Turkey, Greece plan rival exercises in tense east Mediterranean

Turkey, Greece plan rival exercises in tense east Mediterranean
Turkey’s research vessel, Oruc Reis, center, is surrounded by Turkish naval vessels in the eastern Mediterranean, Aug. 10, 2020. (AP Photo)
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Updated 24 August 2020

Turkey, Greece plan rival exercises in tense east Mediterranean

Turkey, Greece plan rival exercises in tense east Mediterranean
  • The discovery of major deposits in waters surrounding Cyprus and Crete has triggered a scramble for energy riches and revived old regional rivalries
  • Tensions ratched up another notch when Turkey sent the Oruc Reis research vessel accompanied by warships to disputed waters on August 10

ISTANBUL: Turkey and Greece announced rival military exercises in the eastern Mediterranean for Tuesday as Germany prepared to take another crack at defusing the NATO allies’ escalating row over natural gas.
The discovery of major deposits in waters surrounding Cyprus and the Greek island of Crete has triggered a scramble for energy riches and revived old regional rivalries.
Tensions ratched up another notch when Turkey sent the Oruc Reis research vessel accompanied by warships to disputed waters on August 10.
Greece and its EU ally France both dispatched their own naval assets to the area to monitor Turkey’s work.
EU foreign ministers convened an emergency videoconference on the emerging crisis when a Turkish frigate collided with a Greek one in disputed circumstances days into the Oruc Reis mission.
Germany has taken the lead in trying to calm a dispute that threatens to complicate EU nations’ efforts to tap new sources of energy that can reduce their dependence on countries such as Russia.
Its foreign minister, Heiko Maas, will visit Athens and Ankara on Tuesday to try to put talks between the two rivals back on track.
But the difficulties became even more apparent when Athens and Ankara announced plans to stage sea exercises in the same region south of Crete on Tuesday.
The Greek exercises appeared to have been announced in response to Turkey’s decision to extend the Oruc Reis mission by an extra four days to Thursday.
Turkey’s defense ministry responded by planning its own “maritime trainings... to promote coordination and interoperability” south of Crete at the same time.
Neither side appeared ready to defuse the tension.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he might decide to keep the Oruc Reis out at sea even longer and accused Greece of behaving “in an unauthorized and spoilt manner.”
“Turkey will not take even the smallest step back from the activities of either Oruc Reis or our naval elements escorting it,” Erdogan said after chairing a weekly cabinet meeting.
“With its stance that goes against international law, goodwill and neighborly relations, Greece has thrown itself into a chaos from which it cannot find a way out,” he added.
Maas plans to meet Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis before flying to Ankara for talks with his Turkish counterpart.
It was not clear from the official statements whether Maas would also be received by Erdogan.
“We take the tensions there very seriously,” a German foreign ministry spokesman told reporters.
“We are worried that the tensions could further weigh on the relationship between Turkey and the EU and that further escalation could have grave consequences.”
Germany currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, and a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was “essential” to remain in dialogue with both sides.
“The aim is for Greece and Turkey to resolve their problems with each other directly,” the spokesman said.


Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
Updated 19 January 2021

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners

Afghan VP pushes for execution of Taliban prisoners
  • Taliban spokesman says first vice president wants to sabotage the peace talks

KABUL: Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday demanded the execution of Taliban prisoners as violence surges in the country in spite of US-sponsored talks between the government and the militants.

Under mounting US pressure and following months of delay, Kabul released last summer thousands of Taliban prisoners from its custody as part of the landmark accord between the group and Washington.

But now there has been a spike in arrests of suspected Taliban fighters linked with recent attacks.

“These arrests should be executed so that it becomes a lesson for others,” Saleh told a routine security meeting in Kabul.

“The arrested like nightingales admit (to conducting attacks), but their all hope is that they will be freed one day without real punishment … any terrorist detainee should be executed.”

Known as the staunchest anti-Taliban leader in government and consistently opposed to talks with the Taliban, Saleh said he would raise his demand for the executions in the High Council of the Judiciary. His spokesman, Rezwan Murad, said the first vice president has also shared his demand with President Ashraf Ghani.

“Currently, around 1,000 Taliban prisoners have been sentenced to capital punishment,” Prison Administration spokesman in Kabul, Farhad Bayani, told Arab News.

“Such news is provoking, he wants to sabotage the process of talks,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, when reached by Arab News for reaction to Saleh’s push.

“We will severely take the revenge of any type of inhuman and cruel treatment of our prisoners.”

The Afghan government was excluded from the US and Taliban deal signed last February in Doha, which as per the agreement is also hosting the current peace talks between Kabul and the insurgents.

In spite of the ongoing talks, violence has surged in Afghanistan and both the government and the Taliban accuse each other for its escalation.

Hundreds of civilians have lost their lives in the violence, which has displaced tens of thousands of people since the February deal, while Kabul has endured a resurgence in assassination attacks and magnet bombs.

Prior to Saleh, some residents and lawmakers also demanded the executions of Taliban members suspected of being behind major attacks. Heather Barr, interim co-director for Human Rights Watch, told Arab News: “Human Rights Watch opposes the use of the death penalty under all circumstances. It is a uniquely cruel and irreversible punishment and we are glad to see that there has been some global progress towards abolition of the death penalty.”

She added: “Afghanistan has already seen so much violence and death and continues to experience this violence every day. There is an urgent need for accountability for the many human rights violations that have been inflicted during Afghanistan’s many years of war, but executions will not bring the justice Afghans so badly need.”