Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles
European Union leaders continue to warn of sanctions against Turkey if Ankara continues exploring for gas and oil in contested waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 10 May 2021

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles

Turkey wants to start a fresh chapter with EU despite obstacles
  • Erosion of liberties, disputes with Cyprus and Greece mean membership still some way off

ANKARA: Since the approval of its candidacy to EU membership in 1999, Turkish relations with Brussels have been strained, exacerbated by Turkey’s controversial moves in the eastern Mediterranean and concerns over its ongoing democratic issues.

Now, though, Turkey wants to begin a new era with the EU, despite recent diplomatic gaffes, such as the Sofagate crisis, when Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, was not given a seat next to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during her high-profile visit to Ankara.
“Turkey keeps its determined stance and efforts toward its strategic goal of EU membership, despite the double standards and obstacles it faces,” Erdogan said in a statement on May 9, celebrated across the bloc as Europe Day. “Turkey’s membership will pave the way for the rise of a Europe that is more effective at regional and global levels, giving hope not only to its citizens, but also to the people of its neighborhood as well as the whole world.”
Some EU member states, especially Greece, France and Cyprus, continue to halt accession negotiations with Turkey, citing the country’s eroding democracy, human rights issues and the rule of law at home. The nonimplementation of European Court of Human Rights’ rulings by Ankara has also drawn anger from Brussels.
Dr. Ilke Toygur, CATS fellow at German think tank SWP Berlin, said that it is important to be realistic over Turkey’s prospects of joining the EU.
“After months of tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean, 2021 has (seen) a positive spin Turkey-EU relations. This positive agenda is, however, centered on fruitful cooperation rather than advancing Turkey’s accession negotiations,” she told Arab News.
Ankara is seeking an update to the 2016 refugee deal that obliges Turkey to stem the tide of people seeking to reach Europe from its shores in return for financial aid. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson paid a visit to Turkey on Friday for talks about the deal, and to discuss visa liberalization.
The EU offered Turkey €6 billion ($7.1 billion) to help Syrian refugees, but only €3.6 billion have been sent so far — a point of contention for Ankara. However, the deal was criticized by some EU member states, who claimed Turkey had used millions of Syrian refugees as leverage against Brussels to extract more money.

FASTFACT

Some EU member states, especially Greece, France and Cyprus, continue to halt accession negotiations with Turkey, citing the country’s eroding democracy, human rights issues and the rule of law at home. The non-implementation of European Court of Human Rights’ rulings by Ankara has also drawn anger from Brussels.

In February 2020, Turkey allowed thousands of migrants gathered on the border with Greece to make their way toward Europe.  
Turkey’s negotiations to join the EU began in 2015, but the unresolved Cyprus conflict has always been a barrier to progress, while EU leaders continue to warn of sanctions against Turkey if the country continues exploring for gas and oil in contested waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus.
Ankara’s EU candidacy should be formally suspended if Turkey continues on its “autocratic track,” EU lawmakers at the European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee stated on April 23, adding that the country no longer fulfilled the democratic criteria to be accepted as a candidate, let alone a full member, to the EU.
However, Turkey remains dependent on trade with the bloc. Exports to EU member states surged by 35 percent and reached $26.86 billion in the first four months of 2021. Ankara also expects the expansion of the EU-Turkey Customs Union to new sectors of its economy, like services and agricultural trade.
Toygur thinks the EU would like to work on existing trade issues and pave the way for Customs Union modernization; however, the process itself would require an official mandate and a lot of good will from both sides to settle issues of contention.
“High level of dialogue in older files, such as transport, economy or energy, as well as new files (such as) global health or climate change, are also concrete proposals on the table,” she said.
The German Marshall Fund’s latest public opinion survey “Turkish Perceptions of the European Union” revealed, however, that half of Turkish young people think the EU does not intend to let the country join the bloc.
Despite this, Turkish public opinion favors the EU as the closest partner in dealing with international matters, while this trend seems stronger in people aged 18-24 compared to the general population. 68.8 percent of Turkish young people said they would vote “yes” in any referendum on EU membership.


Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022
Updated 12 June 2021

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022

Egypt to launch two space research satellites in 2022
  • Abdel Ghaffar said Egypt will launch a training and capacity-building program for 18 African researchers
  • The Egyptian Space Agency will distribute educational satellite sets among African countries

CAIRO: Egypt will launch two satellites next year, including NExSat-1, a lightweight vessel that will be used for remote sensing and scientific research, Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, Egyptian minister of higher education and scientific research, announced on Saturday.
Space authorities will also launch EgyptSat 2, which weighs 330 kilograms and will use sensor applications to employ a photographic accuracy of two meters from space.
The minister revealed the plans at the European-African Space Forum being held in Lisbon, Portugal. Mohamed El-Koosy, head of the Egyptian Space Agency, was also present.
Abdel Ghaffar said that Egypt will also host the headquarters of the African Space Agency, which includes all 54 countries on the continent.
The Egyptian Space Agency will be equipped with the latest equipment and space technology, he added.
The African Space Agency will be an “essential accelerator” for cooperation with Europe, he said, adding that Egypt will “spare no effort” in promoting multilateral cooperation in space activity.
“All the facilities and infrastructure for space projects are available in Egypt, and we are ready to become a reliable partner,” Abdel Ghaffar said, adding that all support will be “provided to Africa to benefit from space technology and its applications.”
He called on the EU to discuss the establishment of the European-African Space Training Program in Egypt, adding that the Egyptian agency will provide full logistical support for the program, which can provide annual training courses and degrees for African students and researchers.
Abdel Ghaffar said that next month Egypt will also launch a training and capacity-building program for 18 African researchers in various space fields.
The Egyptian Space Agency will distribute educational satellite sets among African countries, which will provide researchers and students with experience and technical skills, enabling them to conduct further space research, he said.
“We aim to transform Egypt into a center for training, research and development in space activities, adopt and encourage African youth to explore new horizons in space science, prepare them for the transformation of the digital economy, develop and support emerging technologies, spread the use of satellite images to support activities, especially in the field of agriculture, and stimulate exploration and innovation and provide social and economic benefits to improve the lives of all Africans,” the minister said.


‘Intense’ Iran nuclear talks resume as Germany calls for rapid progress

‘Intense’ Iran nuclear talks resume as Germany calls for rapid progress
Updated 28 min 19 sec ago

‘Intense’ Iran nuclear talks resume as Germany calls for rapid progress

‘Intense’ Iran nuclear talks resume as Germany calls for rapid progress
  • Senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain planned to meet at a hotel in the Austrian capital
  • The United States is not formally part of meetings that launched in Vienna earlier this year

VIENNA: Indirect talks between Tehran and Washington on reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal resumed in Vienna on Saturday as the European Union said negotiations were “intense” and Germany called for rapid progress.
The sixth round of talks kicked off as usual with a meeting of remaining parties to the deal — Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union — in the basement of a luxury hotel.
The US delegation to the talks, known as the Joint Commission of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is based in a hotel across the street as Iran refuses face-to-face meetings.
The talks’ chief coordinator, EU foreign policy official Enrique Mora, who is leading the shuttle diplomacy between Iran and the United States, has said he expects a deal in this round of talks. Other envoys, however, are more cautious, saying many difficult issues are yet to be resolved.
“We are making progress but the negotiations are intense and a number of issues (remain), including on how steps are to be implemented,” an EU spokesman said in a statement to reporters, adding that the aim was “to find ways to get very close to a final agreement in the coming days.”
The deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, imposed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear activities designed to extend the time Tehran would need to obtain enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, if it chose to, to at least a year from two to three months.
Iran denies ever pursuing nuclear weapons, saying its aims are solely peaceful.
President Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the deal in 2018 and reimposed economic sanctions lifted by the deal. Iran responded by breaching many of those limits, producing more enriched uranium than allowed and enriching to higher purity levels, recently to near weapons grade.
“Playing for time is in no-one’s interest,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who is not at the talks, told Reuters, urging all sides to show flexibility and pragmatism.
China’s top envoy said the main sticking point was US sanctions. “Our message to them (the United States) is that they should stop shilly-shallying by moving decisively to sanction-lifting,” China’s ambassador to the UN nuclear watchdog, Wang Qun, told reporters.
On the steps Iran must take to return to compliance with the deal, Wang said: “To a great extent, the major issues have been worked out as a matter of principle, though I think there are some fixes (left).”


Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line
Updated 12 June 2021

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line
  • El-Wazir said that Egypt has taken “huge steps” to boost connectivity in Africa through infrastructure
  • He said that the Egyptian government is constructing the Cairo-Cape Town railway line to connect Egypt with other African countries

CAIRO: Egypt is working with Sudan to connect the Cairo-Cape Town railway route to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Kamel El-Wazir, Egypt’s transport minister, has said.
Speaking on Saturday at a forum for heads of African investment agencies in Sharm El-Sheikh, El-Wazir said that Egypt has taken “huge steps” to boost connectivity in Africa through infrastructure.
He said that the Egyptian government is constructing the Cairo-Cape Town railway line to connect Egypt with other African countries.
El-Wazir said that the Ministry of Transport is executing 360-kilometer rail lines inside Egyptian territory, in addition to a six-kilometer line across Nasser Lake to Wadi Halfa in Sudan.
The government is executing another line to connect the monorail stretching from Matrouh governorate with a special link to El-Saloum city, he said.
Egypt is also coordinating with the Libyan government to extend a railway line to the city of Benghazi, he said.
Efforts exerted to develop land transport networks, railways, as well as sea and land ports have improved Egypt’s rank in the Road Quality Index featured in the Ease of Doing Business’ latest report, El-Wazir said.
The report also underlined Egypt’s readiness to transfer its expertise in making smart roads to other African countries.
Dhieu Mathok Diing, South Sudanese minister of investment, said that his government hopes that South Sudan will be connected to Egypt via a railway line in two to three years after the Egypt-Sudan link is completed.
Diing said that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s announcement that he is committed to the African agenda for development, as well as Egypt’s launching of the Cairo-Cape Town railway line and the Investment Promotion conference are decisions that demonstrate Egypt’s keenness to develop African countries.
He said that South Sudan has “high hopes” for the Cairo-Cape Town railway line, adding that the areas which will be included in the project inside South Sudan have been developed.
Diing said: “Cooperation among Africa’s great economic powers like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria with the rest of African countries makes us believe that we can achieve growth, development and African integration.”


Houthis fire 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles at Marib since start of 2021: Yemen information minister

Houthis fire 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles at Marib since start of 2021: Yemen information minister
Updated 12 June 2021

Houthis fire 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles at Marib since start of 2021: Yemen information minister

Houthis fire 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles at Marib since start of 2021: Yemen information minister
  • Al-Eryani says Houthi attacks resulted in 344 civilian casualties in Marib since start of the year
  • Saudi ambassador to Yemen says Kingdom and the Arab coalition are constantly working with the two parties to the Riyadh Agreement to complete its implementation

AMMAN: Yemen’s Information Minister Moammar Al-Eryani criticized on Saturday the Houthi militia targeting of residential neighborhoods, displacement camps and civilians in Marib with more than 55 Iranian-made ballistic missiles since the start of the year.
He said that statistics confirm the militia, which is backed by Iran, has also launched 12 drones, three Katyusha rockets, six projectiles, and seven explosives from Jan. 1 to June 10.
Al-Eryani added that the statistics also recorded 344 civilian casualties during the same period from Houthi attacks on Marib governorate. 104 civilians, three women, and 15 children have been killed, while 180 civilians, 12 women, and 30 children have been wounded with varying severity of injuries due to the continuous shelling, he said in a series of tweets.
The Iran-baked Houthis launched a major offensive to capture the oil and gas-rich province from the internationally recognized government in February, sparking widespread condemnation as the province has been serving as a safe haven for tens of thousands of internally displaced peoeple who have been fleeing the fighting since the beginning of the conflict.
“The terrorist Houthi militia’s bombing of residential neighborhoods, civilian objects and displacement camps in the districts of Marib governorate, since the beginning of its massive military escalation, are systematic and deliberate killing of civilians, a violation of international laws and conventions, and amounts to war crimes and crimes against humanity,” Al-Eryani said.
He added that the international community, the UN and the permanent members of the Security Council are required to assume their legal and moral responsibilities, and to pressure the militia to stop the daily killing of civilians with revenge motives, in which women and children fall victim.
He also pressed the body to re-classify the Houthis as a terrorist organization and prosecute its leaders as war criminals.
Last Saturday, a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis killed at least 21 people, including a 5-year-old girl, and wounded dozens of others in the government-held city
The missile hit a gas station in the Rawdha neighborhood in central Marib, and shortly after the Iran-backed militia launched an explosive-laden drone which destroyed two ambulances that had rushed to the area to transfer the injured to hospitals.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen said the Kingdom and the Arab coalition are constantly working with the two parties to the Riyadh Agreement to complete its implementation.
“We are counting on everyone to put the interests of the Yemeni people above all else, and expedite the return of the Yemeni government to Aden to enable it to perform its duties to alleviate the suffering of the people and complete the implementation of all aspects of the agreement,” said Mohammed Al-Jaber.


Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link
Updated 12 June 2021

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link
  • Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to establish the electrical interconnection project
  • The project will be the main axis in the Arab electrical linkage, which aims to create an infrastructure for electricity trade between Arab countries

CAIRO: Egypt’s electrical interconnection project with Saudi Arabia — a scheme that will increase grid capacity to 2,000 megawatts — will be launched shortly, according to Mohammed Shaker, Egyptian minister of electricity.
Speaking on the sidelines of the first forum of heads of African investment agencies in Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday, Shaker said that tenders for the implementation of the project have been finalized but the winning company has yet to be announced.
Shaker said that a global consultant will undertake studies to adjust the paths of the power lines.
Transmission lines between the two countries will be established under the DC (direct current) system, the latest in Egypt and the Arab region, he said.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to establish the electrical interconnection project. 
The project will be the main axis in the Arab electrical linkage, which aims to create an infrastructure for electricity trade between Arab countries.
Shaker said that Egypt has become a center for electrical interconnection after dramatically increasing its power production, “thanks to the presidential support for plans.”