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Turkey Wants U.S. Envoy On Islamic State Removed Over Kurdish Policy

May 18, 2017

By Daren Butler and Humeyra Pamuk

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey said on Thursday the U.S. special envoy in the battle against Islamic State should be removed because he supported Kurdish militants, and warned that Ankara would act unilaterally if it faced attack from the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia.


The comments, which followed a White House meeting on Tuesday between President Tayyip Erdogan and U.S. President Donald Trump, reflected Turkish anger at Trump’s decision to arm YPG fighters who are part of a force aiming to recapture the Islamic State-held Syrian city of Raqqa.

Ankara regards the YPG militia as an extension of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants fighting a decades-old insurgency in southeast Turkey, while Washington sees the YPG as its most reliable ally for the Raqqa campaign.

Turkey has long complained that U.S. policy against Islamic State in Syria has favored the YPG over Arab rebel forces, a policy that Turkish officials believe is driven partly by Washington’s envoy to the international coalition against the jihadist group.

“Brett McGurk, the USA’s special envoy in the fight against Daesh (Islamic State), is definitely and clearly giving support to the PKK and YPG. It would be beneficial if this person is changed,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told NTV television.

The United States and the European Union, along with Turkey, designate the PKK a terrorist organization.

Erdogan, speaking to reporters at the Turkish embassy in Washington after the talks with Trump, said he told the U.S. president that Turkey would not hesitate to strike if it faced any sort of attack from the YPG, Turkish media reported.

“We clearly told them this: if there is any sort of attack from the YPG and PYD against Turkey, we will implement the rules of engagement without asking anyone,” Sabah newspaper cited him as saying. The PYD is the YPG’s political arm.

Erdogan did not specify what measures he might order, but said Turkey had shown its fighting capabilities when Turkish forces and Syrian rebels seized territory in northern Syria last year, pushing back Islamic State fighters and prompting a limited withdrawal of the YPG militia.

“Indeed we did this in Rai, Jarablus, al-Bab. Turkey showed what it can do,” Erdogan said. “We will not give terrorist groups breathing space domestically or abroad.”

TENSIONS WITH ALLIES

Cavusoglu said Trump had understood Turkey’s position, and did not challenge Erdogan when the Turkish president set out his possible response to the YPG.

Last month, Turkish warplanes bombed Kurdish fighters in Iraq’s Sinjar region and YPG militia in Syria, drawing rebuke from Washington which voiced concern over the air strikes and said they harmed the coalition’s fight against Islamic State.

Erdogan said that the United States had made its decision on conducting the Raqqa operation – despite Ankara’s opposition – and that Turkey could not participate given the YPG involvement.

“We told them … we do not regard your cooperation with a terrorist group in Raqqa as healthy,” he was cited as saying.

But he said he expected a role for Turkey in Syria, and repeated Turkey’s assertion that once Raqqa was retaken from Islamic State, Kurdish forces could not be left in control of an Arab city. “I believe they will knock on our door on the subject of Syria,” he said.

The tensions with Washington over the YPG come as Turkey’s relations with the European Union, and Germany in particular, have also deteriorated.

Turkey has prevented German parliamentarians visiting its Incirlik airbase, where 250 German troops are based as part of a mission which includes German surveillance planes supporting the campaign against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen said on Wednesday the German government had been evaluating possible alternatives to Incirlik and was considering moving the troops to Jordan.

Priyanka Chopra’s Baywatch gets its first review, and it comes from an unlikely source

The first review for Priyanka Chopra’s Hollywood debut Baywatch has arrived, and it comes from the unlikeliest of sources, former American football player Troy Polamalu.





Priyanka Chopra’s debut Hollywood film Baywatch is due out in India on June 2. But it will release in the US on the May 26, directly clashing with Johnny Depp’s Pirates of the Caribbean 5. While the film has been screened for audiences (user reactions have been cropping up online since the Las Vegas CinemaCon in March), the embargo on professional reviews hasn’t been lifted. But one reaction has been endorsed by the film’s official Twitter page, and it comes from former American football star Troy Polamalu.

Previously, Priyanka Chopra also called the film “freaking amazing” but warned parents to not take their children because it was a hard R-rated movie.

Baywatch is a reboot of the hugely popular TV show from the ‘90s starring David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson. The film stars Dwayne Johnson, Zac Efron, Kelly Rohrabach, Ilfenesh Hadera, Jon Bass and Alexandra Daddario as lifeguards and Priyanka Chopra as the evil villain they must stop from taking over their beach.

The movie generated more social media conversations over the last week than any other film, reported Variety. Baywatch also has a 6.4/10 rating on IMDb from 281 ratings, although the veracity of IMDb ratings is always dubious.

Daring Kidman is the queen of Cannes

PARIS-Nicole Kidman is the undisputed queen of the Cannes film festival which opens Wednesday in the French Riviera resort, starring in three of its most eagerly awaited films. The Australian actress is in two in the running for its top prize, the Palme d’Or, and plays a fashion and music maven in “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” in the official selection. The film, adapted from a Neil Gaiman short story, has Kidman adopting Elle Fanning’s alien as her protege.

queen

Kidman also shows her trademark mix of hauteur and vulnerability as a pent-up governess of a Mississippi girls school in Sofia Coppola’s highly touted remake of “The Beguiled”.




The film, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, has Colin Farrell as an injured Union soldier who seduces Kidman’s charges and drives her wild with desire. She teams up with the Irish actor again in Greek maestro Yorgos Lanthimos’s “The Killing of a Sacred Deer”, this time as his wife in the story of a surgeon who gets disastrously drawn into the life of a dysfunctional family.

While the 49-year-old has never won a prize at Cannes, she has long been a festival favourite, taking a string of arthouse roles even after becoming one of Hollywood’s most bankable stars after her split from her first husband Tom Cruise.

It was one of many reinventions that have taken the high-school dropout from Australian teen movies like “BMX Bandits” to the top of her profession.

Kidman has never lacked daring, risking working with the notorious Danish auteur Lars Von Trier, who was later banned from Cannes after saying he was a Nazi.

“One day it would be a fairy tale, the next it a nightmare,” she said of working with him on “Dogville”. Others told how she had to grin and bear humiliations and mind games on the set.

Even when she was headlining big-budget blockbusters like “Batman Forever” in 1995, Kidman made time for whip-smart roles in indie films like Gus Van Sant’s satire on fame, “To Die For”, which confirmed her as a major talent. But she had to wait until 2003 for a best actress Oscar for her depiction of tortured novelist Virginia Woolf in Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours”.

Two more nominations have followed, the latest for “Lion” last year.

Its storyline, of a young man from India adopted by an Australian family who searches for his long-lost relatives on Google Earth, resonated with Kidman.

She adopted two children – Isabella and Connor – with Tom Cruise, and has had two others since with New Zealand-born country singer Keith Urban.

She said she felt an immediate connection with the woman she portrayed, Sue Brierley.

“I told her a lot about myself, and it was almost like she already knew,” Kidman said. “I just felt ever since I was young that I was going to adopt a child,” she added.

Kidman was born in Honolulu where her psychologist father was working at the time, and her family returned to Australia when she was four, where took to drama from a young age, eventually quitting school to study acting.

PM Nawaz likely to hold first ever meeting with Donald Trump this week




RIYADH – Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is likely to hold his first-ever meeting with US president Donald Trump, this week.

donald trump

Both the leaders would face off on May 21 at US-Arab Islamic summit where two dozen heads of governments and states would gather to focus on ways to enhance the cooperation between the American and the Muslim countries in fight against extremism.

Foreign Office officials confirmed to a leading daily that efforts were underway to arrange a maiden bilateral meeting between Trump and Nawaz at the sidelines of the summit.

A senior Pakistani official, who requested anonymity said the prime minister was already preparing a ‘brief’ for a possible interaction with the US president.

The official said the ‘brief’ includes the country’s position on Afghanistan’s current situation and the way forward and current tensions with India.

The likely interaction follows the prime minister’s telephonic conversation with Trump weeks after he won the US presidential elections by a landslide majority.

That telephonic conversation made waves across the globe because of Trump’s unprecedented praise for Nawaz’s leadership as well as for Pakistan.