Keeping Turkey-EU ties alive ‘hugely important for all sides,’ says ambassador

Special Keeping Turkey-EU ties alive ‘hugely important for all sides,’ says ambassador
Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut. (Supplied)
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Updated 02 October 2021

Keeping Turkey-EU ties alive ‘hugely important for all sides,’ says ambassador

Keeping Turkey-EU ties alive ‘hugely important for all sides,’ says ambassador
  • The latest demining operation is considered the largest ever undertaken by the UN
  • Turkey currently hosts about 4 million refugees

ANKARA: Despite several disputes in Turkey-EU relations last year, including tensions in the East Mediterranean and the migrant crisis, both sides are continuing their cooperation in various spheres.
This work ranges from the demining of vast territories along the Iranian border, opening hundreds of schools for Syrian refugees, and developing cooperation to combat climate change together.
On Sept. 28, the EU and the UN Development Programme launched a 18.6 million euros ($21.5 million) project to clear 83,000 landmines along the country’s eastern border with Iran by Jan. 2023 in partnership with Turkish authorities.
The latest demining operation, which began on Tuesday, is considered the largest ever undertaken by the UN.
Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, who heads the EU delegation to Turkey, said the project was helping the country fulfill its commitments to the Ottawa Convention, which it has been a party to since 2004 and bans the use of anti-personnel landmines.
“The EU funding helps to improve the working conditions of Turkey’s border management authorities,” he told Arab News. “Anti-personnel mines are very dangerous, indiscriminately killing animals, civilians including many children, and it does not constitute anymore and anyway a modern border management system.”
Turkey currently hosts about 4 million refugees. Afghans, the second-largest refugee community in Turkey after Syrians, are mostly arriving through the Iranian border.
In terms of EU-Turkey relations, accession negotiations are almost frozen although EU leaders earlier this year said the bloc was ready to support a concrete and positive agenda with Turkey, especially in the areas of economic cooperation and migration.
On the other hand, the European Parliament is also discussing a report recommending an end to the Customs Union and replacing it with a free trade agreement. For many, giving up the Customs Union would also mean giving up the accession process and that would create political problems, especially under conditions where Ankara supports the modernization of the Customs Union to cover sectors such as services, tourism, business and e-commerce.
“The EU and Turkey, since the beginning of this year, are working toward the implementation of a positive agenda. In several of its decisions, the European Council has mentioned different points that it wishes to make progress on, such as sustained cooperation on migration issues and cooperation in Afghanistan as well as the resumption of high-level dialogue,” the ambassador said.
As a first step, on Sept. 16, the European Commission’s executive vice president for the European Green Deal, Frans Timmermans, and the Turkish minister of environment and urbanization, Murat Kurum, met in Brussels for a high-level dialogue on climate.
Brussels also welcomed Turkey’s recent decision to ratify the Paris Agreement before the climate change summit in Glasgow next month.
As another avenue for high-level dialogue, the EU commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, will visit Turkey mid-October to launch the Turkey-EU High-Level Dialogue Mechanism on migration management including visa liberalization issues.
The third high-level dialogue before the end of the year will be about cooperation on health issues, including the alignment of digital vaccination certificates.
Turkey’s efforts to integrate the Syrian refugee population have been welcomed by Brussels, which has contributed to several projects.
Young Turkish and Syrian students, sitting next to each other, playing together and learning the same curriculum, as well as young Syrian university students studying law at Turkish universities, were all very positive experiences and these people would be always grateful to Turkey for all they had learned as part of the national education system, the EU ambassador said.
“Whatever you are able to teach to the young generation now will be the basis of their future lives. They will be able to contribute to society, they will be able to earn their own lives, pay taxes in whatever country they will be. To give these people a perspective, they should be educated. It is for their personal benefit and the benefit of society. It is the best prevention strategy for not being a lost generation,” Meyer-Landrut said.
EU ambassadors approved on Wednesday 149.6 million euros ($173.5 million) as additional funding for Syrian refugees in Turkey. The support will extend the EU’s monthly cash assistance to the refugees.
However, no progress has been made so far on the update of the migration deal signed with Turkey in 2016.
And, despite an on-off peace process over recent years, Cyprus still remains a sticking point for Turkey-EU relations, especially after the divided island became an EU member in 2004.
Despite several diplomatic efforts by the UN, no comprehensive settlement has been reached so far in the decades-long dispute.
“The UN is the roof organization under which Cyprus talks need to take place. The UN resolutions set the framework and the UN is the actor. The EU will support the efforts of the UN and every effort of the parties to negotiate a solution,” Meyer-Landrut said.
The EU supports a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation in Cyprus, while Turkey claims the time has come for talks between two states, not two communities.
Turkey expects the incoming German government — which still remains a driving force in the EU — to support and contribute to the betterment of Ankara’s ties with Brussels, similar to outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel’s rule.
Turkey’s EU ties predate an association agreement that it signed with the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1964. The country was granted the status of a candidate country in 1999 and started accession negotiations in 2005.


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in major Cabinet reshuffle
  • The Cabinet shake-up was approved by parliament in an emergency session and affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries
  • President El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly

CAIRO : An emergency session of parliament on Saturday approved several cabinet changes in Egypt’s first major reshuffle since 2019, with 13 ministers moved, the National Media Authority reported.
A statement said the House of Representatives had approved “all the nominations set forth in a letter from President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi regarding a ministerial reshuffle.”
El-Sisi’s official Facebook page said the president had urged parliament to discuss the changes in the more than 30-strong cabinet, which were agreed following consultations with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouli.
The president said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
There has been only one reshuffle since Madbouli took office in 2018, in December 2019.
Following parliamentary approval, the new ministers are now expected to be sworn in.
The reshuffle does not include the key defense, interior, finance or foreign ministries.
But it does appoint new ministers of health, tourism and antiquities, commerce and industry, irrigation, civil aviation, immigration, education, higher education, military production, manpower, public business sector, culture and local development.
Banker Ahmed Issa took over the Tourism and Antiquities Ministry, replacing Khaled Al-Anani who led Egypt’s efforts in recent years to revive the tourism industry, a pillar of the economy. Such efforts included displaying ancient discoveries, opening new museums to attract international tourists.
Hani Sweilam, professor of water resources management at Germany’s RWTH Aachen University, was named as Irrigation Minister. He replaced Mohammed Abdel-Aty who oversaw years of technical negations with Ethiopia over its controversial dam on the Nile River’s main tributary.
The decision to replace outgoing irrigation minister Aty comes just a day after Addis Ababa announced it had finished its third filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
The Ethiopian water project damming the Nile is proceeding without agreement from downstream countries Egypt and Sudan.
The new irrigation minister is Hani Sewilam, a professor of sustainable development and water resources management at the American University in Cairo.
He assumes the post amid increasing fears over water security and an impending water crisis.
Other notable swaps include tourism and antiquities. Khaled Anani is credited with several high-profile attempts to revive Egypt’s vital tourism industry, and he is succeeded by Ahmed Issa Abu Hussein.
The health portfolio has been filled by Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, the acting minister since October.
Abdel Ghaffar’s former post of higher education minister will be filled by his deputy, Ayman Ashour.
Another notable appointment is Egyptian Air Force chief Mohamed Abbas Helmy, who takes on the civil aviation portfolio.
The government has held talks in recent months with the International Monetary Fund for a new loan to support its reform program and to help address challenges caused by the war in Europe. The government has received pledges from wealthy Arab Gulf nations for billions of dollars in investments, some of which are for private industry.
(With AFP and AP)


15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
Updated 13 August 2022

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials

15 migrants found dead on border with Sudan, say Libya officials
  • The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert

CAIRO: Libyan authorities said Saturday they found at least 15 migrants dead in the desert on the borders with Sudan, the latest tragedy involving migrants seeking a better life in Europe via perilous journeys through the conflict-wrecked nation.
The Department for Combating Irregular Migration in the southeastern city of Kufra said the migrants were on their way from Sudan to Libya when their vehicle broke down due to lack of fuel.
The agency said nine other migrants survived while two remain missing in the desert. There were women and children among the migrants, but the agency did not elaborate on how many. It also did not reveal causes of the migrants’ death, but said they did not have enough food and water.
It said the migrants were all Sudanese — from a country in turmoil for years. The migrants likely attempted to reach western Libya in efforts to board trafficking boats to Europe.
The agency posted images on Facebook showing bodies purportedly of the dead migrants who were later burned in the desert.
The tragedy was the latest in Libya’s sprawling desert. In June, authorities in Kufra said they found the bodies of 20 migrants who they said died of thirst in the desert after their vehicle broke down close to the border with Chad.
Libya has in recent years emerged as the dominant transit point for migrants fleeing war and poverty in Africa and the Middle East. The oil-rich country plunged into chaos following a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed longtime autocrat Muammar Qaddafi in 2011.
Human traffickers in recent years have benefited from the chaos in Libya, smuggling in migrants across the country’s lengthy borders with six nations. The migrants are then packed into ill-equipped rubber boats and set off on risky sea voyages.


Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
Updated 13 August 2022

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle

Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in Cabinet reshuffle
  • Secretary-General of the House of Representatives Ahmed Manaa invited Parliament’s 596 MPs to attend the meeting without disclosing further information

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt announced a Cabinet reshuffle Saturday to improve his administration's performance as it faces towering economic challenges stemming largely from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Cabinet shake-up, which was approved by parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including health, education, culture, local development and irrigation ministries.
Also included in the reshuffle was the tourism portfolio, a key job at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently the war in Europe.
The changes, however, didn’t affect key ministries including foreign, finance, defense and the interior, which is responsible for the police force.
El-Sisi said the shake-up came in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. He said in a Facebook post that the changes aimed at “developing the governmental performance in some important files ... which contribute to protecting the state’s interests and capabilities.”
The new ministers are expected to be sworn in before el-Sissi later Saturday or early Sunday.
Egypt’s economy has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which rattled global markets and hiked oil and food prices across the world.


Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18
Updated 13 August 2022

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

Vehicle accident in southern Egypt kills 9, injures 18

CAIRO: A vehicle accident involving an overturned microbus in southern Egypt killed at least nine people and injured eight, authorities said Saturday.
The crash took place Friday when the passenger vehicle overturned following a tire blowout on a highway in Minya province 273 kilometers (170 miles) south of the capital Cairo, provincial authorities said in a statement.
The microbus, a sort of mass transit minivan, was transporting people from Sohag province to Cairo, the statement said.
Ambulances rushed to the site and moved the injured to hospitals in Minya, the statement added.
Deadly traffic accidents claim thousands of lives every year in Egypt, which has a poor transportation safety record. The crashes and collisions are mostly caused by speeding, bad roads or poor enforcement of traffic laws.
Earlier this month, a microbus collided with a truck in Sohag, killing at least 17 people and injuring four others. In July, a passenger bus slammed into a parked trailer truck in Minya, leaving 23 dead and a least 30 wounded.


UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations
Updated 13 August 2022

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

UAE FM, Ukrainian counterpart discuss relations

DUBAI: The UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nahyan, discussed on Friday with the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, Dmytro Kuleba, bilateral relations between their countries, the prospects for cooperation and ways to enhance them.

Both officials also reviewed the latest developments in the Ukraine, in addition to a number of regional and international issues of common interest, UAE state news agency WAM reported. 

During the phone call, Sheikh Abdullah praised the United Nations-backed agreement recently signed in Istanbul between Ukraine, Russia and Turkey, which provides for the safe export of grain through the Black Sea to global markets.

He reiterated the UAE's commitment to support all efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflict in Ukraine and reach a political settlement of the crisis.