Austria rejects EU military cooperation with Turkey

Austria rejects EU military cooperation with Turkey
PESCO covers 46 joint defense projects in partnership with 24 EU member states and is one of the union’s key security policies. (European Defense Agency)
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Updated 28 July 2021

Austria rejects EU military cooperation with Turkey

Austria rejects EU military cooperation with Turkey
  • Ankara’s May bid to be included in PESCO was given cold shoulder by Vienna over several concerns

ANKARA: Austria has rejected a formal request by Turkey to join a powerful EU security and defense cooperation program.

Ankara’s May bid to be included in the bloc’s Permanent Structured Cooperation Framework (PESCO) was given the cold shoulder by Vienna over its concerns about Turkish backsliding on democratic values and ties with Brussels.

PESCO covers 46 joint defense projects in partnership with 24 EU member states and is one of the union’s key defense and security policies.

Since autumn last year, membership has been opened up to non-EU countries that fulfilled a set of political and legal criteria such as democratization, respect of common security and defense policies, and maintaining good relations with their EU neighbors.

However, the ongoing standoff between Ankara and Athens about the situation of Greek islands, and rising tensions over Turkey’s recently announced settlement project on the divided island of Cyprus, are considered a barrier to good neighborliness.

Marc Pierini, a former EU ambassador to Turkey and now analyst at Carnegie Europe, told Arab News: “Austria’s position may be expressed in stark terms, but it probably reflects the overall EU stand on the matter of Turkey’s participation in PESCO.

“The overall reason is that Turkey’s current rule-of-law architecture has not much to do with Europe’s anymore and nobody sees much of a prospect for improvement,” he said.

On Tuesday, Turkey’s defense minister said that his country expected Greece to opt for peaceful political solutions and called for the disarmament of Greek islands that had non-military status.

Greece’s recent purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France was criticized by Turkey as an attempt to begin an “arms race.”

But the presence of Russian S-400 missile systems on Turkish soil has been viewed as a contradictory stance with the common security and defense interests of the EU.

The admission of non-EU countries to PESCO aims at increasing cooperation between NATO partners, improving military mobility within and beyond the EU, and standardizing cross-border military procedures such as the movement of military equipment across the union in times of crisis.

Although Turkey’s application to PESCO is not seen as timely, its participation in the project would likely boost its air, land, sea, and cyber capabilities in a military sense, and would provide the country with a new avenue to improve cooperation with the EU and normalize its relations with bloc members.

Pierini pointed out that Turkey’s interest in being associated with PESCO would signal a lasting anchorage to the West. But, he added, the latest visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Northern Cyprus, and the massive geopolitical gain given to Russia through the purchase of S-400 weapon systems, all pointed to a different direction.

“So, we are clearly in a dead-end alley at the moment,” he said.

Dr. Selmin Seda Coskun, a foreign policy analyst, told Arab News that Turkey had taken important foreign policy steps, especially during June, to meet the EU’s requirements for good neighborly relations.

So far, Turkey and Greece have held three consultative rounds of talks and a number of deconfliction meetings under NATO.

“However, it is obvious that it cannot achieve the same progress at the domestic sphere,” Coskun said.

She noted that Ankara was attempting to boost military cooperation with the Western community to avoid backing itself into a corner over the S-400 impasse.

“The sale of Turkish-made unmanned aerial vehicles to Ukraine and Poland in order to consolidate its presence in the alliance, Turkey’s participation into NATO’s Black Sea ships exercise, as well as assuming a more prominent role in Afghanistan, especially as US troops gear up to exit in September, prove that Turkey is capable of doing this reconciliatory move in its foreign policy,” she added.

However, Coskun pointed out that to take part in PESCO, Turkey needed to prove a willingness to tackle its poor human rights record and convince the EU about impending domestic democratic progress.

“Either PESCO’s members would consider Turkey’s latest foreign policy moves and not expect too much from Ankara, or Turkey would understand that it would be more advantageous to follow EU values in its domestic policy preferences,” she said.


Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman
Updated 7 sec ago

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman

Syria’s defense chief meets Jordan’s army commander in Amman
AMMAN: Syria’s defense minister met Sunday with Jordan’s army chief in Amman after after Syrian troops captured several rebel-held areas near Jordan’s border, state media reported.
The Hala Akhbar news site, which is linked to Jordan’s military, reported that the meeting between Jordanian Gen. Yousef Huneiti and Syrian Gen. Ali Ayoub was “to increase coordination in the field of border security to serve the interests of the two brotherly countries.”
The recent push by Syrian troops in the country’s south is the biggest since government forces captured wide areas along the border in 2018, including the Nassib border crossing.
The crossing with Jordan was reopened in 2018, months after it fell under Syrian government control. Syrian rebels had seized the site in 2015, severing a lifeline for the government in Damascus and disrupting a major trade route linking Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and the oil-rich Gulf countries.
Ayoub’s visit came nearly two weeks after Syrian forces entered the rebel-held district of the volatile southern city of Daraa as part of a truce negotiated by Russia to end weeks of fighting. In the days that followed, Syrian troops captured rebel-held parts of several villages near Daraa.
The latest push by Syrian troops brings all parts of southern Syria under full government control.
Petra, Jordan’s state news agency, said Huneiti and Ayoub discussed border security, the situation in southern Syria, fighting terrorism and confronting narcotics smuggling.
Syrian state TV said the visit came at the invitation of Jordan’s army commander, adding that Ayoub was accompanied by top army officers. It said the talks focused on “fighting terrorism and border control.”
Jordan is a close Western ally and has long been seen as an island of stability in the turbulent Mideast. The kingdom hosts more than 650,000 Syrian refugees.
Earlier this month, ministers from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt said after meeting in Amman that Egyptian natural gas should reach Lebanon through Jordan and Syria as soon as next month, after maintenance of pipelines and the review of a deal interrupted 10 years ago.

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway
Updated 19 September 2021

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway

TankerTrackers says third tanker carrying fuel to Lebanon underway
  • The first tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it was taken into Lebanon on tanker trucks on Thursday
  • Mikati said on Friday the Iranian fuel shipments constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty

DUBAI: A third tanker has sailed from Iran carrying Iranian fuel for distribution in Lebanon, TankerTrackers.com reported on Twitter on Sunday.
Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Friday the Iranian fuel shipments, imported by the Hezbollah movement, constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The Iran-aligned group says the shipments should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
The first tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it was taken into Lebanon on tanker trucks on Thursday.
Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.


Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break

Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break

Iran museums reopen after year-long COVID-19 break
  • A country with a millennia-long history, Iran has an abundance of 746 museums
  • Iran’s museums attracted more than 21 million visitors in the year before the outbreak of COVID-19

TEHRAN: Iran reopened museums in Tehran and other cities Sunday after a more than year-long closure because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Museums in Tehran and other large cities that are no longer red-coded, meaning the risk of contracting the virus was very high, reopened on Sunday,” the director of Iran’s museums, Mohammad-Reza Kargar, said.
“Tourists and visitors are welcome to return while observing (sanitary) measures.”
A country with a millennia-long history, Iran has an abundance of 746 museums, including 170 in the capital.
“We are absolutely delighted, and we think the people are too because they were fed up with staying home, and visiting museums improves their mood,” Kargar said in his tourism and heritage ministry office.
“We have safety protocols in place of course, and the number of visitors will be dependent on the space at our sites so the public stays safe and healthy.”
Kargar said only students, researchers and staff were allowed into museums during the past 14 months.
Iran’s museums attracted more than 21 million visitors in the year before the outbreak of COVID-19 that forced museums to close in May 2020.
On Sunday, the National Museum of Iran with its magnificent collection of treasures dating back to the Bronze and Iron ages was still deserted.
“We have to wait for the news to spread and schools to reopen for people to come back,” explained Firouzeh Sepidnameh, head of the museum’s pre-Islamic collections.
Iran, the worst-hit country in the Middle East, has confirmed more than 5.4 million cases of coronavirus, including 117,000 deaths, according to figures issued Sunday by the health ministry.
Out of a population of 83 million, 29 million Iranians have received a first dose of vaccination and almost 14 million have been fully vaccinated against the virus.


UN ‘strongly condemns’ Houthi execution of 9 civilians

UN ‘strongly condemns’ Houthi execution of 9 civilians
Updated 19 September 2021

UN ‘strongly condemns’ Houthi execution of 9 civilians

UN ‘strongly condemns’ Houthi execution of 9 civilians
  • Secretary-General Antonio Guterres: Men shot in public did not receive fair trial
  • The US Embassy to Yemen also condemned the “brutal” executions and called for such “barbarism” to end

NEW YORK: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the Houthis on Sunday for executing nine civilians without a fair trial, one of whom was 15 at the time of detention.

Guterres’s spokesman said that the UN chief “deeply regrets” the Houthi executions and “strongly condemns these actions which are a result of judicial proceedings that do not appear to have fulfilled the requirements of fair trial and due process under international law.”

The nine men were shot in the back after they were forced to lie on the floor in public. They were charged with involvement in the killing of the Houthi leader Saleh Al-Samad in 2018 by an Arab Coalition air strike.

The group were accused of putting SIM cards in the pockets of Al-Samad’s guards, helping the coalition locate him.

Al-Samad, then president of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, was visiting Hodeidah in April 2018 to incite residents to join the war when the coalition hit his convoy, killing him along with six others, and inflicting a heavy blow to the Houthis.

Guterres said he opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and reiterated that “international law sets stringent conditions for the application of the death penalty, including compliance with fair trial and due process standards as stipulated under international law.”

The UN chief called on all parties and authorities to adopt a moratorium on carrying out of the death penalty.

He also urged all everyine to cease violence in Yemen, and work with the UN to revive peace talks.

The US Embassy to Yemen also condemned the “brutal” executions and called for such “barbarism” to end.

Charge d'Affaires Cathy Westley said that “This outrageous action is another example of the Houthis indifference to basic human rights and follows only days after their attack on the commercial port of Mocha.”

The UK embassy in Yemen also condemned the “brutal” executions and said it demonstrates the “indifference to human dignity and blatant disregard for fair trial and due process.”

“Sadly, it’s not the first time. Those responsible must change and comply with international law,” a statement said.


UAE daily COVID-19 cases at lowest in over a year

UAE daily COVID-19 cases at lowest in over a year
Updated 19 September 2021

UAE daily COVID-19 cases at lowest in over a year

UAE daily COVID-19 cases at lowest in over a year
  • The UAE government earlier introduced a booster shot drive for fully vaccinated individuals

DUBAI: Daily coronavirus cases in the UAE were at their lowest in over a year on Sunday, with the Gulf state’s high vaccination rate among its population ensuring community immunity against the highly transmissible disease.

The Ministry of Health and Prevention  (MoHAP) confirmed that 391 people had tested positive in the last 24 hours, the lowest since Aug. 30 last year with 362 cases, as well as two deaths due to COVID-19 complications.

The number of people who have tested positive in the UAE since the pandemic started stands at 732,690 with 2,075 fatalities.

MoHAP earlier said 91.93 percent of its almost 10 million population have received at least a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine – one of the fastest vaccination campaigns in the world – while 81.08 percent of residents and citizens have been fully vaccinated.

The UAE government earlier introduced a booster shot drive for individuals who were inoculated particularly with the Sinopharm vaccine to increase immunity against the virus.

A total 19,412,656 doses have been administered so far, for a vaccine distribution rate equivalent to 196.28 doses per 100 people.

The continued decline in COVID-19 numbers in the UAE has prompted Abu Dhabi to lift COVID-19 testing requirements for residents before they are allowed entry into the emirate.

The COVID-19 checkpoint at the Abu Dhabi-Dubai was removed just after midnight on Sunday.

The decision follows the announcement of a decreased COVID-19 infection rate in the emirate of 0.2 percent of total tests and the activation of the green pass system to enter some public places, the Abu Dhabi Emergency, Crisis and Disasters Committee said in a statement.

The committee also approved home quarantine without the use of wristbands for international travellers and those in contact with positive cases.

COVID-19 positive individuals in the emirate are however still required to wear a wristband as part of monitoring to ensure compliance with precautionary measures.