Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Moscow May Resume Normalization Talks between Ankara, Damascus

Russian President Vladimir Putin received Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Moscow last week. (Turkish Foreign Ministry)
Russian President Vladimir Putin received Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Moscow last week. (Turkish Foreign Ministry)
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Moscow May Resume Normalization Talks between Ankara, Damascus

Russian President Vladimir Putin received Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Moscow last week. (Turkish Foreign Ministry)
Russian President Vladimir Putin received Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan in Moscow last week. (Turkish Foreign Ministry)

Turkish sources revealed that new steps may be taken to resume discussions to normalize relations between Türkiye and Syria in line with the Astana path.

Normalization efforts, which had been sponsored by Moscow, had stalled since June last year.

Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan proposed resuming the talks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week.

The sources told Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt that more discussions will be held over the issue when Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan meet in Astana on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) on July 3 and 4.

Putin and Fidan had discussed the situation in Syria and Ankara’s rejection of elections in regions in northeastern Syria that are held by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Ankara believes the polls pose a threat to Türkiye’s national security.

Türkiye believes Damascus must show the “appropriate” stance towards these elections, added the sources.

The elections were supposed to be held on June 11 but have been postponed to August.

Erdogan said last week that the postponement was aimed at adding legitimacy to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and its Syrian arm, the People’s Protection Units (YPG) - the SDF’s military wing.

Erdogan said: “There is no doubt that the Syrian administration won’t allow the election to happen or won’t allow steps to be taken in that direction.”

Observers said his words reflect coordination between Moscow, Ankara and Damascus to bar the elections.

Putin had said he hopes to meet with Erdogan in Astana to discuss several issues, including the war in Ukraine.

Observers said his remarks were a sign that Moscow was keen on reviving the normalization talks between Ankara and Damascus.

The sources stressed that Russia, Türkiye and Syria all oppose the elections, so an agreement may be reached between them.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : New PMF Draft Law in Iraq Raises Questions about Fayyadh’s Electoral Ambitions 

Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
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New PMF Draft Law in Iraq Raises Questions about Fayyadh’s Electoral Ambitions 

Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)
Members of the PMF are seen during a military operation. (PMF on Telegram – file photo)

Head of Iraq’s Taqaddum party and former parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi expressed on Tuesday his fierce opposition to a draft law related to the enlistment and retirement of members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

In a post on the X platform, Halbousi accused PMF leader Faleh al-Fayyadh of abusing his position for “partisan goals.”

Parliament is expected to discuss the draft law on Wednesday.

The law raised questions over political influence within the PMF, a military group that was formed in 2014 and that became an official state institution in 2016.

The law in Iraq prohibits military officials from using their position for electoral purposes or to work in politics. They must resign from their position before pursuing political interests. Fayyadh has repeatedly been accused of flouting this law.

Fayyadh is already the head of a political bloc that enjoys influence in a number of provinces. It is currently vying for government posts in the Nineveh council.

Fayyadh has also been accused of using PMF funds to finance his al-Ataa movement.

Halbousi criticized the draft law for undermining the independence of the military and security agencies as stipulated in the constitution.

The law allows the leader of the PMF to also act as a head of a political party and therefore, he would be able to employ the PMF and its forces for his political agenda, added Halbousi.

He wondered whether the draft law would be used for “unacceptable electoral and political purposes”.

A source close to the Taqaddum party said Fayyadh designed the draft law to “serve his electoral ambitions.”

In remarks to Aswat Asharq Al-Awsatt, he added that the law “sets no boundaries between Fayyadh’s political role and his position as head of the PMF.”

Moreover, he noted that the law allows Fayyadh to send into retirement any member of the PMF, a power he could use against a vast number of members to secure their vote in elections.

A leading member of the pro-Iran Coordination Framework said Halbousi’s attack against Fayyadh may be supported by some Shiite forces that want to remove him from his post.

The official revealed that the Asaib Ahl al-Haq group was among Halbousi’s strongest backers in this regard.

The group has long been planning on ousting Fayyadh, 68, so the draft law is unlikely to be ratified without amendments, he went on to say.

Leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq Qais al-Khazali had previously called for Fayyadh’s ouster because he has exceeded the legal age for the position and because he is the leader of a political party.

As of 2024, the PM boasts 238,075 members. It initially had no more than 60,000 when it was first formed in 2014 to fight the ISIS extremist group.

The number of its members kept growing even after ISIS’ defeat in Iraq, sparking accusations that leading members were adding fake names to the PMF for financial gain.

In 2019, former Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi accused some PMF leaders of “mysteriously making fortunes from public funds.”

On Monday, independent MP Sajjad Salem called for “criminalizing the possession of weapons outside the state and merging the PMF with the security forces to prevent Iran from exerting its influence through its proxies in factions and militias.”

The Iraqi state budget revealed that around 3 billion dollars (some 4.5 trillion dinars) are allotted to the PMF with hundreds of billions of dinars dedicated to salaries and the purchase of weapons.