Turkey gives muted first response to Joe Biden win

Turkey gives muted first response to Joe Biden win
Newly elected US president Joe Biden is expected to toughen the US stance against President Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign military interventions. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 08 November 2020

Turkey gives muted first response to Joe Biden win

Turkey gives muted first response to Joe Biden win
  • Turkey stands to lose more than most other countries from Joe Biden’s victory

ANKAR: Turkey gave an impassive first reaction on Sunday to Joe Biden’s presidential win, with Vice President Fuat Oktay saying it would not change relations between the old allies although Ankara will keep pressing Washington on Syria and other policy differences.
Turkey stands to lose more than most other countries from Biden’s victory as he is expected to toughen the US stance against President Tayyip Erdogan’s foreign military interventions and closer cooperation with Russia.
Another major stumbling block is Washington’s refusal to extradite US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara says orchestrated a failed coup in 2016.
Speaking at an interview with broadcaster Kanal 7, Oktay said that while the friendship between President Tayyip Erdogan and his US counterpart Donald Trump had helped the countries tackle several of their issues, communications channels between Ankara and Washington would operate as before.
“Nothing will change for Turkey,” Oktay said. “The channels of communication will work as before, but of course there will be a transition period,” he said, adding Ankara would closely monitor Biden’s foreign policy approach.
He said Turkey would press the next US administration to abandon support for Kurdish militant groups in Syria, and to extradite Gulen.
“We experienced a coup attempt. The person who carried this out is in the United States. There is nothing more natural than asking for his extradition,” Oktay said. “This is a process that began earlier and it will continue with this administration. We will increasingly continue our pressure,” he said.
“We hope that the United States does not continue working with a terrorist organization or organizations,” he said, adding that Turkey would not refrain from taking action in Syria again if necessary.
Another lingering issue between the allies has been Turkey’s purchase of Russian missile defense systems, for which Ankara is facing US sanctions. Trump’s administration has so far avoided imposing sanctions, and Oktay said on Sunday that Ankara hoped Biden’s administration would also refrain from unilateral steps.
“The new administration’s approach will surely affect us and interest us. We are following this very closely. Our expectation is that they refrain from unilateral approaches,” he said.
Erdogan has not yet commented on Biden’s victory.
Analysts say Turkey-US ties could suffer under a Biden presidency. The lira, which is already trading at a record low against the dollar, could come under more pressure.


Ships rescue 190 Europe-bound migrants off Libya

Ships rescue 190 Europe-bound migrants off Libya
Updated 4 sec ago

Ships rescue 190 Europe-bound migrants off Libya

Ships rescue 190 Europe-bound migrants off Libya
ABOARD THE GEO BARENTS: Two vessels rescued around 190 Europe-bound migrants, including women and children, off the coast of Libya, charities operating the vessels said Monday.
The rescues came amid a spike in attempted crossings of the Mediterranean Sea.
More than 24,000 migrants have been intercepted and returned to Libya by the country’s coast guard so far this year, according to the UN migration agency. That’s more than double the number from 2020, when about 11,890 migrants were brought back to shore in the conflict-ridden country.
More than a thousand more are believed to have drowned in just the first half of the year, according to the agency’s figures.
Migrants waved to rescuers from a flimsy rubber dinghy at midday Monday before they were given life vests and transferred onboard the Geo Barents, a rescue vessel operated by the charity Doctors without Borders. They numbered 54 in total, according to Barbara Deck, the organization’s project coordinator.
Among them were two dozen minors, six women and a 6-week-old baby, who was among the first to disembark, crying, after being carefully placed in a large orange life vest. The migrants’ original vessel had been packed, with no shade and barely room for all onboard to sit down.
The migrants were not immediately available for comment. They were rushed for medical inspection by workers for the aid agency known by its French name as Medecins Sans Frontieres. Some appeared exhausted and smiled in relief after their rescue, with a few dancing and singing. Among them were migrants from African countries including Ivory Coast, Cameron, Mali, Somalia and Burkina Faso, according to Deck.
It was unclear why this year has seen so many crossings but mid to late summer is typically a peak time for attempts on the Central Mediterranean route because of good weather. Rescues along this route have become routine during the warmer months. Economic hardship, sometimes exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, is a driver for many of the migrants.
Earlier in the day, the Geo Barents also rescued six men in a small fiberglass boat, three of them from Libya, two from Tunisia and one from Morocco. The men had been trying down the rescue ship, according to MSF staff.
The migrants told rescuers that the dinghy’s engine had stopped working, according to Mattijs Melsen, deputy search and rescue leader with MSF.
“The boat was not designated for such a voyage,” he said.
The Ocean Viking, also working in the same area off Libya, rescued around 130 Europe-bound migrants over the past three days, said Claire Juchat, a communications officer for the SOS Mediterranee charity, which operates the vessel.
The migrants, including 44 children and 12 women, were on four separate boats, Juchat said. There were two migrants with critical health conditions whom the Italian coast guard evacuated along with four family members early Monday, she said.
The remaining migrants will stay onboard the two vessels until their missions are completed, then they will be taken to Europe.
Libya has for years been a hub for African and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing war and poverty in their countries and hoping for a better life in Europe. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Traffickers have exploited the chaos and often pack desperate families into ill-equipped small boats that stall and founder along the perilous Central Mediterranean route. Thousands have drowned along the way. Some Libyan militiamen have been implicated in widespread abuses of migrants, including torture and abduction for ransom.

US says flight with 21 UScitizens, 48 residents left Kabul

US says flight with 21 UScitizens, 48 residents left Kabul
Updated 7 min 30 sec ago

US says flight with 21 UScitizens, 48 residents left Kabul

US says flight with 21 UScitizens, 48 residents left Kabul
  • Qatar Airways flight departed from Kabul on Sunday with 21 U.S. citizens and 48 residents, said Ned Price

WASHINGTON: A Qatar Airways flight carrying 21 US citizens and 48 lawful permanent residents left Kabul on Sunday, the US State Department said in a statement on Monday.
The Department’s Spokesperson Ned Price said: “We can confirm that a Qatar Airways flight departed from Kabul on Sunday with 21 US citizens and 48 lawful permanent residents on board.”
He said they are thankful to Qatari authorities, who continue to coordinate these flights with the Taliban.
“As we have stated before, we will continue to help US citizens, lawful permanent residents, and Afghans affiliated with the US government to depart Afghanistan,” added Price.
The Department’s spokesperson said his country ‘welcomes continued cooperation by all involved with facilitating these flights’.


Egyptian foreign minister highlights need to revive Palestine negotiation process

Shoukry outlined Egypt’s position and how it was continuing its efforts to restart negotiations in the Palestinian peace process. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Shoukry outlined Egypt’s position and how it was continuing its efforts to restart negotiations in the Palestinian peace process. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
Updated 52 min 18 sec ago

Egyptian foreign minister highlights need to revive Palestine negotiation process

Shoukry outlined Egypt’s position and how it was continuing its efforts to restart negotiations in the Palestinian peace process. (Shutterstock/File Photo)
  • El-Sisi stressed the importance of the international community’s support for Egypt’s efforts to rebuild Palestinian territories

CAIRO: Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry has stressed the need to revive negotiations over Palestine and create a political climate that avoids escalation of tensions, during a telephone conversation with Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid. 

Ambassador Ahmed Hafez, the official spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that Shoukry outlined Egypt’s position and how it was continuing its efforts to restart negotiations.

Hafez said that the phone call also discussed moves for reconstruction in Palestine and the provision of aid and development support to the occupied Palestinian territories, in coordination with the Palestinian National Authority.

During his meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi affirmed Egypt’s support for efforts to achieve comprehensive peace in the Middle East and to work in compliance with international legitimacy resolutions. 

El-Sisi stressed the importance of the international community’s support for Egypt’s efforts to rebuild Palestinian territories, in addition to the need to maintain calm between the Palestinian and Israeli sides, especially in easing tension in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.


Lebanon government wins confidence vote as parliament hit by power cut

Lebanon government wins confidence vote as parliament hit by power cut
Updated 20 September 2021

Lebanon government wins confidence vote as parliament hit by power cut

Lebanon government wins confidence vote as parliament hit by power cut
  • A power outage and a broken generator briefly delayed the start of the parliament session for some 40 minutes before electricity came back on
  • The vote paves the way for his Cabinet to try and tackle the country’s devastating economic and financial crisis

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s new government won a vote of confidence on Monday for a policy program that aims to remedy a devastating economic crisis, despite the parliamentary session being delayed when the lights went off due to power shortages.
The program drawn up by Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government promises to revive talks with the International Monetary Fund and initiate reforms that donors want to see before they will unlock badly needed foreign assistance.
When the session finally began, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri urged Mikati to keep his remarks short because of the power cuts, part of a nation-wide energy crisis which has crippled normal life as hard currency reserves have run out.
“From the heart of the suffering of Beirut ... our cabinet was born to light a candle in this hopeless darkness,” Mikati said, as he read out the program.
“Let’s not bother you and read it all out, let’s save time because of the electricity issue,” Berri, head of the Shiite Amal movement, told the Sunni Muslim prime minister.
The start of Monday’s parliamentary session at the UNESCO Palace was delayed by around an hour because of a power cut, parliament’s secretary general Adnan Daher told AFP.
Videos circulating on social media showed lawmakers gathering in a courtyard outside the building before electricity was restored.
“This is embarrassing,” lawmaker Teymour Jumblatt told a reporter. “This is not a country.”
Lebanon is stuck in a deep depression, with fuel shortages leading to few if any hours of state-generated power and leaving people largely dependent on privately-run generators.
After a marathon eight-hour session to examine the government’s action plan, 85 lawmakers voted for the new ministerial line-up while 15 voted against, according to a tally announced by Berri.
Mikati, a billionaire tycoon, faces a tricky path to solid economic ground.
“We will start with the IMF this is not a choice it is something we have to go through,” he said in a speech, before votes were taken.
To unlock aid and turn around the economy, his government must succeed where numerous forerunners have failed in delivering politically difficult reforms, including measures to address corruption and waste.
While some doubt whether Mikati can achieve much, with parliamentary elections scheduled for next Spring to be followed by a change of government, others think the gravity of the crisis may lead to some reforms.
Mikati’s government was finally agreed after a year of political conflict over cabinet seats that worsened the crisis.
Its draft policy program said it would renew and develop a financial recovery plan drawn up by the previous government, which set out a shortfall in the financial system of some $90 billion — a figure endorsed by the IMF.
The plan was shot down by Lebanon’s political elite and the banking system, helping to kill off IMF talks last year.
Lebanon’s financial system unraveled in late 2019. The root cause was decades of profligate state spending and the unsustainable way in which it was financed.
Mikati has pledged to bring Lebanon back into the Arab fold but he faces a delicate balancing act, with Iran-backed Shiite group Hezbollah last week successfully bringing in a first shipment of Iranian fuel oil to alleviate the power shortages.
On Friday, Mikati, whose government includes Hezbollah-backed ministers, said the Iranian fuel was a breach of his country’s sovereignty.
(With Reuters and AFP)


Egypt receives 546,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine

Egypt receives 546,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine
Updated 20 September 2021

Egypt receives 546,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine

Egypt receives 546,400 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine
  • Health minister said total number of registered infected people in Egypt is 296,929, with 16,970 deaths

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed announced that 546,400 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been received from the French government.

The minister explained that the doses are part of the COVAX agreement, in cooperation with Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF, within the framework of the state’s plan to diversify and expand the provision of vaccines to citizens.

Dr. Khaled Mujahid, assistant minister of health and population and the official spokesman for the ministry, said that this shipment was received in two batches, one of which arrived last Friday and the other yesterday at Cairo International Airport. He stressed that the Egyptian state was sparing no effort in providing free vaccines to citizens.

Mujahid explained that the shipment would be subject to analysis in the laboratories of the Egyptian Drug Authority and that the AstraZeneca vaccine would be distributed to the 781 vaccination centers throughout the governorates of the country.

He said that the AstraZeneca vaccine has proven to be effective in preventing infection with coronavirus virus disease (COVID-19) and explained that it is to be taken in two doses 28 days apart.

Mujahid said that centers designated to vaccinate people who wish to travel are equipped with all the requirements for data registration and the issuance of documented vaccine certificates with QR codes.

In recent days, Egypt has witnessed a noticeable increase in the number of people infected with the virus, as part of what officials consider the fourth wave. The Ministry of Health recorded on Monday 653 new cases and 19 deaths. 

Mujahid stated that the total number of registered infected people in Egypt is 296,929, with 16,970 deaths.

Zayed announced in previous statements that Egypt has manufactured 5 million vaccine doses within the country and has so far vaccinated 13 million people. 

She added that the ministry aims to vaccinate from 7 to 8 million citizens per month and hopes to have 40 million people vaccinated by December. 

An additional production line is being prepared at a factory in Giza with production starting Nov. 1. The production capacity will be 300,000 doses per day. 

Egypt owns two vaccine manufacturing factories, with one focusing on national needs and the other on production and distribution to Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.