Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday called for the “worrying” developments in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region to come to an end after meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in Istanbul, adding that Turkey was ready to provide any necessary support. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy held more than three hours of talks with Erdogan in Istanbul as part of a previously scheduled visit, amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow over the conflict in Donbass. Kyiv has raised the alarm over a buildup of Russian forces near the border between Ukraine and Russia, and over a rise in violence along the line of contact separating Ukrainian troops and Russia-backed separatists in Donbass. The Russian military movements have fueled concerns that Moscow is preparing to send forces into Ukraine. The Kremlin denies its troops are a threat but says they will remain as long as it sees fit. The United States says Russia has amassed more troops on Ukraine’s eastern border than at any time since 2014, when it annexed Crimea from Ukraine and backed separatists in Donbass. On Friday, Turkey said Washington will send two warships to the Black Sea next week. Speaking at a news conference alongside Zelenskiy, Erdogan said he hoped the conflict would be resolved peacefully, through dialogue based on diplomatic customs, in line with international laws and Ukraine’s territorial integrity. “We hope for the worrying escalation observed on the field recently to end as soon as possible, the cease-fire to continue and for the conflict to be resolved via dialogue on the basis of the Minsk agreements,” Erdogan said. “We are ready to provide any support necessary for this.” Major combat in Donbass ended with a truce agreed to in the Belarusian capital Minsk in 2015, whose implementation France and Germany have helped to oversee. Sporadic fighting continues despite repeated attempts to implement a cease-fire. Zelenskiy said the positions of Kyiv and Ankara coincided on threats in the Black Sea and the response to those threats, and added he briefed Erdogan on the developments in Donbass. “We discussed in detail the issues of security and joint counteraction to challenges in the Black Sea region and it is worth noting that the visions of Kyiv and Ankara coincide both regarding the threats themselves and the ways of responding to these threats,” he said. NATO member Turkey has forged close cooperation with Russia over conflicts in Syria, Libya and Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as in the defense and energy areas. But it has criticized Crimea’s annexation and supported Ukraine’s territorial integrity. It also sold drones to Kyiv in 2019. Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey and Ukraine launched a platform with their foreign and defense ministers to discuss defense industry cooperation but added this was “not in any way a move against third countries.” Ukraine and Russia have traded blame for the increase in violence in the conflict, which Kyiv says has killed 14,000 people since 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a call with Erdogan on Friday, accused Ukraine of “dangerous provocative actions” in Donbass. Kyiv said on Saturday Ukraine could be provoked by Russian aggravation of the situation in Donbass. Source: Voice of America

In a busy market in Syria’s capital, 53-year-old Ishaaq Kremed serenades customers and agilely pours tamarind juice from the ornate brass jug on his back ahead of Ramadan.

The popular street vendor says he usually has more customers during the Islamic holy month starting next week, during which many favor the drink to break their day-long fast at sundown.

But he says his trade of more than 40 years has also taken on new meaning since the war-torn country has been plunged into economic crisis.

“My main job is to make customers smile,” says the mustachioed father of 16, dressed in billowing trousers, a patterned waistcoat and red fez.

“What’s most important is that they leave me feeling happy — that whoever turns up stressed leaves feeling content,” adds the street vendor.

On his daily rounds of the Hamidiyah covered market, dozens of customers approach him to quench their thirst, often taking pictures of him and his traditional get-up with their cellphones.

As he nimbly pours juice in long streams into plastic cups, he distracts them for a while with a song.

A surgical face mask lowered under his chin, Kremed intones lyrics for a mother and her two young daughters, before handing her a cup of the dark brown beverage.

He takes his fez off to collect his payment, then places it back on the top of his head.

Another man, dressed in a long white robe, joins Kremed in a song then gives him a peck on the cheek as he leaves.

‘Financial worries’ 

Syria’s economic crisis has sent prices soaring and caused the national currency to plummet in value against the dollar on the black market.

In a country where a large majority of people live in poverty, Syrians have also had to contend with several lockdowns to stem the spread of coronavirus.

“For three years, Ramadan has been different because of people’s financial worries,” Kremed says.

“When people come to the market, you see them bumping into each other as if they were in a daze.”

The Damascus government blames the economic crisis on Western sanctions, but economists say the conflict, the pandemic and the financial crisis in neighboring Lebanon are also major factors.

Some state institutions have temporarily been closed over the pandemic and the economic crisis, but for now, markets remain open.

Although he does his best to keep up a cheery demeanor, Kremed says he too is feeling the effects of the economic crunch.

Tamarind and sugar are becoming increasingly costly, he says, and not everyone has enough spare cash for a refreshment.

“People’s priorities have become putting food and drink on the table, before tamarind juice,” he says.


Source: Voice of America