Pompeo to visit Cyprus, calls on Turkey to withdraw forces from Mediterranean

Pompeo will hold talks in Cyprus on Saturday after a trip to Doha. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 September 2020

Pompeo to visit Cyprus, calls on Turkey to withdraw forces from Mediterranean

  • The US Secretary of State said he will visit Cyprus to seek a peaceful solution to Mediterranean tensions
  • Pompeo’s trip comes shortly after the US lifted a decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus, outraging Turkey

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday he will visit Cyprus to seek a peaceful solution to mounting Mediterranean tensions as he called on Turkey to pull back its forces.
Pompeo will hold talks in Cyprus on Saturday after a trip to Doha where he will help inaugurate long-awaited talks between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban.
The top US diplomat said his trip to Cyprus would complement phone calls by President Donald Trump with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The dispute “has to be resolved in a way that’s diplomatic and peaceful,” Pompeo told reporters on his plane.
“So I’ll be working on that project as well, trying to make sure that I understand the risks that are associated from the people of Cyprus’ perspective,” he said.
Pompeo credited Germany with seeking to lower tensions. France has also been active on the maritime rift and has staunchly backed Greece and Cyprus.
“We hope there will be real conversations and we hope the military assets that are there will be withdrawn so that these conversations can take place,” Pompeo said.
Turkey, which is hunting for gas and oil reserves in waters claimed by fellow NATO member Greece, last month deployed an exploration vessel backed by military frigates.
Greece responded with naval exercises as a warning.
Pompeo’s trip comes shortly after the United States had lifted a decades-old arms embargo on Cyprus, outraging Turkey.
The move was aimed at bringing stability to the divided island but critics said it had the opposite effect, pushing Cyprus to cooperate with other nations such as Russia.
Turkey has occupied the north of Cyprus since 1974, when it invaded in response to a coup engineered by military leaders in Athens seeking to unify the majority-Greek island with Greece.
Pompeo canceled a trip planned to Cyprus earlier this year as tensions soared between the United States and Iran.


Shock after rare killing of British police officer

Updated 27 September 2020

Shock after rare killing of British police officer

  • The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply

LONDON: Police across Britain on Saturday paid silent tribute and flags were flown at half mast after a long-serving officer became the first to be shot dead in the line of duty in more than eight years.

Sergeant Matiu Ratana, 54, was shot by a 23-year-old man at Croydon Custody Center in south London at about 2:15 a.m (0115 GMT), and died in hospital.

The suspect, who had been arrested for possession of drugs with intent to supply and possession of ammunition, turned the gun on himself, and was said to be in critical but stable condition.

Ratana’s death is being treated as murder.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick said Ratana, who came to Britain from New Zealand and was known as Matt, was “senselessly killed.”

Originally from Hawke’s Bay, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, he joined the Met in 1991 after university and had nearly 30 years as a uniformed officer in the British capital.

He played for London Irish and the force rugby union team, before going into coaching at East Grinstead, near Croydon. He leaves a partner and an adult son from a previous relationship.

“As a colleague, he was big in stature and big-hearted, a friendly, capable police officer,” Dick said.

“A lovely man, highly respected by officers and staff, and by the public, including suspects he arrested or dealt with in custody.

“He was very well known locally and will be remembered so fondly in Croydon, as well as in the Met and the rugby world.”

Dick said security and police body camera footage would be examined closely as part of the investigation, after media reports suggested the suspect may not have been fully searched before entering the custody suite.

Many British police carry taser stun guns but are not routinely armed, although forces have tactical firearms units to respond quickly to incidents.

According to the Independent Office for Police Conduct, which sent investigators to the scene, no police firearms were fired.

The suspect was handcuffed and apparently opened fire in the custody suite with a revolver as officers prepared to search him, it added.

Deaths in service in Britain are rare and the shooting sent shockwaves throughout police forces across the country. 

Flags were lowered and officers stood in a minute’s silence in Ratana’s memory.

His death came as the British government is looking to introduce harsher sentences for attacks on emergency service workers.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson offered his “deepest condolences” to Ratana’s family, writing on Twitter that “we owe a huge debt to those who risk their own lives to keep us safe.”

Policing minister Kit Malthouse told parliament: “We ask our police officers to do an extraordinary job.

“The fact that one of them has fallen in the line of performing that duty is a tragedy for the entire nation.”

Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were the last British police officers to be shot dead in the line of duty, when they were ambushed in a gun and grenade attack in September 2012.

They were killed by drug dealer Dale Cregan while responding to a report of a burglary in Manchester, northwest England.

Since then, a further five officers have been killed on duty — four by vehicles while pursuing suspects and one, Keith Palmer, who was stabbed during a 2017 terror attack on parliament.

Ratana is the 17th officer from the Met to be killed by a firearm since the end of World War II, according to the National Police Memorial roll of honor.