Istanbul in uproar over restoration damage to iconic Galata Tower

Istanbul in uproar over restoration damage to iconic Galata Tower
Cell phone footage of restoration workers drilling down the stone wall of Istanbul's 14th-century Galata Tower created a political firestorm Wednesday and forced the culture ministry into a hasty retreat. (Screenshot/Twitter: @mhrpolat)
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Updated 12 August 2020

Istanbul in uproar over restoration damage to iconic Galata Tower

Istanbul in uproar over restoration damage to iconic Galata Tower
  • The iconic 67-meter (220-foot) structure overlooking the Golden Horn is a massive draw for tourists
  • It was the ancient city's tallest structure when completed by the Genoese in 1348

ISTANBUL: Cell phone footage of restoration workers drilling down the stone wall of Istanbul's 14th-century Galata Tower created a political firestorm Wednesday and forced the culture ministry into a hasty retreat.
The iconic 67-meter (220-foot) structure overlooking the Golden Horn is a massive draw for tourists and an enduring symbol of Istanbul.
It was the ancient city's tallest structure when completed by the Genoese in 1348.
But its future looked in sudden doubt when a press officer of the Istanbul city government tweeted a clip of two restoration workers taking apart a corner section of the tower's inner wall with jackhammers.

 

A pile of large stones lay at their feet as they worked.
"It was really shocking to see this kind of vandalism being performed in the most important cultural site of Istanbul," the city's cultural heritage department director Mahir Polat said.
"This conduct is insane."
The 20-second clip became a social media sensation and made the tower a trending topic on Turkish Twitter.
Galata was already a source of tension between the city -- whose mayor Ekrem Imamoglu is a prominent opponent of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan -- and the Turkish culture ministry.
The ministry tried to take over control of the tower immediately after Imamoglu's hotly disputed election last year.

 

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The transfer was held up in court but formally completed in April.
Culture Minister Nuri Ersoy explained in his own tweet a few hours later that the workers were removing "parts that were added (to the wall) later on and that were damaging the Galata Tower".
But he said that the workers responsible were reprimanded nonetheless.
"Regarding the techniques used in the restoration, the necessary sanctions have taken against the relevant contractor," the minister tweeted.
Ersoy's deputy explained that the workers were transforming a part of the tower that used to house a restaurant into a museum.
But the city's cultural heritage department director was unconvinced.
"It is inadmissable to see Istanbul destroy its treasures," he said.
The tower is scheduled to reopen to tourists once the restoration work is completed on September 15.


Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2020, a Libyan stands in front of a school, which was damaged during fighting between rival factions, in the capital Tripoli's suburb of Ain Zara. (AFP)
Updated 24 January 2021

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce

Foreign forces ignore UN’s Libya exit deadline under fragile truce
  • Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement

TRIPOLI: Foreign forces ignored a deadline to pull out of Libya as scheduled on Saturday under a UN-backed cease-fire deal, highlighting the fragility of peace efforts after a decade of conflict.

Satellite images broadcast by CNN show a trench running tens of kilometers dug by “Russian mercenaries” near the frontline coastal city of Sirte, as main foreign protagonists Ankara and Moscow appear intent on defending their interests under any final settlement.
An unidentified US intelligence official, quoted by the American news network, said there was “no intent or movement by either Turkish or Russian forces to abide by the UN-brokered agreement.”
“This has the potential to derail an already fragile peace process and cease-fire. It will be a really difficult year ahead,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday urged all “regional and international actors to respect the provisions” of the Oct. 23 cease-fire accord that set out a withdrawal within three months of all foreign troops and mercenaries.
That deadline passed on Saturday, with no movement announced or observed on the ground.
The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions, the UN-recognized Government of National Accord in Tripoli and military strongman Khalifa Haftar in the east. The GNA has received military support from Turkey. Haftar has the backing of Russia.
Guterres called on all parties to implement the terms of the cease-fire “without delay,” something he noted “includes ensuring the departure of all foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya, and the full and unconditional respect of the Security Council arms embargo,” which has been in place since the 2011 NATO-backed uprising that ousted and killed longtime ruler Muammar Qaddafi.

HIGHLIGHT

The UN estimates there are still some 20,000 foreign troops and mercenaries in Libya helping the warring factions.

Any withdrawal or end to foreign interference “does not depend on the Libyans but on the outside powers,” said Khaled Al-Montasser, professor of international relations at Tripoli University.
Turkey on Friday welcomed a deal reached at UN-backed talks for Libya’s warring factions to set up an interim executive to rule the North African country until polls in December.
Turkey has backed the GNA with military advisers, materiel and mercenaries, repelling an advance on Tripoli by Haftar’s forces, and it also has a military base in Al-Watiya on the border with Tunisia under a 2019 military accord.
Last December, parliament in Ankara extended by 18 months its authorization for Turkey’s troop deployment in Libya, in apparent disregard of the cease-fire deal.
“The mercenaries are unlikely to leave Libya so long as the countries which have engaged them have not guaranteed their interests in the new transitional phase,” said Montasser, referring to the multiple tracks of UN-sponsored talks currently underway.
“Their presence keeps alive the threat of military confrontation at any moment, while the current calm staying in place seems uncertain,” he said.
Most of the foreign forces are concentrated around Sirte, at Al-Jufra airbase held by Haftar’s forces 500 km south of Tripoli and further west in Al-Watiya.