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Trump can’t deport coronavirus, which is no longer a Chinese issue

In a speech that sowed fear and confusion, US President Donald Trump announced the introduction of a travel ban for citizens of most European countries. In this, Trump described COVID-19 as a “foreign virus” and tried to blame European countries for not reacting as quickly as he claimed the US did.

But the new coronavirus is not an external problem now.

It has never been, nor could it be, in an era as globalized as it is today, writes James Palmer, senior editor at Foreign Policy. The arrival of the virus in the US was as inevitable as McDonaldis’s in Beijing over two decades ago.

When the contact chains are rebuilt, they will indicate patterns of infection within American communities, possibly long before the virus is first detected. The same thing happens worldwide.

The virus is not a Chinese or a foreign problem. It’s universal, writes Palmer.

Certainly, the number of coronavirus cases in the US is smaller than in Italy, France or Germany, despite the larger population. But US cases are growing exponentially. Far from the vision described in Trump’s speech, the Americans’ reaction is harshly criticized.

Two things make Trump’s ban particularly absurd, writes the Foreign Policy editor.

The first is the exclusion of US citizens, permanent residents and their families. From a humanitarian point of view, it is a good thing. But the viruses do not respect passports.

The second concerns the fact that it is confined to the countries of the Schengen Area, excluding Great Britain and Ireland.

The UK has far more confirmed cases than most European countries, and travel between the UK and the countries concerned is constant and frequent.

The exclusion measure can only be understood as a political measure, an attempt to attract a British prime minister whom Trump sees as an ideological ally against an EU that he openly despises, writes James Palmer.

The virus is likely to spread through the developing world as it spreads in the US. Perhaps Trump hopes to expand such measures and has targeted Europe first to defend himself against accusations of racism. But the exclusion of Europe alone has no logic.

Trump, of course, has loved such bans for a long time, even before the outbreak of the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump’s vision has always been of a Fortress America, snooping away from the dangers of the world while leading it. The president may not realize that one of the dangers that threatened the fortresses was the plague, which wreaked havoc among the populations enclosed within them, writes the Foreign Policy editor.

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Justice, Lifestyle, News, Politics

How Mitch McConnell Delivered Acquittal for president Donald Trump

“We can be smart or we can be stupid,” Mr. McConnell warned his rank and file during a closed-door lunch of halibut, fried chicken and pecan pie in the Capitol, steps from the Senate floor where the trial was to convene shortly. “The choice will be up to us.”

Republicans ultimately opted, as they almost invariably do, to stick with Mr. McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, and block Democrats’ attempts to allow new evidence to be considered. All but one of them voted on Wednesday to acquit Mr. Trump of both of the charges against him.

The story of how Mr. McConnell held Republicans together — even in the face of stunning revelations about the president’s conduct and uneasiness in his party about Mr. Trump’s actions — reflects how a master Senate tactician deployed his command of procedure and keen political instincts to lock down a process that posed an existential threat to the president.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., leaves the chamber after leading the impeachment acquittal of President Donald Trump, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

In doing so, he may have cemented the president’s hold on his office and provided a defiant campaign message to propel him to re-election, uniting the party around a figure who brooks no dissent and dealing a death blow to Democrats’ hopes of removing him.

“We thought they would finally work themselves up to doing this on something,” Mr. McConnell said. “It has been threatened endlessly. We needed to come up to speed on what actually happens, and that began in earnest last fall.”

So when Mr. McConnell fielded a phone call from Mr. Trump days before Christmas, he was ready. Stung by the House vote to impeach him on two charges, the president reached out to the majority leader from his Mar-a-Lago retreat in Palm Beach, Fla., throwing out ideas about how to handle his coming Senate trial.

Mr. McConnell had a reassuring response for the third president ever to face removal by the Senate, urging Mr. Trump to trust him to manage the confrontation.

“What I have consistently said to him is I think I know more about the Senate than you do, which he usually concedes,” Mr. McConnell recalled, saying he told the president to keep public commentary about impeachment to a minimum. “My consistent advice to him with regard to this subject was to avoid it — and for the most part, for the most part, he did.”

Throughout the process, Mr. McConnell consistently refused to say how he viewed the president’s conduct, even as other Republicans eventually said that Mr. Trump’s actions were wrong, inappropriate and even shameful.

“I say things I choose to say,” he said when pressed Thursday.

Mr. McConnell set out to create the framework for a trial that his members could get behind, that could withstand the possibility of compromising new information emerging and that would deliver the White House a quick but credible verdict of “not guilty.” It went far from perfectly for Republicans — among other setbacks, Senator Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, voted “guilty” on the charge of abuse of power, depriving Mr. Trump of the absolute party loyalty he coveted — but Mr. McConnell reached his desired end.

“I’ve been in politics long enough to know you should never say never, but let me say this,” Mr. McConnell told Mr. Hoyer. “I will never allow the House of Representatives to dictate rules to the Senate. Never.”

Behind the scenes, Mr. McConnell was trying to nail down the backing of the handful of Republicans who could complicate his careful planning. Four senators had expressed enough qualms about the president to give them leverage to win concessions from Mr. McConnell: Mr. Romney of Utah, the 2012 presidential nominee; Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who had in the past bucked Mr. McConnell and the White House; Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, a veteran politician with plans to retire, and Susan Collins of Maine, a centrist facing the re-election challenge of her career.

When Senator Elizabeth Warren, the Massachusetts Democrat running for president, asked whether the chief justice overseeing a trial without witnesses would undermine the courts, Mr. McConnell scrawled a quick note to Ms. Murkowski, who was still undecided on witnesses, to point out the attack.

With his eye on the undecided senators, Mr. Cruz also counseled the White House legal team to avoid arguing that there was no quid pro quo — “a strategic mistake” that might make Mr. Bolton’s testimony seem more relevant to those lawmakers. During questioning, Mr. Cruz helped draft a question, submitted jointly with senators like Ms. Murkowski and Mr. Alexander, that asked Mr. Trump’s legal team whether, if Mr. Bolton testified to the existence of a quid pro quo, it would amount to an impeachable offense.

When Patrick Philbin, a deputy White House counsel, rose to answer, asserting that Mr. Trump had never engaged in a quid pro quo, Mr. Cruz was “a little white-knuckled,” he recalled. But then the answer he was looking for came: Even if there was a quid pro quo, it did not matter.

“I think that answer played a really important part in helping get the votes of both Lamar and Lisa,” Mr. Cruz said later.

By the next day, Ms. Murkowski had come out against witnesses, using as a rationale what she characterized as an attack on Chief Justice Roberts. She followed Mr. Alexander, who said that while Mr. Trump had acted inappropriately, his actions did not merit impeachment. The final vote on witnesses was 51 to 49 and the trial hurtled to its finale, with Mr. Romney’s vote to convict the president as the final twist.

wikipedia – talk about Trump acquittal

Mr. McConnell shrugged off fierce criticism that he had overseen a sham.

“I didn’t rig anything,” he said. “We had a vote. No vote was prevented. No debate was prevented. These guys didn’t have the votes,” he said of Senate Democrats.

But this vote was of course influenced by a dozen reasons : confrontation with re-election of senators, pressure from president Trump, the fears they will lose presidential elections and the wonderful Senate seat.

Conclusion: President Donald Trump had what he wanted – Acquittal – Not guilty!

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The Supreme Court just take action on Trump taxes lawsuit

Around the same time that a Democratic-drove US House advisory group decided in favor of articles of reprimand against President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court settled on its own earth shattering choice to intercede in Trump’s push to keep his government forms and other budgetary records in mystery.

The judges consented to determine in spring 2020 if a sitting president ought to be resistant from any criminal continuing, regardless of whether identified with lead before getting to work or even – to utilize Trump’s acclaimed model – shooting somebody on Fifth Avenue in New York. The high court likewise said it would decide the oversight authority of Congress in matched debates emerging from endeavors by House Democrats to acquire Trump’s monetary archives.

The Supreme Court just jumped into the political deep end with Trump taxes lawsuit

On the same day that a Democratic-led US House committee voted for articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, the Supreme Court made its own momentous decision to intervene in Trump’s effort to keep his tax returns and other financial records secret.

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Justice, News, Politics

Public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Trump

The U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee will kick off a series of public hearings in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump next week, the panel’s Democratic chairman said on Wednesday.

William Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent will testify on Nov. 13, while former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch will appear on Nov. 15, Representative Adam Schiff, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement.

ex-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch

He said more details will be released in coming days.

All three diplomats have raised alarm bells about the release of U.S. security aid to Ukraine being made contingent on Kiev publicly declaring it would carry out politically motivated investigations that Trump, a Republican, had demanded.

Televised public hearings featuring U.S. officials testifying in Congress about alleged wrongdoing by Trump could crowd out other issues like the economy and immigration as voters turn their minds to the November 2020 election.

State Department Official George Kent

That might damage Trump, but some of his supporters say the impeachment drive could actually boost his re-election chances by showing him at loggerheads with Washington-based political foes.

Democrats had said they had enough material to move forward with public impeachment hearings, which would be a likely prelude to articles of impeachment — formal charges — against Trump being brought to a vote in the House.

If the House votes to approve the articles of impeachment, the Republican-controlled Senate would then hold a trial on whether to remove Trump from office. Senate Republicans have so far shown little appetite for removing the president.

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Trump impeachment inquiry: The latest news

A top U.S. State Department official on Wednesday appeared before the impeachment probe into President Donald Trump, the first witness to show up this week after a string of administration officials refused to meet with investigators.

David Hale, who was appointed by Trump as under secretary for political affairs, met behind closed doors with lawmakers who are leading the probe of Trump in the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

More details in the impeachment inquiry are expected to be released on Wednesday, a day after transcripts revealed a top Trump donor-turned-diplomat reversed course and told investigators Ukrainian aid was tied to investigations of political rivals sought by the U.S. president.

U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland ( right side)

On Tuesday, publicly released transcripts showed U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland had returned to give lawmakers new details after his memory was “refreshed,” corroborating other witnesses who said Trump sought to pressure the Ukrainians into launching investigations that appeared aimed at boosting his 2020 re-election campaign.

House Democrats leading the inquiry are expected to release more transcripts on Wednesday, but have not yet said which accounts they will issue as the fast-moving probe marches toward televised public hearings.

Additional witnesses have also been called to testify, but some are likely to heed the White House and refuse to cooperate in the probe, which centers around Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy asking him to investigate former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Joe Biden is a leading contender for the Democratic nomination to run against Trump, a Republican, in the November 2020 election. Hunter Biden was on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, which had been investigated for corruption. Both have denied any impropriety.

Trump has blasted the House inquiry as a witch hunt and accused Democrats of unfairly targeting him in hope of reversing his surprise victory in the 2016 presidential election.

Democrats have defended the investigation, citing concerns that the president misused his public office for personal gain.

John Bolton at the White House on October 3 in Washington, DC

“It’s clear abuse of presidential power. It cannot be OK in our country for a United States president – any president – to go to a foreign leader and ask for help in his election. It’s wrong,” Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a Democrat on the House intelligence panel, told MSNBC on Wednesday.

Top Trump administration officials are expected to be no-shows on Wednesday for the impeachment inquiry by congressional Democrats, who will continue to release more transcripts of the testimony they have already gathered.

The fast-moving inquiry, so far conducted behind closed doors, became more public this week after congressional investigators began releasing hundreds of pages of testimony.
Lawmakers are expected to release more transcripts on Wednesday, but have not said which accounts they will make public.

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News, Politics

Turkey forcibly returned refugees to Syria

The Turkish government forcibly deported Syrian refugees over the Syrian-Turkish border in the months before the invasion of Syria to fight the Kurds, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

Despite an absence of official statistics on how many refugees have returned to Syria, the report claims that hundreds of refugees were forcibly deported to Syria after being coerced or conned into signing “voluntary return” documents.

Some of those interviewed claimed they were forced into signing the document by being physically beaten, while others believed they were signing a document that confirmed they had received a blanket at a refugee detention center.

Amnesty claims to have verified 20 individual cases such as these. Those individuals claim to have been sent across the Syrian border on buses with dozens of other refugees who, handcuffed with plastic ties, appeared to also have been deported against their will.

One refugee was held in a Turkish police station, and threatened with a year in prison unless he went to Syria, according to the report. Another, John, a Syrian Christian, was detained for a week by an Islamist group immediately after crossing the border. “It was a miracle I got out alive,” he said, according to the report.

Turkey, according to Reuters, has previously denied sending Syrians home against their will.

There are 3.6 million registered Syrian refugees in Turkey, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he wants to return as many refugees from the Syrian Civil War as possible back across the border. Referring to his plans to create a “safe zone” at the Turkish-Syrian border, Erdogan told lawmakers from his own party that the military action will “rebuild an area for 1 million people, for those who want to return to their country and don’t have a home to go back to,” according to the AP.

The Turkish government claims that more than 300,000 refugees have already left Syria voluntarily, but Amnesty claims its findings refute that claim, saying that “the refugees were at risk.”

“Turkey’s claim that refugees from Syria are choosing to walk straight back into the conflict is dangerous and dishonest,” Anna Shea, a researcher on Refugee and Migrant Rights at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “Rather, our research shows that people are being tricked or forced into returning.”

“It is chilling that Turkey’s deal with Russia this week agrees to the ‘safe and voluntary return’ of refugees to a yet-to-be-established ‘safe zone.’ Returns until now have been anything but safe and voluntary – and now millions more refugees from Syria are at risk,” said Anna Shea.

Turkish forces launched a military incursion over the Syrian border earlier this month after President Donald Trump announced he would pull U.S. troops in Syria back from the area. Critics have blasted the administration as compromising U.S. interests and ceding the territory of Northeast Syria, controlled by previously US-allied Syrian Kurdish forces, to Turkey, Russia and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

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Turkish ground forces seized at least one village from Kurdish fighters in northern Syria

Turkish ground forces seized at least one village from Kurdish fighters in northern Syria as they pressed ahead with their assault Thursday, launching airstrikes and unleashing artillery shelling on towns and villages the length of its border. The Turkish invasion, now in its second day, has been widely condemned around the world. In northern Syria, residents of border areas scrambled in panic as they tried to get out on foot, in cars and with rickshaws piled with mattresses and a few belongings.

It was wrenchingly familiar for the many who only a few years ago, had fled the advances on their towns and villages by the Islamic State group. A Kurdish-led group and Syrian activists claimed Thursday that despite the heavy barrage, Turkish troops had not made much progress on several fronts they had opened over the past hours. But their claims could not be independently verified and the situation on the ground was difficult to assess.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that 109 “terrorists” were killed since Ankara launched the offensive into Syria the previous day — a reference to the U.S.-allied Syrian Kurdish fighters. He did not elaborate, and the reports on the ground did not indicate anything remotely close to such a large number of casualties.
Erdogan also warned the European Union not to call Ankara’s incursion into Syria an “invasion,” and renewed his threat of “opening the gates” and letting Syrian refugees flood Europe.

Turkey’s state-run news agency said Turkey-allied Syrian opposition fighters cleared two villages across the border in Syria, Yabisa and Tel Fander, and entered them. It did not provide further details.

Maj. Youssef Hammoud, a spokesman for the Turkish-backed Syrian fighters, tweeted that they were in Yabisa, near the town of Tal Abyad, describing it as “the first village to win freedom.”The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Turkish commandos entered the village of Beir Asheq.

Turkey began its offensive in northern Syria on Wednesday with airstrikes and artillery shelling, and then ground troops began crossing the border later in the day. U.S. troops pulled back from the area, paving the way for Turkey’s assault.Turkey has long threatened to attack the Kurdish fighters whom Ankara considers terrorists allied with a Kurdish insurgency in Turkey. Expectations of an invasion increased after President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision Sunday to essentially abandon the Syrian Kurdish fighters, leaving them vulnerable to a Turkish offensive.

The Kurds, who have been America’s only allies in Syria fighting the Islamic State group, stopped on Thursday all their operations against the IS extremists in order to focus on fighting advancing Turkish troops, Kurdish and U.S. officials said. Turkey considers its operations against the Kurdish militia in Syria a matter of its own survival and has long insisted it won’t tolerate a local Kurdish administration in Syria along its border. It says Kurdish fighters there are linked to its outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has led an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years, killing tens of thousands.

Turkey’s PKK is considered a terror group by Turkey and its Western allies, including the United States. Ankara has been infuriated by U.S. support for the Syrian Kurdish fighters, claiming that Washington was arming an extension of a terror group — charges both the U.S. and the Syrian Kurds deny. The Turkish Defense Ministry statement Thursday did not provide further details on the offensive but shared a brief video of commandos in action. The ministry said Turkish jets and artillery had struck 181 targets east of the Euphrates River in Syria since the incursion started.

Mustafa Bali, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces, said their fighters have repelled Turkish forces ground attacks.The Observatory, a war monitor that has activists throughout the country, said that since Turkey began its operation, seven civilians have been killed.Turkey says it intends to create a “safe zone” that would push the Kurdish militia away from its border and eventually allow the repatriation of up to 2 million Syrian refugees in the area.

Trump’s decision to have American troops step aside in northeastern Syria was a major shift in U.S. policy and drew opposition from all sides at home. It also marked a stark change in rhetoric by Trump, who during a press conference in New York last year vowed to stand by the Kurds, who have been America’s only allies in Syria fighting IS.
Trump said at the time that the Kurds “fought with us” and “died with us,” and insisted that America would never forget.

After Erdogan announced the offensive, Trump called the operation “a bad idea.” Later Wednesday, he said he didn’t want to be involved in “endless, senseless wars.”
Turkey’s campaign — in which a NATO member rained down bombs on an area where hundreds of U.S. troops had been stationed — drew immediate criticism and calls for restraint from Europe.

Australia on Thursday expressed concerns the Turkish incursion could galvanize a resurgence of the Islamic State group and refused to endorse the close ally U.S. for pulling back its troops from the area. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he had been in contact with the Turkish and U.S. governments overnight and admitted to being worried about the situation.

In Washington, officials said Wednesday that two British militants believed to be part of an Islamic State cell that beheaded hostages had been moved out of a detention center in Syria and were in U.S. custody. The two, El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Amon Kotey, along with other British jihadis allegedly made up the IS cell nicknamed “The Beatles” by surviving captives because of their English accents. In 2014 and 2015, the militants held more than 20 Western hostages in Syria and tortured many of them. The group beheaded seven American, British and Japanese journalists and aid workers and a group of Syrian soldiers, boasting of the butchery in videos released to the world.

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Iran Holds Military Drills Near Turkey

Iran launched unannounced drills Wednesday near its border with Turkey as the Islamic Republic warned its neighbor not to move forward with its military operation in northern Syria and Russia criticized the United States for setting up a potentially deadly scenario in the region.

Iranian army chief Major General Abdul Rahim Mousavi oversaw what was described as surprise exercises designed to “measure the readiness, mobility and speed” of his forces in the country’s northwest. Without specifying the exact nature of the maneuvers, Mousavi explained in an official release that the results of the drills were positive.

Turkish-backed Syrian rebel fighters head to an area near the Syrian-Turkish border north of Aleppo on Oct. 8.

“This is a good message for the great Iranian nation that its soldiers and children are fully prepared to carry out their missions to counter any possible enemy movement,” Mousavi said, saying the troops are “at the peak of their readiness.”

“The message to the enemies is that if they make the wrong calculations, they should know that the children of this land are ready to resist with their full power at any time and place,” he added.

The drills came as Iran, an ally of the Syrian government, continued to voice concerns toward pro-opposition Turkey’s planned incursion into northern Syria. The operation planned to target both the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), the major component of the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), both of which Ankara considers terrorist organizations.

“We have made it clear that the solution to establishment of security in the northern Syrian and southern Turkish borders is possible only with the presence of the Syrian army and we must provide all grounds for the Syrian military presence in these areas,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said when in a cabinet meeting, according to his office. “The Americans must leave the region, and the Kurds should cooperate with the Syrian Army, which is actually their own country

“The path chosen today and the agreements that are happening behind the scenes will not benefit the region, and we call on our friend and brother Turkey and its government to pay more attention and patience in such matters,” he added.

The U.S., which is opposed to Iran’s presence in Syria and disavows the government due to alleged war crimes, has repositioned its forces out of harm’s way ahead of the Turkish assault, which reportedly began Wednesday with strikes on Kurdish militias positions. The U.S. has offered conflicting statements about its views toward the coming attack, with President Donald Trump suggesting he was in support of Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s long-threatened military actions, while the Pentagon described his moves as “unilateral” and signaled disapproval.

The Syrian Democratic Forces have been the major local partner of the U.S.-led fight against ISIS in Syria since 2015, when focus began to shift away from an increasingly Islamist opposition trying to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who received a major boost via a Russian military intervention around that same time. ISIS has since been largely defeated by the rival U.S.-led coalition and pro-government campaigns.

“Fighting between various groups that has been going on for hundreds of years. USA should never have been in Middle East. Moved our 50 soldiers out. Turkey MUST take over captured ISIS fighters that Europe refused to have returned. The stupid endless wars, for us, are ending!,” Trump tweeted Wednesday.

With the rebels and other jihadis of Syria’s insurgency also widely defeated, the government and the Syrian Democratic Forces were left as the two major factions in the country. Months of negotiations between the two have so far been unsuccessful and both Moscow and Damascus have blamed Washington’s de facto support for Kurdish self-rule.

“Americans must understand that the processes that have unfolded in the north-east of Syria over the past few years are a direct violation of the requirements of the UN Security Council resolution on respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Syria,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said during a joint press conference with his Kazakh counterpart.

 “The Americans organized quasi-state structures there, ensured their livelihoods, vitality, and very actively promoted the Kurdish issue in a way that aroused opposition among the Arab tribes traditionally living in these territories. This is a very dangerous game,” he added, calling for “serious changes in their inconsistent, contradictory policies.”

Despite being on different sides of Syria’s protracted conflict, Moscow, along with fellow government supporter Tehran, has worked with Ankara as part of a trilateral peace process based in the Kazakh capital of Astana, since renamed Nur-Sultan. Though Russia has been reserved in its criticism toward Turkey, Lavrov echoed Rouhani in saying that the only solution would be “through a dialogue between the central government in Damascus and representatives of the Kurdish communities traditionally living in these territories.”

The Syrian Foreign Ministry, for its part, “condemns in the strongest possible terms the aggressive statements and aggressive intentions of the Turkish regime and the military build-up on the Syrian border which is a flagrant violation of international law and a flagrant violation of UN Security Council resolutions, all of which emphasize respect for unity, safety and sovereignty of Syria,” as reported Tuesday the official Syrian Arab News Agency. Should Turkey move forward with its attack, the statement warned Ankara would forfeit its position in the Astana process.

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