EU sanction on Turkey over Cyprus drilling may disrupt talks: Erdogan

A Turkish Navy warship patrols next to Turkey’s drilling ship Fatih while on its way towards the eastern Mediterranean near Cyprus in this Turkish Defense Ministry photo released on July 9,2019. (Turkish Defense Ministry/AFP)
Updated 12 November 2019

EU sanction on Turkey over Cyprus drilling may disrupt talks: Erdogan

  • EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed economic sanctions on Ankara for violating Cyprus’ maritime economic zone by drilling off the divided island
  • The island of Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup

ANKARA: President Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday the European Union’s decision to sanction Turkey over drilling off the coast of Cyprus could disrupt talks with the bloc, and he warned that Turkey could send captured Daesh fighters to Europe.
EU foreign ministers on Monday agreed economic sanctions on Ankara for violating Cyprus’ maritime economic zone by drilling off the divided island.
Turkey, a formal candidate to join the EU despite worsening ties, criticized the decision and said it would not cease drilling in the eastern Mediterranean because it is operating on its own continental shelf or areas where Turkish Cypriots have rights.
Speaking in Ankara ahead of a visit to Washington, Erdogan slammed the EU’s decision and said Turkey was acting in line with its rights based on international law.
“Hey EU, know this: Turkey is not one of those countries you have come to know until now. We are a country that sits at the negotiating table with you ...” Erdogan told reporters. “These negotiations may suddenly end.”
The EU relies on Ankara, which hosts more than 3.5 million refugees, to curb the arrival of migrants into Europe following a 2016 agreement to seal off the Aegean Sea route. Erdogan has repeatedly warned that Turkey will allow refugees to travel to Europe unless it receives aid from European countries.
“You may take this lightly, but these doors (to Europe) will open and these Daesh (Islamic State) members will be sent to you. Do not try to threaten Turkey over developments in Cyprus,” Erdogan said on Monday.
The island of Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish invasion triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Since then, several peacemaking efforts have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has complicated the negotiations.
EU ties with NATO-ally Turkey have meanwhile worsened after years of stalemate on Ankara’s accession bid. With a worsening record on human rights in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016, many EU states say Turkey does not meet democratic criteria to join the bloc.
The decision to impose economic sanctions on Ankara follows a separate move last month to stop arms sales to Turkey over its offensive against the Kurdish YPG militia in northeast Syria. Turkey’s western allies have said the offensive could hinder the fight against Daesh, but Turkey has rejected the claims.
On Monday, Turkey said it had begun deporting Islamic State members it has captured, starting a program to repatriate the detainees that has further strained ties with its European NATO allies.
“Whether they accept them or not, we will continue to send them back,” Erdogan said on Monday, referring to Daesh detainees.


‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

Updated 07 August 2020

‘No way we can rebuild’: Lebanese count huge losses after Beirut blast

  • The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion
  • The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest

BEIRUT: Beirut residents began trying to rebuild their shattered lives on Friday after the biggest blast in the Lebanese capital’s history tore into the city, killing at least 154 and leaving the heavily indebted nation with another huge reconstruction bill.
The search for those missing since Tuesday’s blast intensified overnight, as rescuers sifted rubble in a frantic race to find anyone still alive after the explosion smashed a swathe of the city and sent shockwaves around the region.
Security forces fired teargas at a furious crowd late on Thursday, as anger boiled over at the government and a political elite, who have presided over a nation that was facing economic collapse even before the deadly port blast injured 5,000 people.
The small crowd, some hurling stones, marked a return to the kind of protests that had become a feature of life in Beirut, as Lebanese watched their savings evaporate and currency disintegrate, while government decision-making floundered.
“There is no way we can rebuild this house. Where is the state?” Tony Abdou, an unemployed 60-year-old, sitting in the family home in Gemmayze, a district that lies a few hundred meters from the port warehouses where highly explosive material was stored for years, a ticking time bomb next to a densely populated area.
As Abdou spoke, a domestic water boiler fell through the ceiling of his cracked home, while volunteers from the neighborhood turned out on the street to sweep up debris.
“Do we actually have a government here?” said taxi driver Nassim Abiaad, 66, whose cab was crushed by falling building wreckage just as he was about to get into the vehicle.
“There is no way to make money anymore,” he said.
The government has promised a full investigation and put several port employees under house arrest. State news agency NNA said 16 people were taken into custody. But for many Lebanese, the explosion was symptomatic of the years of neglect by the authorities while state corruption thrived.
Shockwaves
Officials have said the blast, whose seismic impact was recorded hundreds of miles (kilometers) away, might have caused losses amounting to $15 billion — a bill the country cannot pay when it has already defaulted on its mountain of national debt, exceeding 150% of economic output, and talks about a lifeline from the International Monetary Fund have stalled.
Hospitals, many heavily damaged as shockwaves ripped out windows and pulled down ceilings, have been overwhelmed by the number of casualties. Many were struggling to find enough foreign exchange to buy supplies before the explosion.
In the port area, rescue teams set up arc lights to work through the night in a dash to find those still missing, as families waited tensely, slowly losing hope of ever seeing loved ones again. Some victims were hurled into the sea because of the explosive force.
The weeping mother of one of the missing called a prime time TV program on Thursday night to plead with the authorities to find her son, Joe. He was found — dead — hours later.
Lebanese Red Cross Secretary General George Kettaneh told local radio VDL that three more bodies had been found in the search, while the health minister said on Friday the death toll had climbed to 154. Dozens are still unaccounted for.
Charbel Abreeni, who trained port employees, showed Reuters pictures on his phone of killed colleagues. He was sitting in a church where the head from the statue of the Virgin Mary had been blown off.
“I know 30 port employees who died, two of them are my close friends and a third is missing,” said the 62-year-old, whose home was wrecked in the blast. His shin was bandaged.
“I have nowhere to go except my wife’s family,” he said. “How can you survive here, the economy is zero?“
Offers of immediate medical and food aid have poured in from Arab states, Western nations and beyond. But none, so far, address the bigger challenges facing a bankrupt nation.
French President Emmanuel Macron came to the city on Thursday with a cargo from France. He promised to explain some “home truths” to the government, telling them they needed to root out corruption and deliver economic reforms.
He was greeted on the street by many Lebanese who asked for help in ensuring “regime” change, so a new set of politicians could rebuild Beirut and set the nation on a new course.
Beirut still bore scars from heavy shelling in the 1975-1990 civil war before the blast. After the explosion, chunks of the city once again look like a war zone.