Syrian refugees’ figure to hit 1.1 m by June, says UN

Updated 07 February 2013
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Syrian refugees’ figure to hit 1.1 m by June, says UN

DAMASCUS: The United Nations said yesterday that the number of people fleeing fighting in Syria could reach 1.1 million by June, as it warned of crisis “fatigue” among developed nations.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said in Tokyo the international community needed to support a $ 1 billion plan, pushed by his and other international groups, to address the needs of those displaced by the Syrian conflict.
Meanwhile, Syrian National Council rejected a proposal by an opposition leader for peace talks with Bashar Assad’s regime.
The peace offering by Ahmed Moaz Al-Khatib, leader of the opposition National Coalition, has been welcomed by Washington and the Arab League.
The Syrian National Council rejected the possibility of any talks, saying it was only committed to ousting Assad’s regime and protecting the revolution.
The United Nations says more than 60,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which began as an anti-regime uprising but deteriorated into civil war when Assad’s forces used violence to put down protests.
Khatib’s offer on Monday followed his surprise announcement last week that he was ready for talks with Assad’s regime, subject to conditions including the release of 160,000 detainees.
Khatib later elaborated, saying he was ready to meet Assad’s deputy, Vice President Faruq Al-Sharaa.
In the past the opposition has demanded Assad step down before talks can begin but analysts say Khatib’s change in stance stems from a belief the population will be bled dry while the West fails to act.
Arab League chief Nabil Al-Arabi threw his weight behind Khatib’s offer, however, and offered to play a role in any negotiations for a democratic transition.
The US strongly backed Khatib’s dialogue call too, with the State Department saying the regime “should sit down and talk,” while stressing its position was unchanged on bringing to account those who have committed atrocities.
Assad last month announced he was ready for talks with the opposition but ruled out meeting groups such as the National Coalition, which backs fighters seeking to overthrow his regime.
On the ground, a suicide bomber yesterday attacked a military intelligence headquarters in the south-central Syria city of Palmyra, killing and wounding an unknown number of people, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The Observatory could not immediately give a more detailed breakdown of the toll.

It said that on Tuesday, 106 people died across Syria — 42 rebels, 37 civilians and 27 regime’s soldiers.


Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

Updated 23 May 2018
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Erdogan picks ministers for Turkey parliamentary race to boost his AK Party’s chances

  • Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week
  • The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has picked prominent ministers to run for parliament next month, strengthening the ruling AK Party’s chances of winning a majority but putting their future role in government into question, party officials say.
Many cabinet members including the energy, defense, foreign and interior ministers were named this week by the party to run for parliament in the June 24 poll, where the Islamist-rooted AK Party faces a stiff challenge from an opposition alliance.
While boosting the list of candidates, the move could affect the shape of the future cabinet because lawmakers will not be able to hold ministerial posts under the new presidential system, unless they resign their seats.
The party, in power since 2002, remains Turkey’s most popular political force, but recent opinion polls have suggested it could struggle to win an absolute majority, even with the support of its nationalist MHP ally.
The latest fall in the lira, which has lost more than a fifth of its value against the dollar this year, could also work against Erdogan if voters fear the government is pushing prices and the cost of living higher.
Erdogan is still widely expected to win the presidential election to be held the same day. While the presidency will take on greater executive authority afterwards, an opposition-controlled parliament could vote down legislation.
“Erdogan wants to win a parliamentary majority in this critical election with a strong list,” said one AK Party member running for parliament.
A survey by MAK pollsters, viewed as sympathetic to the ruling party, showed on Wednesday that the parliamentary race is absolutely balanced, with the AK Party together with the MHP winning exactly 50.0 percent. In the presidential vote, it saw Erdogan winning 51.4 percent.

MINISTERIAL CHANGES
The move to throw high profile ministers into the parliamentary race could have a major impact on the composition of next cabinet.
“Under normal circumstances, those who are in the (parliamentary) list will not be appointed ministers,” a senior AK Party official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Finance Minister Naci Agbal was not named as a parliamentary candidate, and three sources said he was expected to remain in the post-election cabinet.
However, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci is expected to leave the cabinet and run for a mayoral office, the sources said, while the future of Mehmet Simsek, deputy prime minister with responsibility for the economy, was undecided.
Investors have been watching closely for signals about Simsek’s role. As a former investment banker in New York and London, he is seen as one of the most investor-friendly members of a government at odds with economic orthodoxy.
The Turkish lira, already one of the weakest emerging market currencies this year, has lost another 13 percent against the dollar since Erdogan said in London last week that he planned to take greater control of the economy and that the central bank would not be able to ignore signals from the new executive presidency.
“Erdogan will make the last call on Simsek. Although Simsek’s policies are sometimes criticized, everyone knows that it’s hard to replace him,” an AK Party official said.
Simsek congratulated those on the party’s parliamentary list on Tuesday, adding in a tweet: “Onwards, no stopping.”
Officials say economic management is expected to be overseen by one of five vice presidents in a cabinet made up of 14 ministers — down from the current 21.
The changes have not yet been finalized, however, and may not be completed before the election, one of the AK Party officials said.