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Turkey issues arrest warrant for Syrian Kurdish leader

Al Jazeera

Turkey has issued arrest warrants for 48 Kurdish fighters, including the leader of a US-backed Syrian Kurdish group that is a key military force against ISIL. Warrants were issued on Tuesday in connection with a suicide bomb attack in February in Ankara. The attack on a military bus near a main base killed 29 people and was claimed by a group linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK. Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency said those wanted include two alleged PKK leaders currently in exile in Europe, including Salih Muslim, leader of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party, or PYD. Turkish jets hit al-Bab in push to take ISIL's Raqqa Muslim has repeatedly denied any "operational links" to the PKK.

Russia closes 'crisis chapter' with Turkey

Al Jazeera

Moscow is lifting travel restrictions on Russian tourists visiting Turkey after a period of diplomatic tension with plans to resume "mutually advantageous" trade relations. Russia's President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday that he asked his government to begin "the process of normalising general trade and economic ties with Turkey", fixing badly strained relations since Ankara shot down a Russian warplane taking part in Moscow's military campaign in Syria last year. "I want to start with the question of tourism ... we are lifting the administrative restrictions in this area," Putin told government ministers in televised comments. Russian tourism to Turkey last month was down more than 90 percent year on year, according to figures by Turkey's Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Overall tourism in Turkey was down about 35 percent last month compared with the same period last year, the ministry said.

US signs military aid deal with Iraq's Kurdish fighters

Al Jazeera

The US has signed a deal with the Kurdish regional government in northern Iraq to provide the Kurds with futher military and financial support in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group. A senior Pentagon official signed an agreement with Kurdish officials on Tuesday to give vetted members of the Peshmerga units, Iraq's Kurdish military forces, some 415m for ammunition, food, pay, medical equipment, among other things. US officials have not confirmed suggestions by some Kurdish officials that the money can be used to buy heavy military equipment. They have insisted, however, that the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi supports the US' efforts to boost the Peshmerga. "We're working hard to support those efforts; we're doing that though through the command and control of the Iraqi government," Mark Toner, the US State Department deputy spokesperson, told reporters.

Battle for Mosul: Peshmerga seizes Bashiqa from ISIL

Al Jazeera

Kurdish Peshmerga have taken the town of Bashiqa near Mosul from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) as coalition forces pressed their offensive against the armed group's last urban stronghold in Iraq. A US official said Masoud Barzani, President of the Iraqi Kurdish Region, had informed US Defense Secretary Ash Carter that the Kurds had succeeded in recapturing Bashiqa from ISIL. Kurdish fighters told reporters at the scene they had entered Bashiqa, but journalists were not being allowed into the town. Kurdish forces announced their new push on Bashiqa at dawn on Sunday. The successful advance took place as US Defense Secretary Ash Carter was in Iraq's autonomous region of Kurdistan to support the unprecedented offensive, which a US-led coalition is backing with air and ground support.

Abbas retracts rabbis 'water poisoning' comment

Al Jazeera

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has retracted comments he made this week about an alleged plot by rabbis calling on Jewish settlers to poison the drinking water of Palestinians. Abbas' office acknowledged on Saturday that his comments were "baseless", adding he "didn't intend to do harm to Judaism or to offend Jewish people around the world." In a speech to the European Union in Brussels on Thursday, Abbas made claims of a plot to poison Palestinian wells, sparking accusations of anti-Semitism. Abbas's speech, denouncing Israel for stalling the peace talks, received a standing ovation from European lawmakers, but his allegation about the water poisoning drew strong condemnation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu said Abbas showed his "true face" by spreading such a "blood libel" and called on him to cease inciting against Israel.