Russia said on Tuesday it was bewildered by a Turkish pledge to conduct a new military operation in northern Syria if the area was not cleared of people Ankara calls terrorists, warning that any such move would damage efforts to stabilize the region, Reuters reported. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu was cited on Monday as saying his country would launch a new military operation in northeast Syria if the area was not cleared of Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The state-owned Anadolu news agency quoted him as saying that Russia and the United States had not done what was required under agreements that halted a Turkish offensive last month and called on them to make good on their pledges. His comments, and Russia’s frosty reaction to them, reflect emerging tensions over Syria between Moscow and Ankara less than a month after President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan struck a deal that saw Syrian and Russian forces deploy in northeast Syria to remove the Kurdish YPG fighters and their weapons from the border with Turkey. Russia’s Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday it was puzzled by Çavuşoğlu’s statement on several different levels and that Moscow had carried out in full its obligations under the Putin-Erdoğan deal. “Thanks to a range of measures implemented by the Russian Federation, it was possible to significantly stabilize the situation,” Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, a spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said in a statement. “The head of the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s call for military action can only escalate the situation in northern Syria rather than sort things out in the way set out in a joint memorandum signed by the presidents of Russia and Turkey,” Konashenkov added. He listed areas where he thought Russia had helped bring about real progress, including quickly separating conflicting sides and conducting joint patrols with the Turkish armed forces. Moscow is in the process of deploying more Russian military police to northeast Syria, setting up field hospitals for civilians, distributing humanitarian aid and rebuilding infrastructure, he said.


“The press freedom environment in [Turkey] has not improved since the lifting of the state of emergency in July 2018. Scores of journalists remain behind bars or under travel bans as a consequence of an extended, politically motivated crackdown against the media,” a recent report drafted by eight international press freedom and journalism organizations said Monday, after a brief visit to Turkey in September and a series of interviews with Turkish officials, associations and journalists.

The report is the result of a collaboration among the International Press Institute (IPI), ARTICLE 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Reporters without Borders (RSF), Norwegian PEN and PEN International, the IPI statement on its website said.

It reflects the findings of a joint mission to Turkey from Sept. 11 to 13, during which the eight groups met with Turkey’s Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Appeals and the Ministry of Justice as well as Turkish-based civil society groups and journalists, it added.

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) arrested dozens of journalists critical of the government in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15, 2016 on terrorism or coup charges under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.

“The removal of up to one-third of judges and a wave of cases resulting from the post-coup-attempt crackdown has placed a burden on the judiciary but cannot be used as an excuse to fail to offer redress to ongoing, systemic and severe violations of fundamental rights,” according to the report.

“Turkey must urgently revise all anti-terror and defamation laws, repeatedly abused to silence critical press. In particular it must end the deliberate conflation of public criticism with terrorism propaganda,” the report recommended, referring to dozens of criminal cases opened against Turkish journalists.

Turkish Minute


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