Turkey facing delayed China vaccine amid controversial extradition deal

Turkey facing delayed China vaccine amid controversial extradition deal
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A woman walks with her dog along a deserted street during a curfew on Sunday in Ankara. Turkey has increased precautions to contain COVID-19. (AP)
Turkey facing delayed China vaccine amid controversial extradition deal
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In this Monday, Dec. 21, 2020 file photo, under the watchful eye of Prof. Dr. Iftahar Koksal, left, nurse Arzu Yildirim, center, administers a dose of the CoronaVac vaccine, made by Sinovac, currently on phase III clinical trials at Acibadem Hospital in Istanbul. (AP)
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Updated 29 December 2020

Turkey facing delayed China vaccine amid controversial extradition deal

Turkey facing delayed China vaccine amid controversial extradition deal
  • AKP risks coalition breakdown over anti-Uighur agreement with Beijing

JEDDAH: China’s parliament ratified on Sunday an extradition agreement with Turkey to boost its alleged counterterrorism efforts abroad.

However, critics warn that the agreement will be used in tandem with economic and diplomatic pressure on foreign governments to deport Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking ethnic minority.

The deal was signed in 2017 by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a visit to Beijing, but it has yet to be ratified by Turkey’s parliament.

Media have speculated that the extradition deal might be used by Beijing as a bargaining chip to boost its investments in Turkey and increase sales of its coronavirus vaccine in the country.

China has already delayed delivery of the first shipment of the Sinovac vaccine to Turkey for several days after a “customs-related problem” arose.

Beijing is also expected to adjust its trade and business ties with Turkey, which is in dire need of foreign capital, depending on the willingness of Ankara to ratify the extradition deal in the near future.

China is still among Turkey’s largest import partners.

The first train carrying goods from Turkey to China reached its destination on Saturday, having covered a distance of 8,693 km

However, despite the battered Turkish economy facing a depletion of foreign exchange reserves, an expert said Turkey “would not ratify the agreement anytime soon.”

Turkey’s domestic situation means the ruling party risks losing its nationalistic coalition partner over accusations that the agreement will harm Uighur minorities, the expert said.

“The government is likely to receive a huge blow from the opposition parties and its coalition partner if it proceeds with ratifying the bill in parliament amid the fragile political circumstances,” the expert told Arab News.

If the agreement is passed by the Turkish parliament, Uighur refugees in Turkey will face extradition to China if they are accused of committing terror or political crimes.

However, if Uighurs are granted Turkish citizenship, extradition requests could be denied by Turkish authorities.

Turkey’s government already faced heavy criticism earlier this year following reports that some exiled Uighurs were deported to China through third countries, mostly Tajikistan.

Critics have said that the long-term residency applications of some Uighurs were also rejected by Turkey, but Ankara has denied the claims.

A motion brought forward by Turkey’s main opposition party to establish a parliamentary committee to investigate China’s treatment of Uighurs was vetoed by the ruling party earlier this year.

Last month, Yusufujrang Aimaitijiang, an Uighur man who claimed to have been forced by Chinese authorities to provide information about fellow Uighurs in Turkey, was shot twice in Istanbul.

There are also mounting allegations about Uighur refugees being interrogated by Turkish police over terror-related claims.

About 50,000 Uighur refugees are believed to live in Turkey. Many have fled the crackdown in northwest China, and see Turkey as a safe haven.

Several districts on the European side of Istanbul have already become popular among Uighurs, and they are welcomed with solidarity by Turkish locals.

China has faced widespread criticism regarding its policies targeting Uighurs and its use of forced labor in mass internment camps.

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently held a phone conversation with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

During the call on Dec. 14, Wang said that “both sides should stand against terrorism,” while Cavusoglu said Turkey “will not allow China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity to be undermined,” according to a statement by the Chinese foreign ministry.

Turkey was absent from a group of 22 countries that urged the UN Human Rights Council in July to investigate systemic human rights abuse in China.

 


Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh
Updated 17 sec ago

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh

Four Iraqi Kurdish fighters killed in attack blamed on Daesh
  • Five other Peshmerga fighters were wounded in the violence late Sunday in northern Iraq
BAGHDAD: Four Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters were killed in an attack blamed on the Daesh group, a security official said Monday, the third such assault in less than two weeks.
Five other Peshmerga fighters were wounded in the violence late Sunday in northern Iraq that targeted an outpost north of Kirkuk, the source said.
Kurdish army forces confirmed the deadly attack but did not say how Peshmerga fighters were killed in wounded, in a statement accusing Daesh of responsibility.
It was the third attack blamed on Daesh militants in less than two weeks against the Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq.
On Thursday, Daesh claimed responsibility for an assault south of the Kurdish capital of Irbil that killed at least nine Peshmerga fighters and three civilians.
At the end of November, five Peshmergas were killed in a roadside bombing also claimed by the militant group.
Daesh seized swathes of Iraq in a lightning offensive in 2014, before being beaten back by a counter-insurgency campaign supported by a US-led military coalition.
The Iraqi government declared the extremists defeated in late 2017, although the Daesh retains sleeper cells which still strike security forces with hit-and-run attacks.

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead
Updated 06 December 2021

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead

Israel: Palestinian car-rammer wounds guard, is shot dead
  • Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing, car-ramming and occasional shooting attacks in recent years
  • Most have been carried out by lone attackers with no known connection to militant groups

JERUSALEM: A 16-year-old Palestinian rammed a vehicle into an Israeli checkpoint in the West Bank overnight, wounding a security guard before being shot and “neutralized” at the scene, the Israeli Defense Ministry said Monday.
Israeli media reported that the alleged attacker was killed, while a ministry official declined to comment further.
The attack came two days after a Palestinian from the occupied West Bank stabbed and wounded an Israeli man just outside Jerusalem’s Old City and tried to stab a Border Police officer before being shot and killed. Video taken by bystanders showed the police continuing to shoot the attacker after he had dropped to the ground and preventing medics from approaching him.
The shooting drew comparisons to a 2016 incident in which an Israeli soldier was caught on camera shooting a wounded Palestinian attacker who was lying on the ground. The soldier was imprisoned for several months in a case that divided the country.
The Israeli Justice Ministry said the two officers involved in Saturday’s shooting were brought in for questioning before being released without conditions. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and other top officials have praised the officers’ response to the attack.
Palestinians have carried out dozens of stabbing, car-ramming and occasional shooting attacks in recent years. Most have been carried out by lone attackers with no known connection to militant groups, which have praised the attacks without claiming responsibility for them.
Rights groups say Israel sometimes uses excessive force, killing suspected attackers who could have been arrested and did not pose an immediate threat. Israeli officials say forces must make split-second decisions in dangerous situations and that all such incidents are investigated.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want it to form the main part of their future state. The territory’s 2.5 million Palestinian residents live under Israeli military rule, with the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority administering cities and towns.


Nigeria added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’

Nigeria added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’
Updated 06 December 2021

Nigeria added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’

Nigeria added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’
  • The recent directive comes amid an increase in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 omicron cases around the world

MANAMA: Nigeria has been added to Bahrain’s travel ‘red list’ as part of a new update announced on Sunday by the National Taskforce for Combating the Coronavirus (COVID-19) and the country’s Civil Aviation Affairs. 
According to Bahraini authorities, the list also includes South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Angola and Zambia.
Passengers from red list countries are prohibited from entering Bahrain, including those who have transited through the mentioned countries; however, this does not apply to citizens and residents of Bahrain.

The recent directive comes amid an increase in the number of diagnosed COVID-19 omicron cases around the world, which was first detected in southern African nations. 

Several countries have already imposed travel restrictions on southern Africa, including the UAE, US, Britain, Brazil, Indonesia, Kuwait and the Netherlands.


Lebanese president, PM and parliament speaker express satisfaction with Saudi-French agreement

Lebanese president, PM and parliament speaker express satisfaction with Saudi-French agreement
Updated 06 December 2021

Lebanese president, PM and parliament speaker express satisfaction with Saudi-French agreement

Lebanese president, PM and parliament speaker express satisfaction with Saudi-French agreement
  • MP Ali Darwish, from Mikati’s parliamentary bloc, hopes 'positive signs to emerge in coming days’

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati has affirmed his government’s commitment to honoring its undertakings for reform.

Mikati said that his joint phone call on Saturday with Saudi and French leaders was “an important step toward restoring historic brotherly relations with Riyadh.”

A joint Saudi-French statement, following the joint phone call between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and French President Macron with Mikati, linked “economic aid to Lebanon with the implementation of the required reforms.”

The statement reiterated demands that Lebanon should “implement comprehensive reforms, monitor borders, abide by the Taif Agreement, limit arms to the legitimate state institutions and not be a launching pad for any terrorist acts that destabilize the region (nor) a source of drug trafficking.”

Mikati also said: “I thank President Macron and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their keenness in maintaining the friendship toward Lebanon.”

Mikati called both President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and briefed them on the phone call.

Mikati’s media office said that Aoun and Berri “expressed their satisfaction and stressed their adherence to the best relations with Saudi Arabia and all brotherly Arab countries, especially the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”

Mikati called “all parties in Lebanon to appreciate the sensitivity of the situation and circumstances and not to take any action or interfere in any matter that offends the Arab brothers and harms the Lebanese.”

He added: “It is time to commit again to the policy of disassociation and not to involve ourselves and our country in what has nothing to do with us.”

The Saudi position toward Lebanon left the Lebanese anxiously relieved about the extent of the seriousness of the ruling authority in implementing what was agreed on in Jeddah between French President Emmanuel Macron and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Although Macron succeeded in opening the door to a solution to Lebanon’s diplomatic and economic crisis with Saudi Arabia, and thus the Gulf Cooperation Council countries, after the resignation of Information Minister George Kordahi from the government following his statements about the Kingdom, there is a fear that Hezbollah will continue to embroil Lebanon in regional politics.

However, MP Ali Darwish, who is from Prime Minister Mikati’s parliamentary bloc, expects “positive signs to emerge in the coming days.”

Darwish said that appointing a parliamentary committee to try presidents, ministers and MPs in return for allowing Cabinet sessions to take place was “one of the proposals.”

Darwish told Arab News that “the Saudi-French move has undoubtedly breached the wall of stalemate in Lebanon’s relationship with the Gulf, which Lebanon is keen to be extremely good in the midst of the conflict in the region.”

On the implementation of the French-Saudi statement, Darwish said: “The reforms are contained in the ministerial statement of Prime Minister Mikati’s government, and they are his government’s agenda, and he is striving to achieve them.”

Darwish added: “The most important thing now is to restore the connection that was cut off, to return the ambassadors to Saudi Arabia and some Gulf countries, and to return the Arab ambassadors to Lebanon.”

Darwish said that the Mikati government would “never interfere in the judicial matter, as there is a separation of powers.”

However, he indicated that activating the Parliamentary Council for the Trial of Presidents and Ministers was possible but it required steps to be taken by parliament.

Darwish added: “However, the trade-off between this matter and any other matter, especially the dismissal of the governor of the Banque du Liban, is not on the table.”

Darwish said that Mikati’s concern “is securing the livelihood of the Lebanese people in light of the current severe economic crisis.”

He said work was “now focused on rounding the corners and bringing the views closer.”


Hoping virus won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up giant tree

Hoping virus won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up giant tree
Updated 06 December 2021

Hoping virus won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up giant tree

Hoping virus won’t wreck Christmas, Bethlehem lights up giant tree
  • It is very joyful, a very nice evening. The air is full of hope, full of joy, full of expectation

BETHLEHEM: Residents lit up a giant Christmas tree outside Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, hoping that a new coronavirus variant does not ruin another holiday season in the traditional birthplace of Jesus.

The Palestinian city in the Israeli-occupied West Bank was all but closed last Christmas, losing its peak tourist season to the pandemic.

This December has seen Israel shut out foreign travelers for 14 days to try to prevent the omicron variant taking hold, and the hope is that the ban will end as scheduled, in time for Christmas travel. In its last pre-pandemic winter, in 2019/20, Bethlehem hosted 3.5 million visitors.

The giant tree, topped with a bright red star, was lit up with hundreds of colored lights as red, white and green fireworks illuminated the night sky.

Mayor Anton Salman said the travel ban had prevented several foreign delegations attending.

Nonetheless, the audience in Manger Square in front of the church was far bigger than last year, when coronavirus restrictions kept even local spectators away.

"It is very joyful, a very nice evening. The air is full of hope, full of joy, full of expectation," said Maria, a tourist from Finland who did not provide her full name.