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Kurdish forces leave Syria border area

The ceasefire, which ends at 10.00 pm local time (7.00 p.m. GMT), was agreed on 17 October between the Turkey and United States Vice President Mike Pence.

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Kurdish forces
Kurdish security forces, known as Peshmerga, assemble outside the town of Bashiqah, some 30 km northeast of Mosul, Iraq, on Nov. 7, 2016.

Beirut, Oct 23 : Kurdish-led forces in northern Syria have withdrawn from the Turkish border area in line with a ceasefire pact drawn up between Turkey and the United States, which is due to expire in a matter of hours.

“The Syrian Democratic Forces have withdrawn from the areas around Ras Al Ain and Tal Abyad,” Mervan Qamishli, a spokesperson for the SDF, told Efe news on Tuesday.

It comes as news emerges from a meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in the Russian Black Sea city of Sochi that both nations had agreed to create a so-called safe zone in northern Syria.

From 23 October, Russian military police and Syrian regime border guards would begin to clear the People’s Protection Units (YPG) from the 30-kilometer deep buffer zone sought by Ankara within a period of 150 hours.

Joint Turkish-Russian patrols would then begin in the area, apart from in the city of Qamishli, according to a memorandum released after the meeting.

Gains made by Turkish-backed Syrian militias in the border cities of Ras Al Ain and Tal Abyad would also be preserved.

The YPG would be evicted from Manbij and Tal Rifat.

The SDF, predominantly comprised of the YPG, a key US ally in the fight against the Islamic State terror organization in the region, had been facing a Turkish military offensive since American forces withdrew from the area around two weeks ago.

Ankara considers the YPG to be a terror group indistinguishable from the Kurdistan Worker’s Party (PKK), a guerrilla group widely listed as a terror organization that has fought the Turkish state in the country’s predominantly Kurdish east for decades.

Ras Al Ain and Tal Abyad had been two of the key objectives for the Turkish military operation into northern Syria, led on the ground by Ankara-backed Syrian opposition fighters.

Putin is one of the main international backerd of Syrian President Bashar Al Assad, while Turkey backs rebel groups located in Syria’s northern regions. Both countries, along with Iran, form part of the so-called Astana trio, which aims to find a solution to the Syrian Civil War.

The Turkish government earlier warned it would ramp up its military operation in northern Syria the minute the ceasefire expires if the YPG or the Democratic Union Party (PYD) continued to have a presence in the area.

Ankara wants to carve out a 30-kilometer deep “safe zone” along its border, stretching from the Euphrates to the Iraqi border, partly to create a buffer between it and Kurdish forces but also to settle some of the four million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The ceasefire, which ends at 10.00 pm local time (7.00 p.m. GMT), was agreed on 17 October between the Turkey and United States Vice President Mike Pence.

Kurdish forces in the region said, however, that Turkish-backed Syrian militias had continued military action despite the agreement.

Following the US withdrawal, Kurdish forces turned to the Damascus regime for help.

Middle East

Gandhigiri by Iranian protesters gets Twitterati praise

One user posted a throwback picture with protesters putting flower stems in gun barrels of troops and wrote: “#flowerpower #bernieboston march on the #pentagon #WashingtonDC”.

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Mahatma Gandhi laughing

New Delhi, Nov 20 : A section of Iranians protesting against a sharp rise in petrol prices in their country embraced Gandhigiri to hand out flowers to troops deployed to control them, evoking support and praise from Twitterati.

Amid an Internet shutdown, Twitterati posted several clippings of protesters distributing flowers to security personnel in an Iranian city.

A user remarked: “Thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi”.

With a hashtag IranProtests, a user posted a clipping and wrote: “History has repeated itself. In the runup to the 1979 revolution, protesters handed out flowers to the police. In this video, protesters in Shiraz are handing out flowers to the riot police”.

Another user wrote: “Protesters giving flowers to the police saying “We are not the enemy”, in Shiraz.”

A user wrote: “Fight hate with Love!!! I love it!!”

“To stand in the face of terror with love and to try to bring civility to the chaos, is an act of true bravery. Sadly, people will lose their lives in this battle as history has shown us over & over. But goodness will prevail. Hoping for sooner than later”, wrote a user.

A user posted a clipping of a burning vehicle along with a remark: “Yes but then they opened fire on protesters.”

One user posted a throwback picture with protesters putting flower stems in gun barrels of troops and wrote: “#flowerpower #bernieboston march on the #pentagon #WashingtonDC”.

“Protesters in India should check this out”, wrote a user.

One was clearly reminded of a Sanjay Dutt-starrer movie. He wrote: “Munna bhai MBBS style”.

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Middle East

Turkey threatens to “look elsewhere” if F-35 dispute continues

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Ankara, Nov 20 : If the US stance on delivery of F-35 fighter jets does not change, Turkey would be forced to “look elsewhere” to meet its defense necessities, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

“If the current disagreement on F-35 fighter jets continues, Turkey must look elsewhere to meet its medium-term needs,” Erdogan said while addressing his party members at the parliament on Tuesday.

The Turkish president was referring to his meeting last week with US President Donald Trump in Washington.

Turkey would not step back from its deployment of the Russian S-400 air defense systems, Erdogan said.

“There are efforts to turn the S-400s into a key problem of the bilateral matters. We have agreed (with Trump) to seek ways to resolve the S-400 issue through our officials we have instructed,” he stated.

Turkey’s procurement of the Russian S-400 missile defense systems prompted the Trump administration to suspend Ankara from the F-35 fifth-generation joint strike fighter program in July.

Russia has expressed its readiness for a potential agreement with Turkey on the sale of Russian Su-35 or Su-57 aircraft.

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Middle East

Protests erupt in Iran over fuel price hike

Retaliating to Rouhani’s remark, the protesters shouted: “Gasoline price increased, making the impoverished poorer.”

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Protest over Iran Fuel Price

Tehran, Nov 16 : Protests have erupted across Iran after the country began rationing on the purchase of gasoline and substantially increased the price of fuel in a move aimed at assisting the needy, media reports said.

The National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC) said in a statement late Thursday that the price of a litre of regular gasoline had gone up to 15,000 rials (12.7 US cents) from 10,000 rials and the monthly ration for each private automobile was set at 60 litres per month, the Tehran-based Press TV said in a report.

Additional purchases would cost 30,000 rials per litre.

The NIOPDC added that taxis and ambulances would have a 400-litre and 500-litre monthly quota, respectively. The price of CNG and gas oil will remain unchanged.

Addressing the nation on Friday, President Hassan Rouhani said the government had no intention to receive any portion of the hike despite the economic woes in the country.

He added that the government’s move to increase the gasoline prices would be beneficial to the Iranian people, particularly those who are going through economic hardships.

The sudden decision almost immediately triggered a series of angry protests mainly in the oil-rich Khuzestan region and the country’s second-largest city of Mashhad, the Persian-language Radio Farda reported.

Angry protesters in Ahvaz, the capital city of Khuzestan, as well as in Behbahan, Mahshahr, and Omidiyeh chanted slogans against President Hassan Rouhani and his administration.

Retaliating to Rouhani’s remark, the protesters shouted: “Gasoline price increased, making the impoverished poorer.”

Meanwhile, the citizens of Ahvaz called upon each other to turn off the engines and stop buying gasoline.

Furthermore, the city of Gachsaran in Kohgiluyeh and the Boyer-Ahmad province also witnessed widespread protests.

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