Turkey marks second coup anniversary

People lit lights of their mobile phones as they read the names of people killed during the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, while standing near the "July 15 Martyrs Bridge" (Bosphorus Bridge) in Istanbul on July 15, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 July 2018
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Turkey marks second coup anniversary

  • The anniversary comes after Erdogan won outright in June 24 presidential elections
  • More than 77,000 people have been arrested over suspected links to Gulen

ANKARA: Turkey on Sunday commemorated the second anniversary of a bloody coup attempt which was followed by a series of purges in the public sector and changes to boost President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s powers.
Two hundred and forty eight people were killed and over 2,000 were wounded after a rogue military faction tried to overthrow Erdogan on July 15, 2016.
The attempted coup was blamed by Ankara on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, a former ally turned foe of Erdogan. Gulen denies the claims.
In a series of events, Erdogan took part in a religious ceremony in an Ankara mosque before he hosted a lunch with martyrs’ families and those wounded at the presidential palace.
July 15 is now a national holiday and Erdogan promised during the lunch that “we will not let it be forgotten and we will not forget it.”
Erdogan will at 1800 GMT address citizens on the bridge across the Bosphorus in Istanbul — now renamed the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge — which was the scene of bloody fighting between Erdogan’s supporters and renegade soldiers.
Ankara municipality organized a rally in the renamed July 15 Kizilay National Will Square, the same place where thousands gathered nightly for a month after the coup attempt.
Dozens of life sentences have been handed down against the putschists while hundreds more court cases continue across Turkey against alleged coup-plotters.
The government said earlier this year that over 77,000 people have been arrested over suspected links to Gulen.
Tens of thousands have also been dismissed or suspended from the public sector over alleged Gulen ties, including judges and soldiers, in a crackdown criticized by Turkey’s Western allies and human rights activists.
Turkey has been under a state of emergency since July 20, 2016 but Erdogan’s spokesman this week said it would be lifted on Wednesday.
Erdogan vowed that the fight against the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization” (FETO), Ankara’s name for the Gulen movement which it calls a “virus,” would continue.
“We will find and remove them from all the cells they have entered,” he said.
The anniversary comes after Erdogan won outright in June 24 presidential elections. After the polls, constitutional reforms to create an executive presidency came into force giving Erdogan sweeping powers.
Erdogan issued seven decrees early Sunday to reshape several public institutions. The Armed Forces General Staff is now under the authority of the defense minister while the Supreme Military Council (YAS) — which decides on senior military appointments and strategic priorities — has been restructured.


UN agency to donors: Back Palestine efforts anew, keep funding at 2018 levels

The UN Relief and Works Agency provides food assistance to 1 million people in Gaza every three months, which is half of the area’s population. (AFP)
Updated 25 min 20 sec ago
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UN agency to donors: Back Palestine efforts anew, keep funding at 2018 levels

  • ‘Exceptional’ contributions enabled the UN Relief and Works Agency to fund its entire 2018 budget of $1.2 billion
  • ‘Countries that supported us last year I would say were extremely proud to contribute to the solution’

UNITED NATIONS: The head of the UN agency that helps 5.3 million Palestinian refugees on Monday urged donors who filled a $446 million hole in its budget last year after the Trump administration drastically cut the US contribution to be equally generous this year.
“Last year we had an extraordinary crisis and an out of the ordinary response,” Pierre Krahenbuhl said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Our humble request to all the donors is: Please keep your funding levels at the same level as 2018.”
He said he has been thanking donors for their “exceptional” contributions that enabled the UN Relief and Works Agency to fund its entire 2018 budget of $1.2 billion.
Krahenbuhl said the agency, known as UNRWA, also adopted a $1.2 billion budget for 2019, and this year it is getting nothing from the United States. Last year, the Trump administration gave $60 million, a dramatic reduction from the $360 million it provided in 2017, when the United States was the agency’s largest donor.
US President Donald Trump said in January 2018 that the Palestinians must return to peace talks to receive US aid money — a comment that raised alarm from leaders of 21 international humanitarian groups, who protested that the administration’s link between aid and political objectives was “dangerous.”
Krahenbuhl said the campaign that UNRWA launched immediately after the US slashed its contribution succeeded as a result of “very important donations,” starting with the European Union, which became the agency’s biggest donor. He said 40 countries and institutions increased funding to UNRWA, including Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden, Japan, Canada and Australia. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait each gave $50 million, he said.
“Countries that supported us last year I would say were extremely proud to contribute to the solution,” Krahenbuhl said.
Last year, he said, the number of multi-year funding agreements with donors rose to 19.
So UNRWA right now is in “a somewhat better position” than it was last year, with a shortfall of just over $200 million, Krahenbuhl said.
So far this year, the agency has received $245 million and is expecting $100 million more, he said, which means it should be financially OK until about May.
“But from then on we’ll start to ... reach some crisis points,” Krahenbuhl said.
He said UNRWA is thinking about holding some events in the next two or three months “to collectively mobilize the donor community.” In June, he said, there will be a pledging conference at which the UN and donors will take stock of the agency’s financial situation.
Krahenbuhl said he is committed to making up for the $60 million that UNRWA is losing from the United States this year through internal cost saving measures to reduce the agency’s expenditures.
“That’s going to hurt, but that’s where we feel our financial responsibility, so that we preserve the trust that was generated by the level of donors,” he said, noting that UNRWA last year saved $92 million.
Krahenbuhl said donors recognize the agency does important work. He pointed to the 280,000 boys and girls in UNRWA schools in Gaza and the food assistance the agency provides to 1 million people there every three months. “That’s half of Gaza’s population,” he said.
The UNRWA chief also said that continuing the agency’s services to Palestinian refugees in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Gaza and elsewhere in the Mideast “is in everybody’s interest” and important for stability in the region.
“If you take Gaza right now ... it’s continuously at the razor’s edge,” Krahenbuhl said, stressing that any shift in humanitarian assistance or conditions that people live in “can trigger the need for justification, or the excuse ... to go back to war.”
Noting his own experience in the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, which controls Gaza, Krahenbuhl said, “this is absolutely devastating and needs to be avoided.”