Democracies cannot threaten or be threatened, Athens tells Ankara over asylum row

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, left, and his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu during a press conference in Ankara. (File photo/Reuters)
Updated 31 December 2017
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Democracies cannot threaten or be threatened, Athens tells Ankara over asylum row

ATHENS: Greece dismissed Turkish anger on Sunday over its decision to grant asylum to a soldier who Ankara accuses of involvement in the abortive coup against President Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.
Turkey said on Saturday the decision by a Greek asylum board undermined relations between the two countries. The soldier was one of eight who fled after the July 15 coup attempt.
It also accused Athens of harboring “coup plotters,” a charge Greece denies. The countries are at odds over a host of issues from ethnically split Cyprus to sovereignty over airspace, but their relations had improved in recent years.
The asylum board rejected the applications by the other seven soldiers, and the Greek government has appealed the decision to grant the soldier asylum and sought its annulment. But it says the country’s judiciary is independent.
“Our faith in democratic principles and practices is not a weakness, but a source of strength,” the Greek Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
“Democracies do not threaten, or can be threatened,” the ministry said.
“On the contrary, they work responsibly and methodically to promote understanding and entrench stability and good neighborly relations. Greece will continue this path ... and hopes its neighbors will do the same.”
The eight soldiers had flown by helicopter to Greece in the early hours of July 16, 2016, as the attempted coup against Erdogan crumbled. They had denied involvement in the attempt.


Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

Updated 21 July 2019
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Citizen journalist among 11 civilians killed in northwest Syria

  • Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets

KHAN SHEIKHUN: A young citizen journalist was among 11 civilians killed in air raids on Syria’s Idlib region Sunday, rescue workers and a monitor said, as he filmed the Russia-backed regime bombardment of the battered enclave.
Anas Al-Dyab, a photographer and videographer in his early 20s, was a member of the White Helmets who also contributed to AFP.
He was killed in Russian air strikes in the town of Khan Sheikhun, rescuers and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The White Helmets, rescue workers in rebel areas named after their distinctive hard hats, said the group “mourns the fall of a hero Anas Al-Dyab, a volunteer and media activist with the Syrian Civil Defense Center in Idlib,” in a Twitter post.
An AFP journalist saw White Helmet members gather to bid farewell to their friend, whose body was laid on a thick red blanket.
The Damascus regime and its Russian ally have stepped up their deadly bombardment of the jihadist-run region of Idlib since late April, despite a September buffer zone deal to protect the region of some three million people from a massive military assault.
Khan Sheikhun, a town in the south of Idlib, has been particularly hit, forcing thousands to flee their homes there, according to the United Nations.
But Dyab “chose to remain with his fellow volunteers in Khan Sheikhun till today,” the White Helmets said.
Raed Al-Saleh, the head of the White Helmets, said Dyab was killed while “trying to show the world what’s going on in Syria.”
“It’s a great loss,” he said.
Dyab, who was single, leaves behind his parents and three brothers, one of whom is held by the Damascus regime, Saleh said.
The Observatory said Dyab was hiding in the cellar of a three-story building with two members of the Jaish Al-Ezza rebel group when the strike happened.
Also on Sunday, regime air strikes killed 10 other civilians including three children in other parts of the bastion, said the Britain-based monitor, which relies on sources inside Syria for its information.
Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham in January took full administrative control of the Idlib region, although other jihadists and rebels are also present.
The Idlib region is supposed to be protected by a September 2018 deal between Russia and rebel backer Turkey, but a buffer zone planned under that accord was never fully implemented.
The White Helmets, who are backed by the West, were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2016.
But Moscow and Damascus accuse the group of backing rebels and jihadists.
Syria’s war has killed a total of more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests.