Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe

Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe
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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, right, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, left, and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, center, wearing face masks to protect against the spread of coronavirus, attend an inauguration ceremony, in Istanbul, Saturday, July 4, 2020. (AP)
Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe
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Demonstrators protest against the Turkish government’s curbs on media. (AFP/File)
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Updated 10 January 2021

Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe

Germany accuses Turkish think tank of pushing government propaganda in Europe
  • Germany’s internal intelligence service, BfV, has been investigating SETA’s activities in Germany for a while. Last month it published a report accusing SETA of pursuing the Turkish government’s agenda in Germany

ANKARA: Germany has accused a Turkish think tank of being a front for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s party and spreading government propaganda in Europe.

The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) has had an office in Berlin since 2017.

SETA is known to be financed by the family of Erdogan’s son-in-law and former finance and treasury minister, Berat Albayrak, and it has representative offices in Brussels and Washington D.C.

Germany’s parliament accused SETA of collecting intelligence and spreading the views of the Turkish government using scientific research activities as a cover.

The federal government said that SETA’s aim was to garner influence in German public opinion and frame the political debates about Turkey with various instruments, including nominating candidates in local elections. It was acting in response to a parliamentary inquiry from the Free Democratic Party (FDP).

Stephan Thomae, from the FDP, said the government had lost its patience and abandoned its cautious approach toward Turkey’s efforts to establish diplomatic leverage in Germany, Deutsche Welle reported.

“It has been clear for some time that SETA is part of the government of Turkey 's information game,” tweeted Steven A. Cook, a senior fellow at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. “Too few in Washington understand that it is not actually a research organization.”

SETA previously came under fire from the international community in 2019, when it published two reports.

It catalogued the correspondents of international news outlets in Turkey, while another report on the structure of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Europe claimed that the group collaborated with racist white supremacists on the continent.

HIGHLIGHT

Germany’s parliament accused SETA of collecting intelligence and spreading the views of the Turkish government using scientific research activities as a cover.

Press freedom groups condemned the SETA media report as a dangerous escalation in the treatment of journalists, and a criminal complaint against the SETA report was filed on a series of charges including “inciting the public to hatred and enmity.”

The report profiled social media sharing and the personal backgrounds of Turkish journalists who worked for international media, including Arab News, effectively making them a government target.

Germany’s internal intelligence service, BfV, has been investigating SETA’s activities in Germany for a while. Last month it published a report accusing SETA of pursuing the Turkish government’s agenda in Germany.

“US authorities should follow suit with SETA’s Washington counterpart. This propaganda shop has long been the main beacon of Erdoganism in the United States,” Sinan Ciddi, associate professor of national security studies at the Marine Corps University in the US, tweeted.

Turkish opposition parties’ requests for a parliamentary inquiry about SETA’s financial resources and activities were rejected by Ankara in 2019.

SETA has been exempt from tax since 2013, unlike other think tanks in Turkey.

The Turkish presidency’s communication director Fahrettin Altun and the presidency’s lead spokesman Ibrahim Kalin used to work at SETA.

SETA has not yet released an official statement about the German government’s claims.


Syrian TV says air defences responding to Israeli attack near Damascus

Syrian TV says air defences responding to Israeli attack near Damascus
Updated 10 min 14 sec ago

Syrian TV says air defences responding to Israeli attack near Damascus

Syrian TV says air defences responding to Israeli attack near Damascus

CAIRO: Syrian state television reported on Sunday evening that Syrian air defences had responded to an "Israeli aggression in the vicinity of Damascus" after an explosion was heard above the capital.
Asked about the report, an Israeli military spokesman declined comment.
In a briefing to supporters of his party on Friday, Defence Minister Benny Gantz said Israel was taking action "almost weekly" to prevent Iranian entrenchment in Syria.


UN calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home

UN calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home
Updated 28 February 2021

UN calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home

UN calls for children in Syria camps to be allowed home
  • UNICEF made its plea a day after three children died in a fire at Al-Hol camp
  • Syria’s Kurds hold thousands of alleged militants in jails and tens of thousands of their family members in camps in northeast Syria

BEIRUT: The UN children’s agency called Sunday for all minors held in displacement camps or jails in northeast Syria to be allowed home.
UNICEF made its plea a day after three children died in a fire at the overcrowded camp of Al-Hol, for people displaced in the fight against Daesh.
After years of leading the US-backed fight against Daesh, Syria’s Kurds hold thousands of alleged militants in jails and tens of thousands of their family members in camps in northeast Syria.
They hail from Syria, neighboring Iraq and dozens of other foreign countries.
Many are children.
“In the northeast of Syria, there are more than 22,000 foreign children from at least 60 nationalities who languish in camps and prisons, in addition to many thousands of Syrian children,” UNICEF regional director Ted Chaiban said in a statement, without giving a number of children held in jails.
He urged authorities in the northeast of Syria and UN member states to “do everything possible to bring children currently in the northeast of Syria back home.”
They should do this “through integrating Syrian children in their local communities and the repatriation of foreign children,” he added.
The Kurdish authorities have started sending thousands of displaced Syrians home from the camps.
But repeated calls for Western countries to repatriate their nationals have largely fallen on deaf ears, with just a handful of children and even fewer women being brought home.
Three children and a woman died on Saturday after a stove exploded in the Al-Hol camp, starting a fire, a Kurdish official said.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA said at least 26 were injured.
Al-Hol is home to more than 62,000 people, displaced family members and relatives of alleged IS fighters, more than half of them children, it says.
A spate of killings, including decapitations, has rocked the camp since the start of the year, and humanitarian actors have repeatedly deplored living conditions there.
On February 1, the Save the Children charity also urged Iraq and Western countries to repatriate children from northeast Syria faster.
Daesh overran large parts of Syria and Iraq in 2014.
Kurdish-led forces backed air strikes by a US-led coalition expelled Daesh from their last patch of territory in Syria in March 2019, in a battle that displaced tens of thousands.


Egypt opens online registration for COVID-19 vaccination

Egypt opens online registration for COVID-19 vaccination
Updated 28 February 2021

Egypt opens online registration for COVID-19 vaccination

Egypt opens online registration for COVID-19 vaccination
  • Text messages will be sent to prompt all those eligible to register for the vaccine as part of the Egyptian president’s initiative to eliminate waiting lists and facilitate the vaccination process

CAIRO: Egyptian Minister of Health and Population Hala Zayed announced on Sunday the start of online registration to obtain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination for eligible citizens.

Khaled Mujahid, the ministry’s spokesman, said that registration has begun for eligible groups, including persons with tumors and kidney failure; those who have undergone operations, including open-heart surgery, and kidney and liver operations; and those with cerebral or peripheral catheters.

Text messages will be sent to prompt all those eligible to register for the vaccine as part of the Egyptian president’s initiative to eliminate waiting lists and facilitate the vaccination process.

Mujahid said that offices have been allocated in health units and hospitals across Egypt to register those who are unable to do so online. The spokesman pointed out that the site informs citizens of all details concerning the vaccine and allows them to register their data so that priority is automatically given according to age and chronic disease.

Mujahid said that the categories of people eligible to register on the website are divided into three groups in line with universally recognized priorities. These groups include health workers, those with chronic diseases and the elderly.

He explained that those registering online will have to enter identifying data, including name, ID number and contact information, such as phone number, where a verification code will be sent. Following this, the governorate and nearest health unit where the citizen may be vaccinated are determined.


Iran dismisses idea of talks with EU and US to revive 2015 nuclear deal

Iran dismisses idea of talks with EU and US to revive 2015 nuclear deal
Updated 28 February 2021

Iran dismisses idea of talks with EU and US to revive 2015 nuclear deal

Iran dismisses idea of talks with EU and US to revive 2015 nuclear deal
  • Iran says US must lift all its unilateral sanctions first

DUBAI: Iran on Sunday ruled out holding an informal meeting with the United States and European powers to discuss ways to revive its 2015 nuclear deal with major powers, insisting that Washington must lift all its unilateral sanctions.
“Considering the recent actions and statements by the United States and three European powers, Iran does not consider this the time to hold an informal meeting with these countries, which was proposed by the EU foreign policy chief,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said, according to Iranian media.
Iranian officials had said Tehran was studying a proposal by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to hold an informal meeting with other parties to the nuclear pact and the United States, which reimposed sanctions on Iran after then-president Donald Trump quit the deal in 2018.
Iran and the new US administration of President Joe Biden have been at odds over who should take the first step to revive the accord. Iran insists the United States must first lift sanctions while Washington says Tehran must first return to compliance with the deal, which it has been progressively breaching.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif sketched out a potential choreography on Feb. 1 to overcome the impasse.


Former Mosul priest: Pope’s Iraq visit a ‘precious gift’ for all

Former Mosul priest: Pope’s Iraq visit a ‘precious gift’ for all
Updated 22 min 49 sec ago

Former Mosul priest: Pope’s Iraq visit a ‘precious gift’ for all

Former Mosul priest: Pope’s Iraq visit a ‘precious gift’ for all
  • ‘Like a dove, he’ll bring a twig of peace to all the people living in this land who’ve suffered for too long,’ priest tells Arab News
  • Pope Francis due to arrive in Baghdad on March 5

ROME: The pope’s upcoming visit to Iraq is a “precious gift” not only for the Christians who live there, but for all those who after years of war want a return to peace and coexistence between religions, a priest who worked for eight years in the diocese of Mosul told Arab News.

“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Pope Francis is coming … to invite us to all be instruments of peace,” said Fr. Jalal Jako.

“Like a dove, he’ll bring a twig of peace to all the people living in this land who’ve suffered for too long.”

Jako, currently in Italy, will return to Iraq for the pope’s visit, which will begin on March 5.

The priest was born in Qaraqosh, a historic Christian city near Mosul, which is part of the pope’s itinerary.

Jalal Jako visiting a church in Qaraqosh after it was badly damaged by Daesh. (Supplied)

He fled the region in August 2014 along with nearly 150,000 Christians and made his way to Erbil in northern Iraq. There, Jako worked in a refugee camp where he said the conditions for those who had fled the extremists were “terrible.”

When he returned to Qaraqosh three years later, “We found that everything had been destroyed,” he said.

The pope will be welcomed by Iraq’s prime minister in Baghdad and then visit the country’s president at the presidential palace, where he will meet with local authorities, representatives of civil society and the diplomatic corps.

Pope Francis will also meet with bishops and priests at the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad.

On March 6, he will fly to the city of Najaf and meet with Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani. The pope will return to Baghdad that day and celebrate Holy Mass at the Chaldean Cathedral of St. Joseph.

On March 7 he will visit Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, and meet with religious and civil authorities of the autonomous region. He will also visit the city of Qaraqosh. His return to Rome is scheduled for March 8 from Baghdad.

Jako said: “We can’t fail to be there at such an important moment for us Christians — the first visit of a pope to Iraq. He’ll tell us, ‘No more blood, live all as brothers.’ Thus he’ll send out a message that all the Iraqi people need.”

Jako added: “Pope John Paul II was supposed to come on a pilgrimage in 2000 … but it wasn’t possible for him. Pope Francis is keeping his predecessor’s promise to come to Iraq to visit a Christian community that today has only 500,000 faithful, a third of the number who lived there in 2003. He comes as the leader of a Church that respects all religions and aims to build peace.”