Turkish PM hails US visa move, calls for Gulen’s extradition

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2017
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Turkish PM hails US visa move, calls for Gulen’s extradition

ANKARA/ISTANBUL: Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim on Tuesday described the US’ move to partially resume issuing visas in Turkey as a positive step, but said Washington should extradite a cleric blamed for last year’s failed military coup in Turkey.
“The limited reissuing of visas between the United States and Turkey... prior to our visit can be seen as a positive development,” Yildirim told reporters before leaving for the US, where he is due to meet US Vice President Mike Pence.
The US said on Monday it would resume “limited visa services” in Turkey after getting what it said were assurances about the safety of its local staff. Washington halted issuing visas at its missions in Turkey last month, citing the detention of two local employees.
Turkey said it would match the move, relaxing a visa ban of its own that was instituted last month in retaliation against Washington. However, Yildirim reiterated Turkey’s stance that it had not offered assurances to Washington.
“Both countries are states of law, and procedures are being carried out in accordance with the law. Negotiations regarding the offering of assurances to the United States or vice-versa would breach the principles of laws of state,” he said.
In May, a translator at the US consulate in the southern province of Adana was arrested and, more recently, a US Drug Enforcement Administration worker was detained in Istanbul. Both are accused of links to last year’s coup attempt. The US Embassy has said the accusations are baseless.
Turkey has been angered by what it sees as US reluctance to hand over the cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999 and whom Ankara blames for orchestrating the coup. US officials have said courts require sufficient evidence to order his extradition.
Yildirim said Gulen’s extradition would be discussed during his visit, as well as the fate of some Turkish citizens arrested in the US — a reference to the wealthy gold trader who was arrested over Iran sanctions evasion last year and an executive at a state-owned bank arrested this year.
“We have strong evidence that Gulen was behind the July 15 coup attempt and we want his extradition. We want the concerns we have regarding the cases of our citizens arrested in the United States to be eased,” Yildirim said.
“They also have similar requests, and diplomatic channels are being used for discussions, we are both seeking a way out.”

Arrest warrants
A Turkish prosecutor has issued detention warrants for 53 active sergeants over alleged links to Gulen, state media said on Tuesday.
Twenty of the suspects have so far been detained in the operation across 12 provinces, state-run Anadolu Agency said. Thirty-three other soldiers were currently being sought, it said.
The Interior Ministry said on Monday that nearly 700 people had been detained over the previous week on allegations of ties to what Ankara calls the “Gulenist Terror Group.”
Some 50,000 people have been arrested since the failed putsch in July and around 150,000 dismissed or suspended, including soldiers, police, teachers and public servants, over alleged links with the movement of the US-based cleric.


‘We have long reached for the stars’: Arab history in space exploration

Updated 48 min 57 sec ago
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‘We have long reached for the stars’: Arab history in space exploration

  • On June 17, 1985, Saudi Prince Sultan entered the history books when he journeyed into space from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
  • As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo landing, the UAE and Saudi Arabia are spearheading a new era of Arab space exploration

Arab astronauts may not have set foot on the moon, but an Arab geographer left his mark on the Earth’s natural satellite as long ago as 1935.

A lunar impact crater 65 km in diameter was named AbulFeda by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) in honor of Isma’il Ibn Abu Al-Fida, a prince of the Ayyubid dynasty who lived between 1273 and 1331 in Syria.

The IAU was founded in 1919 to promote the science of astronomy and pay homage to major contributors in the field. AbulFeda is just one of 11 lunar craters named after luminaries from the golden age of Islamic civilization, which lasted from the mid-7th century to the 13th century.

In all, 24 lunar craters have been named after individuals from the region, including Abbas Ibn Firnas (810-887), an Andalusian inventor, physician, musician, engineer, humanitarian and poet — and the first man to fly. According to a 9th century poem, the so-called Leonardo da Vinci of the Muslim world “flew faster than the phoenix in his flight.”

Ibn Firnas was 65 when he became the world’s first hang-glider, jumping off the side of a mountain with feathers attached to his body and “touching the sky for a few minutes,” according to historical accounts.

Centuries later, in February, 1976, a meeting between the-then president of the UAE Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al-Nahyan and three US astronauts changed the course of a man’s life and fired the imagination of a young nation. A year earlier, the astronauts had taken part in the historic docking of an Apollo command/service module and a Soviet Soyuz 19 capsule as part of the first joint US–Soviet space flight.

A black-and-white photograph of the meeting, which can be seen at the operational air force squadron in Abu Dhabi, made a great impression on a young Emirati pilot, Hazza Al-Mansouri.

“I would look at the photo and imagine retaking it with three Emirati astronauts sitting with the founding father,” he said later.

Now 31-year-old Al-Mansouri, the UAE’s first astronaut, will also make history when he joins a mission to the International Space Station in September.

“It is a great honor to be represent the UAE in space, and to make my dream and the dream of a nation come true,” he told Arab News.

The astronaut plans to take personal items with him into space, including a seed of his country’s national tree, Al-Ghaf, and his traditional Emirati outfit.

The photograph of Sheikh Zayed and the US astronauts was not the only image that fired Al-Mansouri’s imagination. Inside his fourth-grade school book was a color photo of Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, the first Arab and royal to travel into space.

On June 17, 1985, Prince Sultan, a Saudi air force fighter pilot, lifted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on board the space shuttle Discovery. During the seven-day mission, he helped to deploy a satellite for the Arab Satellite Communications Organization (Arabsat).

Prince Sultan became a hero and an icon across the region. “We have long reached the stars and beyond,” he said.

Two years later, on July 22, 1987, Muhammed Faris, a Syrian military aviator, became the first Syrian and the second Arab in space, carrying a vial soil from Damascus on his journey from Earth.

Faris, who now lives in Turkey as a refugee, struck a responsive chord with many when he later told an interviewer: “When you go up there, you realize there are no borders, no countries, no nationalities. Just Earth. Mother Earth. We should protect this Earth. Who hurts their mother?”

The 1980s was a decade of expansion, exploration and transformation in the Middle East. Now, 30 years later, that energy has returned.

As the third Arab country (after Saudi Arabia and Syria) to send a man into space, the UAE has a special relationship with space and the moon.
In a corner of the Al-Ain national museum is “a piece of the moon” gifted to Sheikh Zayed by the three US astronauts.

“This fragment is a portion of a rock from the Valley of Taurus-Littrow. It is given as a symbol of the unity of human endeavor and carries with it the hope of the American people for a world at peace,” says the plaque describing the object.

Next to it, is a small, well-traveled UAE flag.

“This flag of your nation was carried to the moon aboard spacecraft America during the Apollo XVII mission, Dec. 7 to 19, 1972. Presented to the people of the UAE from the people of the United States of America, Richard Nixon 1973.”

As the world celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, the UAE is looking forward to the launch of Al-Amal, or Hope, in 2021 to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s foundation. The spacecraft will orbit Mars, which has an area of contrasting brightness and darkness that was named Arabia Terra in 1979 for its resemblance to the Arabian Peninsula.

“The moon landing was a pivotal moment in human history,” Salem Humaid Al-Marri, assistant director general for science and technology at the Mohammed Bin Rashid Space Center, told Arab News.

“It was when something we imagined became a reality, and humanity left this planet. It was the result of science, engineering, mathematics and imagination coming together.”

“Space makes people dream the impossible,” said Al-Marri.

The words uttered by Neil Armstrong when he became the first man to step on to the lunar surface, on July 20, 1969 — “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” — have become part of history.

“It was such a powerful statement that influenced so many who watched the original landing as well as those from the current generation who watched it on the Internet or TV,” said Al-Marri. “There isn’t anyone who hasn’t see the moon landing somewhere.”

The space era began as a “race” between the superpowers that helped to break new ground.

“The race pushed space industry development to new levels. While it was driven by military involvement, the benefits from the technological advances were for all people,” said Al-Marri. “We have better satellites, as well as a better understanding of our planet and the world around it, as a result.”

However, after the 1969 moon landing, strained budgets and depleted resources forced the space industry to abandon competition and embrace cooperation.

“Space today is all about cooperating to reach new heights. If you want to fly into space now, you have to do so on a Russian spacecraft as the Americans retired their shuttles in 2011,” Al-Marri said.

Al-Mansouri will head into space together with a US and a Russian astronaut, symbolizing a new era of Arab participation in space exploration.

“The UAE is working with the Saudi space program, as well as with others such as Algeria, Egypt, Kuwait and Bahrain, to boost the Arab presence in the space industry,” said Al-Marri.

“Space is bringing Arab nations together.”

In the broad sweep of history, these space programs are building on the contributions of the Islamic civilization that shaped the modern world — and honoring the memory of scientists and explorers such as Abu Al-Fida and Ibn Firnas.