EU, Russia in double threat to Erdogan

Moscow responding to Erdogan’s assertion of power in the South Caucasus. (AFP)
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Updated 15 October 2020

EU, Russia in double threat to Erdogan

  • Sanctions loom over eastern Med
  • Moscow downgrades Ankara ties

ANKARA, BRUSSELS: Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced isolation on two fronts on Wednesday as European and Russian diplomats moved to rein in the Turkish president’s adventurism in the eastern Mediterranean and the Caucasus.
EU officials admitted their strategy to defuse tensions with Turkey was unraveling only two weeks after it began. Despite an EU summit deal in the early hours of Oct. 2 aimed at persuading Ankara to stop exploring for natural gas in Greek and Cypriot territorial waters, Turkey has redeployed a survey vessel with an armed escort.
Three European diplomats said this gave the impression that Ankara was toying with Brussels.
EU leaders had failed to come up with a solution to the gas dispute, instead proposing a “carrot-and-stick” approach — offering benefits but also threatening sanctions — that had failed, the diplomats said.
“EU leaders kicked the can down the road by saying they would come back to the issue in December. Now it is coming back with a vengeance,” one diplomat said.
Greece and Cyprus will raise the gas dispute again when EU leaders meet on Thursday and Friday, arguing that the latest escalation has demonstrated the need for more urgent action, including sanctions. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas canceled a trip to Ankara in protest at the deployment of the Turkish exploration ship Oruc Reis.

HIGHLIGHT

Greece and Cyprus will raise the gas dispute again when EU leaders meet on Thursday and Friday, arguing that the latest escalation has demonstrated the need for more urgent action, including sanctions.

Meanwhile, Russia downgraded its relationship with Turkey on Wednesday amid growing concern in Moscow over Ankara’s role in the conflict in Nagorny-Karabakh.
“Russia has never considered Turkey as its strategic ally, only a partner,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. He also warned that Turkey’s involvement in the conflict should be transparent.
“We disagree with the position which has been voiced by Turkey and which has also been expressed by Azerbaijan’s president,” Lavrov said. “We cannot agree … that a military solution to the conflict is possible and admissible.”
Richard Giragosian, director of the Regional Studies Center in Yerevan, said Moscow was responding to Erdogan’s assertion of power in the South Caucasus, which Moscow saw as part of its sphere of influence.
“Lavrov’s statement … is a direct message and warning to Turkey, driven by a responsive Russian posture to push back and push out Turkey from encroaching in the region and challenging Russian interests,” he said.
“Apart from Azerbaijan’s decision to deceive Moscow by rejecting the cease-fire, Turkey’s determination to defy the Kremlin poses a real obstacle to regional security.”
 


Security forces keep radical protesters away from French Embassy in Beirut

Updated 31 October 2020

Security forces keep radical protesters away from French Embassy in Beirut

  • Calls for a demonstration by radical Islamic groups spread on social media platforms
  • Security forces had anticipated Friday’s protest and tightened security in the heart of Beirut

BEIRUT: Lebanese security forces prevented the arrival of hundreds of protesters at the French ambassador’s residence and the French Embassy in Lebanon on Friday.

They feared the recurrence of riots similar to the ones that erupted in front of the Danish Embassy in Ashrafieh, Beirut, in 2006, and led to 28 people being injured, damage to storefronts, and the burning of the consulate building and terrorizing of people.

A few hundred worshippers left mosques after Friday prayers and marched to defend the Prophet Muhammad.

Calls for a demonstration by radical Islamic groups spread on social media platforms.

Khaldoun Qawwas, Dar Al-Fatwa’s media spokesperson, told Arab News: “These groups have nothing to do with Dar Al-Fatwa, which has already announced its position regarding what happened in France in two separate statements.”

Sheikh Abdul Latif Deryan, the grand mufti of Lebanon, in a statement issued a week earlier, said that “freedom of opinion and expression does not entail insulting the beliefs and symbols of others, and this requires a reconsideration of the concept of absolute freedom.”

He stressed the “renunciation of violence and confrontation of radicalism and terrorism that has no religion or race.”

Security forces had anticipated Friday’s protest and tightened security in the heart of Beirut, since the embassy and the French ambassador’s residence are located where roads leading to the city’s western and eastern neighborhoods intersect. This led to a huge traffic jam in the capital.

The protest’s starting point was the Gamal Abdel Nasser Mosque in Al-Mazraa, situated only a few kilometers from the Residence des Pins (Pine Residence).

Three major security checkpoints — one set up by the riot police — separated the Residence des Pins and protesters, some of whom were transported by buses from the north of Lebanon to Beirut.

Protesters held Islamic signs and chanted slogans denouncing France, its President Emmanuel Macron and its former colonization of the country. Some protesters tried to remove barbed wire and threw stones, water bottles and batons at the security forces. Another group burned the French flag. Security forces responded by throwing tear gas canisters, leading to the retreat of the protesters.

In a statement, Lebanon’s Supreme Council of the Roman Catholic condemned “the terrorist attack in the French city of Nice.”

The council considered that “this terrorist crime has nothing to do with Islam and Muslims. It is an individual act carried out by terrorists haunted by radicalism, obscurantism and the rejection of the French people’s historical civilizational values. Through their acts, they abuse the spirit of tolerance, coexistence, acceptance of the other and the freedom of thought and belief which all religions call for.”

The council called for “staying away from defaming religions and beliefs and inciting hate and resentment among people, raising the voice of moderation, wisdom and reason, working together in the spirit of the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together announced by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayeb from the UAE last year.”

During the Friday sermon, Grand Jaafari Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kabalan condemned “any criminal act against any people, including the French people.” He added: “We categorically reject what happened in Nice yesterday, strongly condemn it and consider it a blatant and insolent attack on Muslims before others.”

He simultaneously condemned “the official French position that affronted the Prophet, took lightly and made light of the feelings of millions of Muslims.”