Justin Vela

Posts Tagged ‘conflict

The Cyprus Problem: Settlement via Turkey?

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Graves of Turkish soldiers in Northern Cyprus.

Graves of Turkish soldiers near Girne, Northern Cyprus.

In the realm of work that is completed rather than in progress, I published an article on Turkey possibly being able to assist Greek Cypriots during their time of economic turmoil. Key to this is solving the Cyprus problem, a decades-long conflict that is a major impediment to regional integration. Settlement is doubtful in the short-term, but if it happens everyone could get rich.

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Written by Justin Vela

April 5, 2013 at 12:16 pm

Bosporus Blog…Kurds & Arabs and Syria’s Oil…

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Weeks of fighting gave way earlier this month to the quiet of a ceasefire agreement signed by militants in Ras Al Ayn, a mixed town of Arabs, Kurds, and Christians in northern Syria.

Beginning in November, Arab rebels seeking to oust the regime of Bashar Al Assad fought Kurdish militants affiliated with the Democratic Union Party (PYD). The Arab fighters accuse the PYD of collaborating with the regime. The fight was exacerbated by localized tensions between Kurds and Arabs, who have not always gotten along well in Syria’s northern, oil-rich Jazira region. I wrote about the ceasefire for The National.

There might be as much as 3.15 billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves in northern Syria, along with 6.9 billion barrels of discovered reserves, according to an article in The National Interest. This is not the same kind of oil wealth that can be found in Northern Iraq, for example, but it is not insignificant.

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Written by Justin Vela

February 26, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Rebel truce with Kurds is shaky, say experts // The National…

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Published by The National on February 22, 2013

CEYLANPINAR, TURKEY // A ceasefire agreement that ended three months of fighting between Arab rebel groups and Kurdish militants in Syria’s north-east is unlikely to hold, experts say.

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Written by Justin Vela

February 22, 2013 at 9:27 am

Syrian rebels open US lobbying agency // The National…

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Published by The National on February 7, 2013

WASHINGTON // Brian Sayers is a former Nato political officer lobbying in the corridors of Washington on behalf of Syrian rebels fighting the regime of Bashar Al Assad, the country’s president.

Not all the rebels, of course. Washington only publicly supports those rebel groups it is convinced are committed to a secular, democratic Syria.

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Written by Justin Vela

February 12, 2013 at 11:11 am

Chemical weapons and “Basma” Syria…

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Foreign Policy magazine’s Josh Rogin published a revealing scoop Tuesday regarding the United States government’s supposed “red line” with the regime of Bashar Al Assad.

Following an investigation by US diplomats in Turkey, Washington was informed that Syrian regime forces likely used a chemical weapon in the city of Homs last December.

The Obama Administration has said that the use of chemical weapons is the “red line” that it will not tolerate from the regime. If Washington knew the regime used such weapons and did not take action it is an illustration of the lack of will regarding Syria and how unclear the administration’s policies are towards the crisis. It also gives the regime the impression it can get away with more brutal tactics without serious repercussions.

The US investigation was facilitated by Basma Syria, a Syrian activist outfit. I wrote about Basma for Foreign Policy last fall. The group appears to be making use of its network of opposition activists in Syria to provide information to the US on what they think happened with the alleged attack.

So far the White House has played down the story. While it is is not clear who leaked the information it may have been someone who disagreed with the administration’s current policies toward Syria, or the lack of them.

It should also be noted that the type if weapon used in Homs has not been verified, though it appears to be  something called “Agent 15” or 3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate , a low grade chemical weapon.

Written by Justin Vela

January 16, 2013 at 8:56 am

An up-close look at rising Turkey-Syria tensions…a Turkish man who fights in Syria…

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A Turkish citizen named Hayretin Yildiz, 32, said he was so “angry” with the conflict on his doorstep that for the past months he has crossed into Syria to fight alongside the rebels.

Antakya, Turkey – Last week, I reported on intense clashes in the Syrian village of Azmarin. The village is now reportedly in rebel hands, at least for now. It was one of the last positions Syrian regime forces held along Syria’s 550-mile border with Turkey. Turkish citizens, and journalists such as myself, observed the intense clashes in the village from the town of Hacipasa, across the Orontes River in Turkey.

Billows of smoke rose following explosions and machine guns chattered. There was a brief pause in the fighting when Turkey scrambled two F-16 fighter jets after a Syrian regime helicopter that was firing on Azmarin approached too close to the border. The fighting continued soon after the jets left. By using a powerful camera lens, it was possible to observe the fighters in Azmarin. A group of them huddled at a corner before running down the street. A sniper positioned himself in an empty building. More explosions shook the village.

However, the news of the past week was about the growing tensions between Turkey and the Assad regime, which threatens to escalate into a regional war. Ankara is already openly backing the rebels against the regime. Increased fighting in the border region, a further influx of refugees, and recent cross border shelling has pushed Turkey into a position where it will either have to intervene more directly than it already is in Syria or metaphorically grind its teeth and hold fast while a civil war with no sure outcome rages next door.

Over the past few days I have spoken to a number of Turkish citizens in the country’s Hatay district, along the border with Syria. My aim was to get a feeling of the local sentiment towards the crisis, and also what it means for Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Mr Fatah is among the Turkish citizens frustrated with their government’s policies towards Syria following cross-border shelling and increased clashes in the frontier region. There is little appetite for war and some fear the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is endangering the lives of citizens with its support for rebels fighting the regime of Mr Al Assad.

Hayretin Yildiz, 32, said he was so “angry” with the conflict on his doorstep in the town of Hacipasa that, for the past months, he had been crossing the border to fight with the Syrian rebels.

“My friends are there now. I go tonight,” said Mr Yildiz, whose mother is Syrian. “I want to go, I go helping alone. We are sorting it out amongst ourselves. I don’t want Nato or Turkey to enter Syria.”

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A boy in the Turkish border town of Hacipasa on October 12, 2012. Two Turkish jets were scrambled to the area after a Syrian regime helicopter attacking rebels in Azmarin, a Syrian village just across from Hacipasa, ventured too close to the border.

The Syrian opposition has continued to demand Western intervention in Syria, either in the form of a no-fly zone/buffer zone, or military aid. Their hope is that following presidential elections in the United States next month, Washington will change its policies towards Syria and begin taking a more aggressive stance towards the regime. At the moment, the U.S. is only supplying non-lethal support to the Syrian opposition. That is a subject that I will write a separate blog about later. The situation in Syria is very much at a stalemate. The rebels have proven themselves able to capture large areas of the countryside and some urban areas. Yet these areas cannot be considered truly liberated because the regime can attack from the air. Either the rebels are supplied with, or capture, weaponry that can bring down planes or their gains on the ground remain limited. The possibility of a political solution to the conflict currently remains slim, at best.

This leaves Turkey, a country that thought it could benefit from the aftermath of the “Arab Spring” in a precarious position. The majority of Turks remain opposed to any military intervention in Syria, with or without the blessing of the United Nations security council.

Yet the current paradigm along the Turkey-Syria border cannot be maintained for long.

Vehicles carrying aid prepare to enter Syria from Turkey’s Cilvegozu border crossing. A truck driver said that aid came from Saudi donors. 

Vehicles carrying aid prepare to enter Syria from Turkey’s Cilvegozu border crossing.

Written by Justin Vela

October 14, 2012 at 9:19 pm

The tragedy of Akcakale…

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Residents in Akcakale, Turkey on Thursday October 4, 2012 peer inside a house which was shelled by Syrian regime forces on Wednesday October 3, 2012, prompting Turkey to retaliate by shelling Syria for the first time.


Istanbul – Last Wednesday, Syrian regime forces killed five Turkish citizens in what was claimed to be accidental cross border shelling. The killing of its citizens prompted Turkey to retaliate and the Turkish military shelled Syria for the first time.

The first shell that hit landed on a grain dispensary in the late afternoon. The second injured a policeman. Soon after, a third hit, killing five members of a family.

The children had come to their front gate, perhaps out of curiosity, after the first explosion and two women were just behind them in the courtyard of the house. A fourth shell landed soon afterwards, down the street.

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Syrian shells have continued to land in Turkey over the past four days. This morning a mortar round landed in the village of Guvecci. The Turkish military again returned fire, according to the BBC.

No one knows what the coming days with bring. Turkey does not want to enter into a direct conflict with Syria, despite backing rebel groups fighting the Syrian regime. Still, Turkey-a NATO country- will do what it can to protect its citizens in this rapidly changing situation.

The Akcakale border crossing with Syria. In the background on the left the flag of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) is visible.


A child rides a bike near Turkish military positions along the Turkey-Syria border.

Turkish citizens in the village of Oncul, just outside of Akcakale, listen to sounds of gunfire and explosions just across the border in Syria.

Written by Justin Vela

October 6, 2012 at 9:28 am