Erdogan hits out at Dutch over Srebrenica massacre

Erdogan hits out at Dutch over Srebrenica massacre
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that The Netherlands would face more retaliation from Ankara in a spiralling diplomatic crisis. (Reuters)
Updated 15 March 2017

Erdogan hits out at Dutch over Srebrenica massacre

Erdogan hits out at Dutch over Srebrenica massacre

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned that the Netherlands would face more retaliation from Ankara in a spiralling diplomatic crisis, as he made a new jibe against the country over the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. 
In an uncompromising speech, Erdogan said a “yes” vote in an April 16 referendum on expanding his powers would be the best response to Turkey’s “enemies” in a dispute that risks wrecking the entire Ankara-Brussels relationship.
He also said the Dutch character had been “broken” after Netherlands peacekeepers had failed to prevent the 1995 Srebrenica massacre, in comments described as “repugnant” by The Hague.
In a dramatic escalation after the Netherlands prevented two Turkish ministers from holding rallies ahead of the referendum, Ankara said it was suspending high-level relations with the Hague in a raft of diplomatic sanctions.
Erdogan also late Monday lashed out at German Chancellor Angela Merkel for “supporting terrorists” as she backed the Netherlands in the increasingly acrimonious standoff, prompting an exasperated response from Berlin.
Far from stepping back, Erdogan accused the Netherlands of “state terror” in preventing Turkish ministers from holding pro-’yes’ rallies.
“We are going to work more” on measures against the Netherlands, said Erdogan.
“These wrongs will not be solved with a sorry, we have more things to do.”
Erdogan had previously angered the Netherlands by saying the authorities had behaved like the Nazis, who had occupied and bombed the country in the World War II.
Touching another raw nerve, he recalled the 1995 Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, which Dutch UN peacekeepers failed to prevent in an episode that remains a national trauma to this day.
“The Netherlands and the Dutch, we know them from the Srebrenica massacre. We know how much their morality, their character is broken from the 8,000 Bosnians that were massacred,” Erdogan said.
“We know this well. No one should give us a lesson in civilization.”

‘Historical falsehood’
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte called his claim a “repugnant historical falsehood.”
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn had called on Turkey to “refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation.”
But the Turkish Foreign Ministry hit back by saying: “The EU’s short-sighted statement has no value for our country.”
The ministry added: “Our EU counterparts apply democratic values, fundamental rights and freedoms selectively.”
Paying no heed to the EU’s warning, Erdogan had bluntly told the German chancellor on Turkish television late Monday: “Mrs Merkel, you are supporting terrorists.”
In an interview with A-Haber television, he accused Berlin of not responding to 4,500 dossiers sent by Ankara on terror suspects, including those linked to Kurdish militants and the failed coup in Turkey last year.
Merkel’s spokesman described the accusations as “absurd,” saying the chancellor had no intention of taking part in a “competition of provocations.”
Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Tuesday said Ankara was playing the role of the victim with its broadsides against NATO allies, as it seeks to “build solidarity” ahead of the referendum.

Meetings suspended
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said after a Cabinet meeting in Ankara that Turkey will not allow the Dutch ambassador to return until the Netherlands meets conditions over holding rallies.
Ambassador Kees Cornelis van Rij is currently outside of the country, and business is being handled by Dutch charge d’affaires.
Kurtulmus added: “Until the Netherlands compensates for what it has done, high-level relations and planned meetings at a ministerial and higher level have been suspended.”
The move by the Netherlands to block the rallies comes as Rutte prepares to face the far-right populist Geert Wilders in a general election on Wednesday.
Turkey is gearing up for a key April 16 poll to decide whether to approve constitutional changes that would create an executive presidency, boosting Erdogan’s powers.
In a bid to woo support, Turkish officials have sought to address to their citizens living in Europe, where a majority have traditionally supported the ruling party.
“Our nation on April 16 at the ballot box... will give the best answer to Turkey’s enemies,” Erdogan said.
In Germany, there are over 1.4 million Turkish citizens eligible to vote while there are nearly 250,000 in the Netherlands based on official figures from November 2015.


Egyptian architects win UNESCO competition to rebuild Mosul's Al-Nouri Mosque

Egyptian architects win UNESCO competition to rebuild Mosul's Al-Nouri Mosque
Updated 1 min 21 sec ago

Egyptian architects win UNESCO competition to rebuild Mosul's Al-Nouri Mosque

Egyptian architects win UNESCO competition to rebuild Mosul's Al-Nouri Mosque

UNESCO has announced the winner of an architectural design competition to rebuild a historic mosque destroyed by Daesh in Iraq.

Eight Egyptian architects won the international competition for the reconstruction of the Al-Nouri Mosque complex in Mosul.

The mosque was mostly destroyed by the extremist group in 2017 as Iraqi forces fought to recapture the city.

More to follow …


Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe
Updated 32 min 3 sec ago

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe

Palestine slams UK opposition to ICC war crimes probe
  • Rejection of investigation ‘marks low point’ in bilateral ties: Diplomatic mission
  • UK stance ‘farcical and hypocritical,’ Palestine Solidarity Campaign tells Arab News

LONDON: Palestine has said its relations with Britain have reached a “new low” after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his opposition to an International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation into alleged war crimes in the Israeli-occupied territories.

In a letter to the lobby group Conservative Friends of Israel, Johnson said his government had “respect (for) the independence” of the ICC but opposed the inquiry.

“This investigation gives the impression of being a partial and prejudicial attack on a friend and ally of the UK’s,” he wrote.

In a statement posted on its website, the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Britain said Johnson’s letter was “deeply regrettable” and “marks a low point in UK-Palestine relations and undermines the UK’s credibility on the international stage.”

The letter contradicts both international law and Britain’s own policy on Palestine, the mission said, stressing the need to respect international law for the good of all parties.

“We sincerely hope the UK will reconsider its position and that in the cold light of day understand that the best option for everyone, including Israel, is a firm commitment to international law and the basic principle of equality for all,” it added.

A panel of judges at the ICC ruled in February that the court has jurisdiction in the occupied Palestinian territories. 

The court is expected to look at possible war crimes committed by Israeli forces and Palestinian militants during and after the 2014 Gaza war, as well as Israel’s establishment of settlements in the occupied West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem. 

“Shamefully, Johnson has made clear that the government’s opposition to the ICC’s investigation is rooted in the fact that it’s being initiated against ‘a friend and ally of the UK’s’,” Ben Jamal, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told Arab News.

“It also renders farcical and hypocritical the prime minister’s simultaneous assertion that the UK is ‘a strong supporter’ of the court,” Jamal added.

“We call upon the UK government to adopt a more consistent position supporting the court but not exempting Israeli officials from proper investigation.”
A joint letter penned by several charities and aid groups accused Johnson of “political interference” in the ICC’s work.

The UK government “could be a bastion of international law and human rights — but instead it is undermining international criminal proceedings and standing in the way of justice,” said the signatories, which include Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Council for Arab-British Understanding.

The government “should respect the impartiality and independence of the court, and should support — rather than substantially undermine — international legal frameworks and judicial mechanisms,” they added.


Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast
Updated 59 min 4 sec ago

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast

Judge orders release of 6 detained over Lebanon port blast
  • Investigating judge ordered the release of 6 men including an officer, who had warned top officials of dangers of material stored at port
  • The six will be banned from traveling outside Lebanon, according to a judicial official

BEIRUT: A Lebanese judge investigating 2020’s massive blast at Beirut’s port on Thursday ordered the release of six people, including security officers, who had been detained for months, state news agency reported.
It was not immediately clear what triggered the release of the men, who include an officer who had written a detailed warning to top officials prior to the explosion about the dangers of the material stored at the port.
Judge Tarek Bitar was named to lead the investigation in February after his predecessor was removed following legal challenges by two former Cabinet ministers he had accused of negligence.
State-run National News Agency said Bitar ordered the release of the six including Maj. Joseph Naddaf of the State Security department and Maj. Charbel Fawaz of the General Security Directorate. The four others are customs and port employees.
Nearly 3,000 tons of ammonium nitrates, a highly explosive material used in fertilizers that had been improperly stored in the port for years, exploded on Aug. 4, killing 211 people, wounding more than 6,000 and damaging nearby neighborhoods.
The six will be banned from traveling outside Lebanon, according to a judicial official, speaking on condition of anonymity to follow regulations. The official added that 19 people are still being held in the case. Among those who are still held are the head of the customs department and his predecessor as well as the port’s director general.
In a July 20 report, State Security warned that one of the doors of the warehouse where the material had been stored was separated from the wall enough to allow anyone to enter and steal the ammonium nitrate.
The report that was sent to President Michel Aoun and then-Prime Minister Hassan Diab warned that thieves could steal the material to make explosives. Or, it said, the mass of material could cause an explosion “that would practically destroy the port.”
Holding Naddaf for months had angered some in Lebanon especially that his report two weeks before the blast was a clear warning of the dangers.
The Beirut port explosion has been one of the most traumatic national experiences the Lebanese have faced and families of those killed are skeptical that any investigation into the explosion can be transparent and independent in a country where a culture of impunity has prevailed for decades.


Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area
Updated 15 April 2021

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area

Lebanon demands Israel halt offshore gas exploration in disputed area
  • Talks stalled after Lebanon demanded larger area, including Karish gas field, where Israel has given a Greek firm rights for exploration
  • "Lebanon is within its rights to evolve its position according to its interest and as suitable under international law," Aoun told US envoy Hale

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun demanded Israel on Thursday to halt exploration in an offshore gas field on its southern border amid ongoing dispute over their shared sea frontier.
Still technically at war, the two countries last year took part in indirect US-brokered talks to discuss demarcation to clear the way for offshore oil and gas exploration.
The talks stalled after Lebanon demanded a larger area, including part of the Karish gas field, where Israel has given a Greek firm rights for exploration.
“Lebanon is within its rights to evolve its position according to its interest and as suitable under international law,” Aoun told visiting United States envoy David Hale.
Aoun “demanded international experts... draw the line according to international law,” the presidency said in a statement.
He also called for a “commitment to not carrying out any oil or gas activities and not starting any exploration in the Karish field and its adjacent waters” until the matter was settled.
The talks last year were supposed to discuss a Lebanese demand for 860 square kilometers (330 square miles) of territory in the disputed maritime area, according to a map sent to the United Nations in 2011.
But Lebanon then said the map was based on erroneous calculations and demanded 1,430 square kilometers (552 square miles) more territory further south, including part of Karish.
Lebanon’s outgoing public works minister this week signed a decree to make official Lebanon’s demand for the larger area.
Aoun, the caretaker prime minister, and the outgoing defense minister still have to sign it before Lebanon sends it to the UN to make its new demand official.
For his part, Hale on Thursday said the US was ready to continue brokering Israel-Lebanon talks “on the basis on which we initiated these discussions,” appearing to reject the Lebanese move toward demanding a larger area.


Italian leaders consider Libya a ‘strategic priority’

Italian leaders consider Libya a ‘strategic priority’
Updated 15 April 2021

Italian leaders consider Libya a ‘strategic priority’

Italian leaders consider Libya a ‘strategic priority’
  • Lorenzo Guerini, Italy’s defense minister, said that the presence in Libya of Italian troops was ‘part of an overall national strategy’
  • According to Italian military statistics, the country has 400 troops deployed in Libya, as well as a field hospital

ROME: Italy considered Libya to be a “strategic priority” and has pledged to provide the peace-seeking north African country’s transitional government with “every assistance needed.”

Lorenzo Guerini, Italy’s defense minister, said that the presence in Libya of Italian troops was “part of an overall national strategy.”

He pointed out that Libya was of “huge significance” to Italy for a number of reasons, “from our national security, economic, historical, and cultural point of view.”

And the minister added that a democratic Libya could act as a barrier for Italy and the EU against the “strong jihadist presence in Africa.”

According to Italian military statistics, the country has 400 troops deployed in Libya, as well as a field hospital.

“Our approach to Libya always remains the same. We support the training to local security forces. And we intend this support to continue on a long-term basis,” Guerini told Italian daily newspaper La Stampa.

“This investment requires patience and persistence, but I am sure that the results we will achieve will be lasting and effective.”

Military and technical cooperation between Italy and Libya began in December following the signing in Rome of a bilateral agreement between the two nations.

“Our action is focused on providing training to the local security forces, but we will be happy to comply with the other priorities the Libyan government indicated, such as de-mining expertise and support for a military health service. We now look with confidence at the action of the new government,” Guerini said.

Italy is supporting the European Irini naval mission, launched in March last year by the Council of the EU, that aims to enforce a UN arms embargo on Libya. The operation in the Mediterranean was recently extended until March 2023.

Irini also has secondary tasks including monitoring illegal oil trafficking from Libya, helping to counter human trafficking and smuggling activities, and contributing to the training of the Libyan coast guard and navy.

Guerini added: “Irini should be strengthened. A wider contribution from the members states is needed so that the mission can fully reach its goals.”