Turkey takes aim at Berlin as arsonists target mosques

Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdag. (REUTERS)
Updated 14 March 2018
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Turkey takes aim at Berlin as arsonists target mosques

ANKARA: A spate of attacks on Turkish mosques and businesses in Germany has drawn a sharp rebuke from Turkey only days before a key EU-Turkish summit.
Turkey issued a stern warning to Germany’s ambassador to Ankara and sent a diplomatic note to Berlin on Monday after several Turkish mosques, a cultural center and a Turkish vegetable shop in Germany were targeted by arsonists last week.
“The German government and its security forces have primary responsibility for the safety of Turkish citizens and other Muslims living in Germany,” Turkey’s deputy prime minister, Bekir Bozdag, said.
About 3 million people of Turkish descent live in Germany, including many ethnic Kurds.
The arson attacks have been blamed on Kurdish-led demonstrators in Germany who oppose Turkey’s military operation to drive out Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in the northern Syrian region of Afrin.
The developing crisis comes ahead of a key EU-Turkey summit set for March 26 in Varna, Bulgaria, where EU leaders will meet Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
However, experts believe the dispute is unlikely to escalate to the same level as the bilateral confrontation that followed the failed coup in Turkey last year.
Dr. Magdalena Kirchner, Mercator-IPC fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center, told Arab News that it was in Berlin’s interest to prevent the Turkish conflict with Syrian Kurds spilling over on to German territory.
German politicians and civil rights groups condemned the attacks, which damaged Turkish places of worship. Security agencies are also on the alert for further attacks against Turkish facilities in cities such as Berlin and Stuttgart.
Despite calls from Ankara, Germany and the Czech Republic have refused to extradite Salih Muslim, the former co-chair of the Syrian Democratic Union Party (PYD), which Turkey considers a terrorist group.
Muslim was arrested in Prague late last month. The Syrian Kurdish leader, who holds a resident’s permit in Finland, is on Turkey’s most-wanted terrorists’ list with a bounty of $1.05 million on his head. He has not filed for asylum in Germany.
“Ignoring Turkish calls for the arrest and extradition of Salih Muslim appears to be a consensus among European states as Swedish and Danish politicians have also refused to take action on behalf of Ankara,” Kirchner said.
“While this may add to Turkish frustration with its European partners because of the handling of the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) on their territory, and could lead to a further erosion of trust in Europe among the wider Turkish public, it is unlikely that Ankara will take action against Germany or other EU member states,” she said.
German chancellor Angela Merkel has voiced support for closer dialogue between Turkey and the EU, praising Turkey’s efforts to welcome more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees.
“We cannot hide our differences, but communication channels should remain open. We are dependent on each other,” Merkel said in Berlin on Monday.
Both Ankara and Berlin have a vested interest in smoothing relations ahead of the EU-Turkey summit, said Kirchner.
“Although German policymakers do not favor Turkey’s military operations in Syria, the governing parties have not publicly spoken out against it,” she said.
The PKK has been outlawed in Germany since 1993, but it remains an active force with about 14,000 followers among the country’s Kurdish community.
Germany has banned the carrying of PKK symbols and flags during rallies, but holding symbols of other Kurdish groups — such as PYD and YPG, which are not considered terror organizations in Germany — is permitted.
“Setting fire to mosques is an overt act of terrorism and, in doing so, German supporters of PYD only reinforce Turkey’s accusations that PYD is a terrorist organization,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund, said.
“This is an attack against Germany as much as against Turkey, and is taken lightly by neither German authorities nor German politicians.”
Paradoxically, the attacks could strengthen Germany’s resolve against PKK activities on its soil and contribute positively to Turkey-Germany relations, he said.


UN Security Council asked to hear from UN mission on Myanmar atrocities

Buddhist monk Wirathu delivers a speech during a rally to show the support to the Myanmar military in Yangon on October 14, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 17 October 2018
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UN Security Council asked to hear from UN mission on Myanmar atrocities

  • The fact-finding mission said that Myanmar’s top generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in Rakhine State

UNITED NATIONS, United States: The United States and eight other countries on Tuesday requested a UN Security Council meeting on Myanmar to hear from a UN fact-finding mission that has accused the country’s military of atrocities against Muslim Rohingyas.
The request is likely to run into opposition from China, which has friendly ties with Myanmar’s military and has sought to shield Myanmar from action by the Security Council.
In a joint letter seen by AFP, the nine countries said the mission’s chairperson should brief the council to allow it to “receive further information on this situation and its implications for international peace and security.”
The UN fact-finding mission released an explosive report last month that called on the council to refer the Myanmar situation to the International Criminal Court in The Hague, or to create an ad hoc international criminal tribunal, as was done with the former Yugoslavia.
The fact-finding mission said that Myanmar’s top generals, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing must be investigated and prosecuted for genocide in Rakhine State.
Myanmar has rejected accusations that its military committed atrocities in the crackdown last year that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh.

In a separate letter to the council, Myanmar’s Ambassador Hau Do Suan said his government “strongly objects” to the request to hear the fact-finding mission.
The ambassador repeated Myanmar’s complaints that the report was “one-sided,” based on “narratives and not on hard evidence.”
“Putting accountability above all else without regard to other positive developments is a dangerous attempt that will face utter failure,” he warned in the letter obtained by AFP.
Britain, France, Peru, Sweden, Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Poland and Kuwait jointed the United States in requesting the meeting to be held during the month of October.
Support from the nine countries for the request means that China would likely fail to block a meeting through a procedural vote. Nine votes are required at the 15-member council to approve an agenda item and vetoes do not apply.
Myanmar maintains that the violence in Rakhine was triggered by Rohingya extremists who attacked border posts in August 2017.
But the fact-finding mission said there were reasonable grounds to believe that the atrocities were committed with the intention of destroying the Rohingya, warranting the charges of “genocide.”
The report found that the military’s tactics had been “consistently and grossly disproportionate to actual security threats,” and said that estimates that some 10,000 people were killed in the crackdown was likely a conservative figure.