AL TANAK: A US-backed Kurdish-led alliance announced it is launching the final stage of its battle to expel the IS from its desert holdouts in eastern Syria. The United States confirmed the start of the military operation.
Backed by the US-led coalition, the Syrian Democratic Forces have driven the jihadists out of large parts of the country. But IS fighters have retained a presence in a few areas of the country, including in the eastern oil-rich province of Deir Ezzor near the border with Iraq.
The SDF’s Deir Ezzor Military Council on Tuesday said it would press its efforts to oust IS from remaining areas. “Our forces with the forces of the international coalition have started the last stage” of the anti-IS campaign, it said in a statement.
The US State Department said later that the coalition and its “partners, including the Syrian Democratic Forces, are launching operations to liberate the final ISIS strongholds in Syria”. “The fighting will be difficult, but we and our partners will prevail… The days of ISIS controlling territory and terrorising the people of Syria are coming to an end,” it said in a statement.
Air strikes killed at least 23 civilians including 10 children in a village held by the IS in northeastern Syria on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitor said. “We don’t know for the moment if the US-led international coalition or Iraqi forces carried out the strike” on the village of Al-Qasr in Hasakeh province, the Observatory said.
The Britain-based monitor relies on a network of sources on the ground for its information. The US-led coalition is backing a Kurdish-Arab alliance that has been fighting IS in eastern Syria near the border with Iraq. Iraq has also previously carried out strikes against IS jihadists in Syria, including a raid last month in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor.
Dozens of jihadists arrived in northern Syria on Tuesday under a deal with the regime for them to leave their enclave in southern Damascus, an AFP correspondent said. The fighters from Syria’s former Al Qaeda affiliate were transferred out of the Yarmuk district late Monday under a deal announced the previous day.
Trump hints at some announcement at ‘Howdy Modi!’ event in Houston
US President Donald Trump has hinted that there “could be” some announcement by him at the mega “Howdy Modi!” event in Houston on Sunday, where he would join Prime Minister Narendra Modi in addressing the 50,000-strong Indian diaspora.
The White House on Monday announced that Trump would join Modi at the mega Houston rally on September 22 as a “special gesture” by the US President to underscore the special bond between the two countries.It is for the first time that Trump and Modi would share a stage together. The event is the third meeting between the two leaders in three months, after the G-20 summit in Japan in June and the G-7 summit in France last month.
“Could be. I have a very good relationship with Prime Minister Modi,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday aboard Air Force One on his way back from California to Washington DC. He did not elaborate.He was responding to a question if there would be any announcement when he goes to Houston for the rally with the Indian leader.
According to media reports, officials of the two countries are trying to finalise a trade deal before Modi and Trump meet in Houston.
Trade tensions between India and the US have been rising with Trump complaining that tariffs imposed by New Delhi on American products were “no longer acceptable”.
The US in June terminated India’s designation as beneficiary developing country under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme.
India imposed retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products, including almonds and apples from June 5, after the Trump administration revoked its preferential trade privileges.
Reacting to a record number of 50,000 Indian-Americans registering for the event, Trump said the crowd for the event had now become bigger after it was announced that he would be going there.
“He (Modi) has got a big crowd coming and I guess the crowd just got a lot bigger because they just announced–he asked, would I go, and I will go,” Trump said.
After the Houston event, Trump would travel to Ohio for an event with the visiting Australian Prime Minister.
“Then we’re stopping in Ohio on the way back and then I guess we do the United Nations the following week,” the US President said.
Trump also said that he had a great relationship with both India and Pakistan.
Modi will be visiting the US from September 21-27 for the annual session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). It is his first US trip after winning a second term as prime minister in May.
The two leaders are again scheduled to meet later in the week in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) session.
Kashmir may not be a major topic during PM Modi-Xi Jinping summit next month: China
China on Tuesday said the Kashmir issue may not be a “major topic” of discussion during the planned 2nd informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping, notwithstanding the high voltage campaign by its close ally Pakistan over India revoking the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Tension between India and Pakistan escalated after New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5. Reacting to India’s move on Kashmir, Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with New Delhi and expelled the Indian High Commissioner.
A senior Chinese official said it should be left to Modi and Xi on the issues they would like to discuss.
“As for Kashmir will be on the agenda, I’m not sure because this is kind of informal summit and leaders’ meeting I think better we need to give the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing here.
“For this kind of informal summit, I think it is better to leave the leaders much time to discuss whatever they would like to discuss,” she said.
Hua said Kashmir may not be a major topic of discuss between the two leaders. “I think for those things like Kashmir, I don’t think it will be a major topic occupying the talks, that is my understanding,” she said.
“But for the leaders, they will be free to talk about whatever they like,” Hua said, responding to a question.
China, the all-weather ally of Pakistan, already tried to take the Kashmir issue to the UN Security Council last month. But a closed-door meeting of the UNSC, in a snub to both Beijing and Islamabad, ended without any outcome or statement.
European Parliament set to discuss Kashmir
Brussels, Sep 17: The European Parliament is expected to hold discussions on the Kashmir issue on Tuesday, the media reported.
After India scrapped its Constitution”s Articles 370 and 35A, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and divided the state into two union territories, Islamabad has been crying foul over New Delhi”s move and continuously trying to highlight the issue on a global level.
However, Pakistan has failed to get the international community to censure India.
The report said that in early September, the European Parliament “had debated an urgent resolution for the horrible conditions, including human rights violations, in Indian-occupied Kashmir”.
The European Union”s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, delivered a detailed policy statement on the Kashmir situation on September 17, it said. (IANS)