s father Bahaeddin and his family from Balkh to Konya, with books, food and house ware loaded on the back of 300 camels, accompanied by 40 religious people. The sources, inevitably, are father and son (Rumi’s account is written in verse).

    The first major stop was Baghdad. At the entrance gates, the guards asked who they were. Rumi’s father said, “We are coming from God and shall go back to Him. We have come from the non-existent world and shall go there again.”

    Caliph al-Nasir summoned his top scholar Suhreverdi, who immediately gave the green light to the newcomers. But Rumi’s father did not want to stay under the protection of the Caliph, who was noted for his cruelness. So after a few years he left for Mecca on a Hajj and then to Damascus – which was an extremely well organized city at the time of the Abbasids and the Seljuks, crammed with 660 mosques, more than 40 madrassas, 100 baths and plenty of famous scholars.

    The final steps on the family journey were Erjinzan in Anatolia – already a center of trade and culture – and then Larende (now Karaman), 100km south of Konya. Today, Karaman is only a small Turkish province, but in those times extended as far as Antalya to the south. It housed a lot of Christian Turks, who wrote Turkish using the Greek alphabet.

    That’s where Rumi got married. Afterwards, his father was invited by Sultan Ala al-Din Kayqubad I (1220-1237) to Konya, finally establishing himself and the family until his death in 1231.

    The Seljuks in Anatolia erupted into history in the year 1075, when Alp Arslan defeated the Byzantines in the legendary battle of Manzikert. A century later, in 1107, Qilich Arslan defeated the Crusaders, and the Seljuk empire began to spread very fast. It took a few decades before Christians started to accept the inevitable: the presence of Turks in Anatolia. Later, they even started to intermix.

    The golden era of the Seljuks was under Sultan Ala al-Din Kayqubad I (the one who invited Rumi’s family to Konya), who built citadels around Konya and Kayseri to protect them from the coming Mongol invasion, and spent his winters at the beautiful Mediterranean coast in Antalya.

    In Konya, Rumi did not get into politics, and does not seem to have had close relations with the royal family. He was widely known either as Mevlana (our master) or Rumi (the Anatolian). In Turkey today he is simply known as Mevlana, and in the west as Rumi. In his lyrical poetry, he uses the pseudonym Khamush (Silent). Sultan Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP – a highly materialistic enterprise wallowing in dodgy businesses – is not exactly fond of Rumi’s Sufism.

    Under the Green Dome

    As we’ve seen, Rumi spent most of his childhood on the road – so he never attended regular school. His early education was provided by his father and other scholars who followed the family to Karaman. Rumi also met many other famous scholars along the way, especially in Baghdad and Damascus, where he studied Islamic history, the Quran, and Arabic.

    When Rumi was about to finish the 6th volume of the Masnevi, he fell ill, under constant fever. He passed away on 17 December, 1273. A fund of 130,000 dirhams was organized to build his tomb, which includes the world-famous Green Dome (Qubbat ul-Khazra), originally finished in 1274 and currently under renovation.

    The tomb today is a museum (Konya holds astonishing relics especially in the Ethnography and Archeology museums). But for most pilgrims from all lands of Islam and beyond who come to pay their spiritual tributes, it is actually regarded as a lover’s shrine (Kaaba-yi Ushaq).

    These lines, inscribed in his splendid wooden sarcophagus, may be a summary of all that Rumi attempted to teach during his lifetime:

    “If wheat is grown on the clay of my grave, and if you bake bread of it, your intoxication will increase, the dough and the baker will go mad and the oven will also begin to recite verses out of madness. When you pay a visit to my tomb, it will seem to be dancing for God has created me out of the wine of love and I am still the same love even if death may crush me.”

    A Sufi is by definition a lover of God. Islamic mysticism considers three stages of knowledge: the knowledge of certainty, the eye of certainty, and the truth of certainty.

    In the first stage, one tries to find God by intellectual proof (failure is inevitable). In the second stage, one may be tuned in to divine secrets. In the third stage, one is able to see Reality and understand It spiritually. That’s a path not dissimilar to reaching enlightenment in Buddhism.

    In addition to these three stages, there are paths to follow toward God. Choosing a path – Tarikat – is a very complicated business. It can be any Sufi order – such as Mavleviya, Kadriya, Nakshbandiya – under the guidance of a sheikh of that particular Tarikat.

    In these absurdist times of grain diplomacy barely able to remedy the toxic effects of imperial sanctions, part of a proxy war of civilizations, a Rumi verse – “The celestial mill gives nothing if you have no wheat” – may open unexpected vistas.

    Rumi is essentially saying that if one goes to a flour mill without wheat, what shall we gain? Nothing but the whiteness of one’s beard and hair (because of the flour). In the same vein: “If we have no good deeds to take with us to the other world, we will gain nothing but pain in the heart, while if we have developed our spiritual being, we will gain honor and Divine Love.”

    Now try to explain that to a crusading collective west.

    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov : Member countries of the African Union

    July 29, 2022

    Editorial Comment: Mr Lavrov’s visits to Arab states, the Arab League, and African states can only be described as a stunning victory and a complete triumph for diplomacy. A short overview is included in the second part of this Operation Z situation report: http://thesaker.is/sitrep-operation-z-collapses-and-progress/
    All of the various transcripts can be read at the MFA site: https://www.mid.ru/en/
    Short comments and summaries can be found on the MFA Telegram Channel: https://t.me/MFARussia



    Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s statement and answers to the questions during a meeting with permanent representatives of the member countries of the African Union and the diplomatic corps, Addis Ababa, July 27, 2022

    Your Excellencies,

    Ladies and gentlemen,

    Representatives of the media,

    Thank you very much for coming here at our invitation. I believed that being in Addis Ababa, it is absolutely important to meet with the African Union members, like I did during all my previous visits. We could not do this at the headquarters for, as far as I understand, scheduling reasons. And I’m glad that you’ve accepted our invitation to come here to the Russian Embassy to discuss issues which are on the top of international agenda.

    Many of our Western colleagues try to send the message that the key, if not the only, problem in international relations is the situation around Ukraine. I tend to disagree with such an assertion and during my visit here and  in my previous encounters with my foreign colleagues, I sense a broad understanding that the issue is much more complex and complicated.

    What we witness now, especially as the West launches an unprecedented campaign of sanctions, accusations, threats, vis-à-vis Russia and anybody who dares to support Russia or even not to condemn Russia. This campaign indicates that we are living through a very important historical period, a period where we will all be deciding what kind of universe we are going to have and to leave for our children and grandchildren. The universe which is based on the United Nations Charter, which says that the United Nations is founded on the principle of sovereign equality of states, or we will have the world where the right of force, the right of the strongest dominates.

    Actually, what it is all about can be described on the following example. Is it our choice to have the world where we have the so-called collective West, totally subordinated to the United States and feeling free, feeling that it has the right to decide when and how to promote its own interests without following the international law, without any respect to the sovereign equality of states?

    When our American colleagues felt in the past that there was a threat to their interests, tens of thousands kilometers from the American coast, be it Yugoslavia in 1999, be it Iraq in 2003, be it Libya in 2011, and many other occasions, without any hesitation, without explaining anything to anybody, very often on false pretexts, they just started military operations levelling cities, killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, like it happened in Iraq in the city of Mosul which was literally levelled. The same happened to Raqqa in Syria, where dozens and hundreds of corpses have been lying for weeks unattended and I don’t recall the progressive civilized community raising any big noise about that situation.

    When the Russian Federation, not just overnight, but for the last ten long years has been drawing the attention of the United States and its allies to the unacceptable policy which they have been promoting on Ukraine, building Ukraine as a stronghold to contain Russia, pumping more and more modern arms in Ukraine, planning to build naval and military bases in that country and encouraging in all possible ways Russophobic policies of its leaders; when in 2014 we categorically protested to the West that in spite of its guarantees, the opposition in Ukraine staged a bloody coup and when they came to power, the first thing they did was to demand to cancel the status of the Russian language which has been the historical language of Ukraine from the very beginning. They also demanded the Russians to get out of Crimea. They sent armed groups to storm the Parliament of Crimea and then the eastern part of Ukraine protested against the coup.

    The putchists called them separatists, terrorists and started a full-fledged military operation against them. And the West as I’ve said, which had guaranteed only a few days before that – guaranteed a peace deal between the former president and the opposition, the deal which provided for creation of a government of national unity and early elections, – this deal was disrupted overnight and the opposition bragged that they created the government of the winners.

    See the difference: the government of national unity and the government of the winners. This was an invitation for the civil war because the opposition called part of its own citizens “losers” while the opposition became “winners”.

    So when this all started we managed, together with some other countries, to stop it in February 2015 – Minsk Agreements were signed – keeping Ukraine one-piece.

    The eastern territories of Ukraine that originally after the coup declared independence were persuaded not to insist on independence and to agree to stay inside Ukraine by these Minsk Agreements, provided they are given a special status. First of all, the right to use the Russian language.

    This was endorsed by the Security Council and this was systemically and totally ignored and sabotaged by the Kiev regime with the encouragement of the West.

    There was no direct dialogue between Kiev and those territories in spite of the fact that this was directly demanded from the Ukrainian regime by the Security Council.

    And few weeks ago the former President of Ukraine P.Poroshenko who signed the Minsk Agreements, proudly stated to the media that “When I was signing it, I never intended to implement it. We just needed more time to get more weapons from the West in order to enable us to resolve the problem of Ukrainian East by the use of force.” Very honestly.

    But this is totally neglected by the West. So we have been knocking on the door of our Western colleagues at least since 2013, telling them that this is absolutely a red line when you create a direct threat to the Russian Federation just on our borders. When you create a Russophobic state, which during all these years, managed to pass series of laws, prohibiting – physically, literally, – the use of Russian language in education, in culture, in media, and even in day-to-day life.

    And at the same time, legislation was passed to legalize neo-Nazi theories and practices. Neo-Nazi battalions with swastikas and insignias of Waffen-SS, have been mushrooming in Ukraine and becoming the cornerstone of the Ukrainian Army.

    It’s a very radicalized country. They glorify the collaborators of Hitler condemned by the Nuremberg Tribunal and all this is being done with silent encouragement by the United States and the European Union. And the process which I’ve described was accompanied by the Western attempts, not attempts – policy – to pull Ukraine into NATO.

    Dozens of military exercises of NATO with Ukraine were held on Ukrainian territory with an obvious anti-Russian dimension. The efforts of Russia during all these years – it was not just, you know, we say today that this is a threat and excuse us, but we need to remove this threat. It has been happening for at least ten years.

    When we’ve told our Western colleagues, “Guys, why are you pulling Ukraine to NATO? You know that this is a hostile organization vis-a-vis Russia, they were telling us, ‘Don’t worry, it will not be detrimental to your security.’”

    Russia, as any other self-respectful country has the right to determine itself what is good for its security and what is not. In that case, NATO members led by the United States, opted to decide for us what is good for the Russian Federation.

    We reminded them that many years ago in 2010, they all signed up a declaration saying that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe will be based on the principle of equal and indivisible security, which means that any country can choose alliances, but no country has the right in choosing alliances to increase its security at the expense of the security of other countries. And that no single organization in Europe can pretend to dominate the security space.

    NATO is doing exactly this. And NATO, of course, is strengthening the security of its own at the expense of the security of the Russian Federation, because the borders of NATO have been moved just to the borders of Russia.

    So we told them, “Guys, political commitments to which your presidents and prime ministers put the signatures don’t work. Let’s make this principle that the security is indivisible and must be equal for all, let’s make it legally binding.”

    And we suggested to them respective treaties several times. First, back in 2009 and the last attempt was in December of 2021. And they told us, “Look gentlemen, first there would be no legally binding security guarantees except for NATO members. And second, as regards Ukraine, the relations between NATO and Ukraine are none of your business.” And that was the end of it.

    And parallel with this absolute rejection of constructive efforts we have been undertaking for many, many years, parallel to this the Ukrainians, in violation of the Minsk Agreements, started to accumulate huge military force on the line of contact with the eastern part of the country where the two republics have been under siege, basically. They intensified radically the shelling and bombing of those territories.

    When we understood that there would be no agreement on security guarantees in Europe which would be equal, when we understood that there would be no implementation of the Minsk Agreements because the Ukrainian leadership publicly renounced this, and when we understood that the only way to save the people in the east of Ukraine was to recognize these two republics, we did so.

    We signed the Treaty on Mutual Assistance with them and at their request, we are now exercising a special military operation aimed at saving lives of the citizens of the Donbass and removing any possibility for Ukrainian territory to be used to threaten the security of the Russian Federation.

    I am sure that you have been following the events. I know that the Western media presents the situation in a totally distorted manner. If only to mention the so-called food crisis, as if nothing was of concern before February this year.

    If you read the reports of the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization, you will refresh your memory and establish the fact that the problems in the world food market started at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when in an attempt to fight this virus and the pandemic consequences the US, the EU and Japan have made an emission for eight trillion dollars’ worth without any economic substantiation, and they use this empty money to buy food and all other goods which they believe would be necessary in case pandemic takes long and there will be closure of countries.

    Then there were, of course, increases, long ago, of the price of fertilizers because of the reckless policy of the Western countries on the so-called Green Transition, because the energy supplies, the classical energy resources were more or less discriminated and all this has brought the price of fertilizers high, which of course affected the price of food, and so on and so forth. And then there were not very conducive climate conditions for a couple of years.

    And yes, the situation in Ukraine did affect, additionally, negatively affected food markets. But not because of the Russian special operation, rather due to the absolutely inadequate reaction of the West, which announced sanctions, undermining the availability of the food on the markets.

    When we explain this to them, they say, “Food and fertilizers are not covered by sanctions”. Yes, but you know, half-truth is worse than a lie. And the truth is that the list of sanctions does not contain an item saying “food”, but what it does contain is prohibition for the Russian ships to call to the ports in the Mediterranean, prohibition for the foreign ships to call on the Russian ports, to pick up food and other cargo, prohibition to insure the Russian ships, because of which insurance prices quadrupled overnight. And of course, prohibition for the main Russian bank, Russian Agricultural Bank, which has always served the payments for Russian food exports – it was listed in the European Union sanctions.

    So the latest attempt by our Turkish friends and the Secretary General of the United Nations resulted in a deal between Russia and the United Nations, whereby Secretary General Guterres committed himself to press the Western countries to lift those restrictions, which I just quoted. We’ll see whether he can succeed.

    And the same deal as you know, provided for Ukraine an obligation to demine its coastal line for the ships which have been locked there, I think 70 ships from 16 countries since February, to allow them out of the Ukrainian territorial waters, after which Turkish and Russian fleet will ensure their safe travel to the straits and then to the Mediterranean.

    So those were the agreements, which could have been announced long, long ago, if not for the Western stubbornness in insisting that they are always right, and all those who don’t agree with them, of course, are always wrong.

    A similar situation is taking place with the energy markets. Many years ago, before February this year, the West started discriminating Russian energy projects. First, the project called Nord Stream 1 was limited by 50% of its capacity for no good reason at all. Europe deprived itself of 50% of Russian cheap, accessible gas.

    Then Nord Stream 2 was blocked by absolutely illegal action when the legal committee of the European Union ruled that the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline was built and financed and invested, fully aligned with the existing European norms.

    But after that, the European Commission changed the rules retrospectively and applied the new rules to the investment which took place legally several years ago.

    So Nord Stream 2 is also not available. Poland, several months ago, stopped taking gas from a direct pipeline from Russia. Ukraine stopped one of the two transit lines through its territory from Russia. And there was some hassle with that turbine which went for maintenance to Canada, then Canada didn’t want to bring it back.

    I listed five or six factors which immediately negatively affected gas supplies to Europe volume-wise. And, of course, the less you buy from Russia through a pipeline, which is a price established for long-term, the more expensive prices on the spot.

    It reached yesterday, I think, $2,200 for a thousand cubic meters. So the attempts to blame us for everything which goes wrong is an attempt with not very clean purposes and intentions.

    What is my point? My point is that it’s a period of history where we will have to choose either to go down the current, which the West tries to move, saying that the world must be run not by international law, but by the rules.

    They coined an expression “rules-based world order”. And if you analyze the behavior of our Western colleagues in the international arena, you will understand that these rules differ from case to case. There is no single criteria. There is no single principle, except one. If I want something, you have to obey. If you don’t obey, you would be punished.

    This is the picture for the future offered to us by the rules-based world order promoted by the West. Basically, this is the unipolar world where the United States, which subordinated to its own will everybody else in the European Union and allies in Asia… This is the offer. Not even an offer, it is an ultimatum actually.

    The alternative to this, and I’m sure that the overwhelming majority of the world countries do not want to live as if the colonial times came back, that the vast majority of the states want to be independent, want to rely on their own tradition, to rely on their own history, to rely on their old friends, don’t want to betray their old friends.

    And this is basically evident from the fact that except two or three developing countries, no one else in Africa, Asia or Latin America joined the illegal American and European sanctions.

    And back to the United Nations Charter. I believe, when we speak about more just, more democratic world order, we don’t need to invent anything. Once again, I quote the Charter which says that the United Nations is based on the principle of sovereign equality of states.

    And to recognize that each state is independent, each state has the right to determine how it wants to live, what kind of economic, social, political system it wants to choose on the basis of the will of its people. And I have no slightest doubt that any normal state wants to be like this. Nobody wants to have enemies. This is also an absolute truth. Neither Russia nor any other country present in this hall – I have no doubt.

    But if countries, like we witness now the behavior of the West, if they do want to have enemies, as they publicly declared in their doctrines, in the decisions of the latest NATO summit in Madrid – they do want enemies, they appoint enemies, they appoint the order in which they handle these enemies. Now Russia is the first, China is earmarked as the existential challenge for the long term. And all this manifests in renewed thinking about how the world economy and the world system operates.

    If the US and the European Union – under the demand of the US – decided to freeze the Russian reserves – and now they seriously start a legal process to prepare the basis to confiscate the Russian money – who knows… If they become irritated by somebody else tomorrow or the day after, they might do the same.

    In other words, the reliance on dollar as the instrument supporting the world economy is not very promising, frankly speaking. And it is not by incident that more and more countries are shifting to using alternative currencies, shifting to use national currencies more and more, and this process will be gaining momentum.

    This is not to say that we are suggesting some kind of revolution against the dollar, against the United States – this is to state the obvious: the West created a system which was based on certain principles – free market, fair competition, sanctity of private property, presumption of innocence, and something else. All these principles have been thrown down the drain when they needed to do what they believe is to punish Russia.

    And I don’t have the slightest doubt that, if need be, they will not hesitate to do the same in relation to any other country which would irritate them one way or another.

    I mentioned China as the next target. It’s a very interesting example of how the Americans consider fair competition in practice. Actually, China developed into the number one world economy – everybody recognizes this – and China did so, China achieved those results, working and acting on the basis of the rules established by the West. The IMF, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization, the rules to settle disputes, competition and the stuff. China accepted those rules in developing its own economy and China defeated the West, economically and trade-wise, investment-wise, on its own turf, on the basis of the rules invented by the West.

    And what happened next? Already a couple of years ago, the Secretary of Treasury of the United States and some other officials started saying, “We need to reform the Bretton Woods Institutions, we need to reform the WTO and we need to organize this reform between the US and Europe not to allow anybody else to participate in developing new rules.”

    Guys, it is absolutely obvious, how they want this world to be operated. And I believe, as long as it is not too late, we would be ready to talk to our Western friends when they come back to their senses about how they think they should live together with all of us in the future. But this conversation can only be made on full equality, with full respect to the legitimate interests of all of us.

    If I took too long of your time, I apologize. And I understand there might be a couple of questions, right?

    Question: Your Excellency, Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation,

    On behalf of the people of South Sudan, the Government and on my own behalf, I wish to take this opportunity to express my personal gratitude to the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Ethiopia for inviting me and my delegation here.

    We are grateful that our two countries, the Russian Federation and the Republic of South Sudan enjoy cordial bilateral relations, dating back to the day of our declaration of independence, where the Russian people and their Government were among those who recognized our statehood on July 9, 2011. Since then Your Excellency, the people and the governments of two countries have stood with the people and the Government of South Sudan in many ways.

    The people of South Sudan wish to express their gratitude for your immense support in the UNSC, the Human Rights Council in Geneva and other activities where you supported us. First of all, as you explained, Your Excellency, you outlined your view on sanctions. Now we know what’s really going on.

    On the current political situation in my country I would like to inform Your Excellency the Minister that the signed revitalized peace agreement of 2018 is holding despite the challenges that you have mentioned. These include numerous sanctions by Western countries and their allies, and an arms embargo. Other factors of concern are natural disasters, such as heavy rains…

    Sergey Lavrov: I apologize, can you pass on this text? Because it would be useful and more polite to the others. Ok? Please, pass it. Thank you!

    Just one remark. We are against those sanctions which are intended to punish people. And don’t forget that the initiators of these sanctions against you are exactly the same countries who wanted to create South Sudan out of Sudan.

    Question: Thank you very much for giving a very detailed and covering all important aspects in your briefing. A short question: How the hegemony of dollar can be controlled by international community because right now the countries like Pakistan and many developing countries are suffering from huge debt that continues to grow. The problem is getting worse. I would like you to clarify the situation.

    Sergey Lavrov: I am not an expert in monetary affairs. What I said was it’s an obvious feeling by many countries that the dollar is not reliable, because the capricious behavior could be aimed at anyone in the future.

    I know that you can feel this on yourself, if you compare the situation of 20-30 years ago and now. So, it’s life. It’s life. And nobody wants to go to war because of the dollar and I believe this is crazy.  But people want to have some insurance as regards the reliability of their economic and trade relations with their partners. And there are examples, including the use of national currencies, including barter, including clearing mechanisms. Some might say this is going back to the past instruments of conducting trade. But there would be digital currencies, I don’t have the slightest doubt, which are already being developed in China, for example, in Venezuela, in Iran.

    We are thinking about this as well. It’s the beginning of a process. Now we have accumulated the elements of the problem and we know that it must be addressed.

    Question: With an approach of winter during which gas importations increase. How does Russia going to export its gas and circumvent the sanctions imposed? 15 African countries import more than 50% of their grain from Russia. The situation also affected the exports from African countries to Russia. How does Russia intend to manage trade relations with Africa?

    Sergey Lavrov: I think I addressed both issues in my remarks. I hope you listened to me. Antonio Guterres personally promised to make sure that the US and EU remove any obstacles to the export of Russian grain. If you add your noble voice to his efforts, I think it would be useful.

    And on gas prices – I also explained how Europe systemically, during the last almost ten years, was creating barriers on the way of bringing to European countries cheap and accessible Russian gas.

    I listed five or six specific decisions which were cutting more and more of Russian exports, vacating the room in Europe for much more expensive LNG from the United States, just like, you know, the US insists that Europe sends all its weapons to Ukraine, vacating the arms market in Europe for the import of American weapons. It’s “nothing personal, it’s business.”

    As regards your country (Algeria), the Europeans are now thinking of alternative sources of supply. They have suffocated themselves with their own hands the pipeline routes from Russia. Now they are  looking for alternatives. And I know that the Mediterranean, including Algeria, is one of those sources.

    They would be asking you to help, and it’s up to your companies to decide, it’s up to your government to decide.

    In our case, according to our experiences that when we had long-term contracts with Europe, these long-term contracts protected our interests. But, a few years ago, Europe started cutting long-term contracts saying, “Let’s shift to the spot market”. And the spot market does not guarantee that you will have a long-term investment justified.

    So, what we see now is not a scientific, not a responsible approach to the energy markets – it’s a hectic search for something which can save you this winter, with the green agenda shelved for the time being.

    The coal is coming back, polluting the atmosphere – it’s a mess, if you take a look at the energy and environment policy that Europe is promoting. I am sorry to say this. We are not getting any happiness or joy from what Europe is experiencing, but they have been doing this to themselves for quite some time already.

    Ladies and gentlemen, I have to apologize because the minister – my colleague from Ethiopia – is   waiting for me for the next event. Once again I want to thank you whole-heartedly for accepting our invitation. I hope it was not a waste of time. I tried to be as frank as I can, and we would be ready to promote dialogue with the African Union.

    Unfortunately, we could not meet at the headquarters. And we would be ready for a dialogue on all these and any other issues of interest and of importance with you bilaterally. With all of you we have good relations and channels of communication.

    I wish you all the best and keep healthy. Thank you very much.

    Major news day for Russia: In conclusion of his working visit to Iran, Vladimir Putin answered questions from the media.

    July 20, 2022

    In conclusion of his working visit to Iran, Vladimir Putin answered questions from the media.

    Question: Mr President, some would think the world has forgotten about Syria amid the numerous issues on the international agenda. But we have seen today that this is not so.

    We would like to hear your views on the situation on the ground in Syria. A great deal has been said today about points of contact, but there are many differences as well. Have you discussed or coordinated any fundamentally new solutions today? I am referring primarily to these differences.

    President of Russia Vladimir Putin: What I would like to begin with is not the differences but the fundamental issues that allow us to work and continue our efforts in the trilateral format. All of us believe that it I necessary to guarantee the territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic and to eliminate all sorts of terrorists, which I will not enumerate here. This is the fundamental and the most important thing, as we have pointed out again in our joint statement. I believe that this is very important.

    Yes, there are certain differences, which is obvious, but all of us support the constitutional process. Thanks to our efforts, we have brought together various conflicting parties at one negotiating platform, including the opposition and the official authorities of the Syrian Arab Republic, experts and representatives of public organisations, as well as the UN. I believe this is extremely important. This is the first point.

    The second. Humanitarian aid is being provided to Syria, for which there is particularly great demand today, because the sanctions imposed on Syria and the Syrian people have produced a deplorable result: nearly 90 percent of people in Syria are living below the poverty line. The situation in Syria is extremely serious.

    Of course, it would be unfair to give priority attention to certain groups, to politicise humanitarian aid.

    Third. There are different approaches to organising humanitarian aid. We have always believed that it should be organised in full compliance with international humanitarian law. This means that all humanitarian aid must be provided through the official Syrian authorities, through Damascus. However, we have agreed to extend the existing procedure for six months, including for deliveries to the Idlib zone, so as to have more time for coordinating our positions.

    There is some disagreement about what is happening in Northern Syria. Incidentally, we also have some common ground here: all of us believe that US troops should leave this area. This is the first point. And they should stop looting the Syrian state, the Syrian people, taking their oil illegally. But there is disagreement about how to organise and stabilise the situation in that region. As you know, Russian-Turkish observation convoys are working there together.

    However, in our view, in order to ensure a long-term, stable situation there it is necessary to transfer the entire territory under the control of the official authorities in Damascus, under the control of the Armed Forces of the Syrian Arab Republic, and then it will be possible to hold a dialogue with those who are responsible – in this case the official Syrian authorities. I believe it would greatly stabilise the situation there.

    But in general, it is work in progress. As I have said many times and would like to stress once again, the work of this tripartite group – Russia, Turkiye and Iran – this joint effort to search for compromises and find these compromises has led to the fact that over 90% of Syria is now under official government control and, as we say in such cases, we have broken the back of international terrorism there. This is a great result of this joint work.

    Question: Mr President, you had three one-on-one meetings today, first with Mr Raisi, then with Mr Khamenei, and then with Mr Erdogan, and there were no news conferences after these meetings. All we know is the topic you were discussing, the official part.

    In particular, you said that you discussed the grain issue with your Turkish counterpart, the issue of supplying Russian and Ukrainian grain to international markets. Could you tell us some more about that, please?

    Vladimir Putin: There are no secrets here; in fact, almost everything is known. There are some subtleties; maybe I do not always have time to follow what is happening in the information field. I will tell you how I see it.

    First, what was the highlight of the three meetings? At each meeting, there were issues that could be considered central to a particular bilateral meeting.

    For example, as I said at the news conference, in my press statement, the main theme at the meeting with the Spiritual Leader of Iran was strategic issues, including developments in the region. This is natural, as it is the sphere of his activity. It was very important for me to hear his opinion, his assessment. I have to say that we have very similar views with Iran on many aspects. So, it was very important and very useful.

    As for my meeting with President Raisi, we discussed primarily economic matters. I would like to note that Russian-Iranian trade has grown by 40 percent over the past six months. This is a very good indicator.

    There are promising spheres for our cooperation, and there is a great variety of them, like infrastructure development. You may know that a deputy prime minister of the Russian Government chairs a group that is responsible for developing relations in the South Caucasus, including infrastructure projects in the South Caucasus, that is, in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia. A great deal can be achieved in this sphere in cooperation with Iran.

    As you know, the first pilot train is travelling along the North-South Railway line. It is a short route to ports in the south of Iran, which further leads to the Persian Gulf and India.

    There is a practical project: the Rasht-Astara railway is a short 146-kilometre line across Iran. Azerbaijan is interested in its construction. I recently met with President Aliyev during the Caspian Summit, and we discussed this matter. Iran is interested in this as well, as our Iranian partners have told us just now. Russia is interested in this, because it will connect Russia’s northern region, St Petersburg, directly to the Persian Gulf. It is a very interesting and promising project. The task now is to build this line, which is only 146 kilometres. Russia is ready to do this.

    We need to coordinate the conditions of this construction project. We have discussed its general outlines with our Iranian partners and friends, and we have coordinated it with Azerbaijan. I hope we will get down to business now. And then, it will be an interesting job for us. It actually amounts to exporting the services of Russian Railways (RZD). This is one of the relevant examples.

    There are other spheres. There are security issues relevant to Iran’s nuclear programme. It was very important for us to understand the sentiments of the Iranian party regarding this work. It also involves Russia, which is contributing to the joint efforts aimed at relaunching interaction between Iran and the IAEA. I will not speak about this now, but Russia is playing a considerable role in this.

    The grain issue. It is what we discussed with the President of Turkiye. I have already said that the Republic of Turkiye and personally President Erdogan have done a great deal to facilitate the agreement on Ukrainian grain exports. But initially we suggested that it should be adopted as a package, that is, we would facilitate the Ukrainian grain exports provided all the restrictions on the potential exports of Russian grain are lifted. This is what we initially agreed upon with international organisations. They pledged to formulate this as a package solution. Nobody has so far raised any objections, including our American partners. We will see what comes of it in the near future.

    As you know, the Americans have actually lifted restrictions, for example, on the delivery of Russian fertilisers to the global market. I hope this will also happen with regard to the export of Russian grain if they really want to improve the situation on the global food markets. As I have said, we are ready to do this right now. We can export 30 million tonnes of grain, and our export potential based on this year’s harvest will be 50 million tonnes.

    Question: Mr President, a serious energy crisis is developing in Europe, which is discussing the possibility of Gazprom cutting off gas deliveries. The company has allegedly issued an official notification to one of its German clients, citing force majeure circumstances.

    Are there grounds for accusing Russia of causing this energy crisis? Will Gazprom continue to honour its obligations

    Vladimir Putin: First of all, Gazprom has always honoured, and will continue to honour its commitments.

    There are no grounds at all for the attempts by our partners to shift or try to shift the blame for their own mistakes on Russia and Gazprom.

    What is the situation with energy deliveries? In 2020, in the first half of 2020, gas cost 100 euros per 1,000 cubic metres in Europe. The price rose to 250 euros in the first half of 2021. Today it is 1,700 euros per 1,000 cubic metres of gas.

    What is happening? I have spoken about this on numerous occasions, and I do not know if we should go into detail regarding the energy policies of European countries, which underrate the importance of traditional sources of energy and have put money on non-traditional energy sources. They are big experts on non-traditional relations, and they have also decided to make a bid for non-traditional energy sources like the sun and wind.

    Last winter was long, there wasno wind, and that did it. Investment in the fixed assets of traditional energy producers has decreased because of previous political decisions: banks do not finance them, insurance companies do not insure them, local governments do not allocate land plots for new projects, and pipeline and other forms of transportation are not developing. This is a result of many years, probably a decade of this policy. This is the root cause of price hikes rather than any actions by Russia or Gazprom.

    What is going on today? Until recently, we supplied gas to Europe without Turkiye: we supplied around 30 billion cubic metres a year to Turkiye, and 170 billion to Europe, 55 billion via Nord Stream 1, and, if memory serves me, 33 billion were supplied via Yamal-Europe, via the two strings that run through Ukraine. About 12 billion were delivered to Europe through Turkiye via TurkStream.

    Ukraine suddenly announced that it was going to close one of the two routes on its territory. Allegedly because the gas pumping station is not under its control but on the territory of the Lugansk People’s Republic. But it found itself under the control of the Lugansk People’s Republic several months before, and they closed it just recently without any grounds. Everything was functioning normally there, no one interfered. In my opinion, they closed it simply for political reasons.

    What happened next? Poland imposed sanctions on Yamal-Europe, which supplied 33 billion cubic metres of gas. They used to take 34, I think, 33–34 million cubic metres a day from us. They shut it down completely. But then we saw that they turned on the Yamal-Europe pipeline in reverse mode, and they started taking about 32 million a day from Germany. Where is the gas from Germany coming from? It is our Russian gas. Why from Germany? Because it turned out to be cheaper for the Poles. They used to get it from us at a very high price, closer to the market price, whereas Germany gets it from us 3–4 times cheaper than the market price under long-term contracts.

    It is profitable for German companies to sell it to the Poles at a small premium. It is profitable for the Poles to buy it because it is cheaper than to buy it directly from us. But the volume of gas in the European market has decreased, and the total market price has gone up. Who has won? All Europeans only lost. This is the second point: Yamal-Europe.

    So, first one of the routes in Ukraine was shut down, then Yamal-Europe was shut down, now Nord Stream 1, which is one of the main routes – we pump 55 billion cubic metres a year through it. There are five Siemens gas compressor stations working there, and one is on standby. One compressor had to be sent out for repairs. A repaired compressor was supposed to come from Canada, from the Siemens plant in Canada, to replace it. But it ended up under sanctions in Canada. So, one pumping station, just one piece of equipment was out of order because of scheduled maintenance work and it has not been returned from Canada.

    Now we are being told that the unit will be delivered from Canada soon, but Gazprom does not have any official documents yet. We must certainly obtain them, because this is our property, it is the property of Gazprom. Gazprom should receive not only the hardware, not only the gas pumping unit, but also the accompanying documents, both legal and technical documentation. We must be able to see what Gazprom is taking – the turbine’s current condition as well as its legal status, whether it is under sanctions or not, what we can do with it, or maybe they are taking it back tomorrow. But that is not all.

    The problem is that at the end of July, on July 26, I think – we can ask Gazprom – another turbine should be sent for routine maintenance, for repairs. And where will we get a replacement from? We do not know.

    One more turbine is actually out of order because of some crumbling of its internal liner. Siemens has confirmed this. That leaves two operational units, which are pumping 60 million per day. So, if one more is delivered, fine, we will have two in operation. But if it is not, only one will be left, and it will pump only 30 million cubic meters per day. You can count how much time it will take to pump the rest. How is this Gazprom’s responsibility? What does Gazprom even have to do with this? They have cut off one route, then another, and sanctioned this gas pumping equipment. Gazprom is ready to pump as much gas as necessary. But they have shut everything down.

    And they have fallen into the same trap with the import of oil and petroleum products. We hear all sorts of crazy ideas about capping the volume of Russian oil imports or the price of Russian oil. This is going to lead to the same situation as with gas. The result (I am surprised to hear people with university degrees saying this) will be the same – rising prices. Oil prices will spiral.

    As for gas, there is another route we are ready to open, which is Nord Stream 2. It is ready to be launched, but they are not launching it. There are problems here as well, I discussed them with the Chancellor about six or maybe eight weeks ago. I raised this issue; I said that Gazprom had reserved the capacity, and that this capacity needed to be used, and it cannot be suspended in mid-air indefinitely.

    The answer was that there were other issues on the agenda, more important things, so it is difficult for them to deal with this right now. But I had to warn them that then we would have to redirect half of the volume intended for Nord Stream for domestic consumption and processing. I raised this issue at the request of Gazprom, and Gazprom has actually already done it. Therefore, even if we launch Nord Stream 2 tomorrow, it will not pump 55 billion cubic meters, but exactly half that amount. And given that we are already halfway through this year, it would be just a quarter. Such is the supply situation.

    But – I said this at the beginning of my answer to your question and I want to end with this – Gazprom has always fulfilled and will always fulfil all of its obligations, as long as, of course, anyone needs it. First, they themselves close everything, and then they look for someone to blame – it would be comical if it were not so sad.

    Question: You spoke with Mr Erdogan today. He has repeatedly stated his readiness to arrange talks between you and Vladimir Zelensky. Has this issue surfaced today? Are you ready to meet with the President of Ukraine?

    Vladimir Putin: President Erdogan is making a lot of efforts to create the necessary conditions for normalising the situation. It was during our talks in Istanbul that we actually reached an agreement, and it only remained to initial it. But, as you know, after that, when our troops, in order to create the right conditions, withdrew from central Ukraine, from Kiev, the Kiev authorities backed off on those agreements. These were agreements that had actually been achieved. So, you see that the final result depends, of course, not on intermediaries, but on the parties’ commitment to fulfil the agreements reached. And we can see today that the Kiev authorities have no interest in that.

    As for Turkiye’s efforts, as well as other countries’ proposals – Saudi Arabia has offered its mediation services, and the United Arab Emirates, and they do have such capabilities – we are grateful to all our friends who are interested in resolving this crisis for providing their opportunities. Even their willingness to make some contribution to this noble cause is worth a lot. We are deeply grateful for that.

    %d bloggers like this: