Pope to revisit island of Lesbos on trip to Cyprus, Greece

A child walks past tents inside the refugee camp of Kara Tepe in Mytilene, Lesbos. The island of Lesbos hosts more than 8,000 asylum seekers. (File/AFP)
A child walks past tents inside the refugee camp of Kara Tepe in Mytilene, Lesbos. The island of Lesbos hosts more than 8,000 asylum seekers. (File/AFP)
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Updated 06 November 2021

Pope to revisit island of Lesbos on trip to Cyprus, Greece

A child walks past tents inside the refugee camp of Kara Tepe in Mytilene, Lesbos. The island of Lesbos hosts more than 8,000 asylum seekers. (File/AFP)
  • In April 2016, he visited Lesbos at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, where he paid a trip to Moria, the continent’s largest migrant camp that was destroyed by fire last year

VATICAN CITY: Pope Francis will visit Cyprus and Greece next month, the Vatican said on Friday, returning to the island of Lesbos, a major port of entry for migrants into Europe.
His 35th trip abroad comes just five months after the Argentine pontiff, who turns 85 in December, was hospitalized following surgery on his colon.
“Pope Francis will travel to Cyprus from 2 to 4 December, visiting the city of Nicosia, and to Greece from Dec. 4 to 6, visiting Athens and the island of Lesbos,” spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a brief statement.
The Argentine pontiff has traveled widely since he took office in 2013, and although his schedule was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic, this year he has already made a historic trip to Iraq and visits to the Hungarian capital and Slovakia.
Migration has been a key theme — his first trip as pope, in July 2013, was to the Italian island of Lampedusa, the landing point for migrants crossing the Mediterranean from North Africa.
While there, he criticized the “globalization of indifference” over migrants.
In April 2016, he visited Lesbos at the height of Europe’s migrant crisis, where he paid a trip to Moria, the continent’s largest migrant camp that was destroyed by fire last year.
Lesbos has for years been the main entry point into Europe for asylum seekers.
Josif Printezis, the Catholic archbishop for Greek islands in the Aegean, said earlier this month that the pope “wishes to see the evolution of the refugee issue, the fruits of Greece’s efforts and make a humanitarian statement.”
He would say “that the Church and all European peoples care about refugees, and that the weight borne by Greece should be recognized by the other European countries,” Printezis said.
After his last visit to Lesbos, Francis took three Syrian families from the camp home with him, in what he described as a humanitarian gesture.
The Vatican said later that the group, selected on the grounds that their paperwork was sufficiently in order, had settled into life in Rome and started to learn Italian.
The last papal visit to the Mediterranean island of Cyprus was by Benedict XVI in 2010.
Several other visits are in the works.
The pope said in October he intends to visit Oceania for the first time next year, without saying where, and also had “in my head” trips to Congo and the rest of Hungary.
Speaking to Argentine news agency Telam, he said he was overdue a trip to Papua New Guinea and East Timor originally planned for 2020.
The pope had expressed hope he could fly to Glasgow for this month’s UN talks on climate change, another subject close to his heart, but in the end he sent only a video message.
Despite his busy schedule, there are signs that his age is catching up with him.
On returning from a grueling three-day trip to Iraq, the pope admitted he “felt a lot more tired” than during other visits.


PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
Updated 17 sec ago

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
  • One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin
  • A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident

ANKARA: Turkey has blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a deadly attack on a police guesthouse in the country’s southern coastal Mersin province.
One policeman was killed and another injured in the attack reportedly carried out by two women who opened fire with long-barreled weapons and detonated bombs late on Monday.
Another bomb, found in a bag near the guesthouse, was defused.
One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin, the Turkish Interior Ministry said.
A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU, launched a bloody terror campaign against the Turkish state in 1984, which has since claimed 40,000 lives.
The UK Foreign Office has advised British citizens in Turkey not to go to areas within 10 kilometers of the Syrian border.
Monday’s attack coincided with domestic debates taking place in Turkey in the run-up to next year’s election marathon.
Erol Bural, a retired colonel and head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Combating Terrorism and Radicalization (TERAM), told Arab News that the Mersin attack was a message to Ankara from the PKK that it was still active in Turkish towns.
He said: “Terrorism is an instrument to exert political violence. The PKK wanted to show that it is still alive in Turkey to launch terror attacks against specific targets.”
Bural noted that the PKK had not carried out an urban attack on such a scale for some time due to the effectiveness of Turkey’s increased anti-terror, and intelligence-gathering measures.
“This attack was carried out by the urban team of the PKK by people who were familiar with the district and who seem to have been specifically trained for such urban operations. They knew very well that the police guesthouse could not have been protected as strongly as a police station. Therefore, they picked that target,” he added.
Bural pointed out that the PKK may also have used the attack as a signal to discourage Turkey from conducting any potential operations in Syria.
“Another underlying reason for this attack might also be revenge following Turkey’s cross-border operations in northern Iraq against the PKK hideouts,” he said.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Monday that around 400 PKK members in northern Iraq had been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed, or captured — since the start of a cross-border operation in April.
On Sept. 23, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) captured a PKK member against whom a red notice had been issued, and on Wednesday it apprehended another group member, Sabah Ogur. The same day, Akar said the guesthouse attack had been plotted in Syria and added that, “necessary action will be taken against the perpetrators when the time is ripe.”
Meanwhile, in Turkey’s anti-Daesh operation, 16 Daesh suspects were caught in Istanbul and eight in Mersin.
Think tank TERAM closely follows counter-terror operations in Turkey, and Bural said: “Each month, about 1,000 terrorists from different groups are caught in Turkey, and some of them are detained. Therefore, Turkey’s counter-terror operations will continue following this attack with the same vigor.”


Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension
Updated 39 min 46 sec ago

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension

Yemeni parties under pressure for 6-month truce extension
  • Hans Grundberg is expected to meet Houthi leaders to persuade them to extend the truce and accept his latest proposal for opening roads in Taiz
  • Hans Grundberg: We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real, and I am urging the parties to choose an alternative that prioritizes the needs of the Yemeni people

AL-MUKALLA: Hans Grundberg, the UN envoy for Yemen, arrived in Houthi-held Sanaa on Wednesday for talks as he pushes the Yemeni militia and the internationally recognized government to extend the UN-brokered truce for six months and implement truce elements.

Grundberg is expected to meet Houthi leaders to persuade them to extend the truce and accept his latest proposal for opening roads in Taiz, among other things.

The envoy’s visit comes as the Yemeni government and the Houthis received a new draft of the envoy’s proposal, which includes, in addition to the six-month truce, opening secondary roads in the besieged city of Taiz and adding new destinations for commercial flights from Sanaa airport to include Doha, Muscat and Mumbai.

The proposal would ask the Houthis to use revenue from fuel ships passing through Hodeidah port to pay government employees in their territories based on the 2014 payroll, with the Yemeni government covering any payment shortfall.

A Yemeni government source told Arab News that the government received a copy of the draft and expressed reservations about opening only small roads in Taiz rather than at least one main road leading into and out of the city and requested that the Houthis fully pay the government employees in areas under their control.

“Minor roads in Taiz, such as Osefrah, Al-Sateen, Al-Zulai and Al-Rahedah, will be opened during the first phase. Opening the main Softeel road is important for the government,” said the Yemeni official who preferred anonymity, adding that the government is seeking assurances that the Houthis will adhere to the truce’s terms.

The UN-brokered truce, which went into effect on April 2 and has been extended twice, will expire on Oct. 2.

Despite significantly reducing hostilities throughout the country and allowing commercial flights from Sanaa to Amman and Cairo, as well as allowing fuel ships to enter Hodeidah ports, the truce did not even result in a partial lifting of the Houthi siege of Taiz, Yemen’s third largest city, or the cessation of discriminatory attacks on residential areas in the city.

The UN envoy, after concluding a trip to Riyadh and Muscat, warned on Tuesday that the truce was at serious risk of collapsing and that new fighting could erupt, urging Yemeni parties to achieve peace.

“We are at a crossroads where the risk of a return to war is real, and I am urging the parties to choose an alternative that prioritizes the needs of the Yemeni people,” Grundberg said.

The Houthis rejected the new proposal on Tuesday and other calls for extending the truce and insisted the Yemeni government pay public servants in their areas and end what they called the “blockade” on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port.

“Any discussion of peace in Yemen lacks credibility and seriousness until these critical humanitarian issues are addressed, which are a demand of all Yemenis,” Mohammed Abdul Sallam, a Houthi chief negotiator, tweeted.


US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region
Updated 28 September 2022

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region

US condemns Iranian attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan region
  • Iran's Revolutionary Guards said they fired missiles and drones at militant targets in the Kurdish region

WASHINGTON: The United States on Wednesday condemned Iran’s use of ballistic missiles and drone attacks against the Iraqi Kurdistan region and called it “an unjustified violation of Iraqi sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards said on Wednesday they fired missiles and drones at militant targets in the Kurdish region of neighboring northern Iraq, where an official said nine people were killed.
“Moreover, we further condemn comments from the government of Iran threatening additional attacks against Iraq,” the US State Department said in a statement on Wednesday.


Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 
Updated 28 September 2022

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 

Tunisia praises Italian envoy for pandemic help 
  • Najla Bouden thanked Lorenzo Fanara for his country’s help during the COVID-19 crisis
  • Fanara said Italy is willing “to give more support to Tunisia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund”

ROME: Tunisia’s prime minister has praised the Italian ambassador for strengthening relations and helping her country through the pandemic as the envoy prepared to end his stay in Tunis.

Najla Bouden thanked Lorenzo Fanara for his country’s help during the COVID-19 crisis, when Italy sent several ships filled with medical supplies, ventilators and vaccines.

Bouden’s office said she also welcomed Fanara’s efforts to “strengthen relations in several areas of common interest” during his four years in the job.

Bouden highlighted the “solidity of the historical relations” between Tunisia and Italy, which she said “constitute a link between the two shores of the Mediterranean and between the African and European continents.”

Fanara said Italy is willing “to give more support to Tunisia in its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund,” as it seeks a loan of between $2 billion and $4 billion.

Migration and Italian investments in the energy and technology sectors were also discussed at the meeting in Tunis. Bouden also discussed upcoming elections, including legislative polls on Dec. 17.

Fanara has been appointed Italy’s ambassador to the UAE, and will take office in the next few days.


Protest-hit Iran launches strikes that kill 9 in Iraqi Kurdistan

Protest-hit Iran launches strikes that kill 9 in Iraqi Kurdistan
Updated 17 min 35 sec ago

Protest-hit Iran launches strikes that kill 9 in Iraqi Kurdistan

Protest-hit Iran launches strikes that kill 9 in Iraqi Kurdistan
  • A barrage of missiles and drones on Wednesday claimed nine lives and wounded 32
  • Iraq’s federal government called in the Iranian ambassador to protest the deadly strikes

ZARGWEZ, Iraq: Iran launched cross-border missile and drone strikes that killed nine people in Iraq’s Kurdistan region Wednesday after accusing Kurdish armed groups based there of stoking a wave of unrest that has rocked the Islamic republic.
The September 16 death of Kurdish Iranian woman Mahsa Amini, 22, while in the custody of Iran’s morality police has sparked a major wave of protests and a crackdown that has left scores of demonstrators dead over the past 12 nights.
Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has in recent days accused the Iraq-based Kurdish groups of “attacking and infiltrating Iran from the northwest of the country to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest.”
After several earlier Iranian cross-border attacks that caused no casualties, a barrage of missiles and drones on Wednesday claimed nine lives and wounded 32, said the regional health minister in Irbil, Saman Al-Barazanji, while visiting the wounded in a hospital in the capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region.
“There are civilians among the victims,” including one of those killed, a senior official of the Kurdistan region earlier told AFP.
An AFP correspondent reported smoke billowing from locations hit, ambulances racing to the scene and residents fleeing, at Zargwez, about 15 kilometers (10 miles) from Sulaimaniyah.
In Baghdad, Iraq’s federal government called in the Iranian ambassador to protest the deadly strikes, while the UN mission in Iraq deplored the attack, saying “rocket diplomacy is a reckless act with devastating consequences.”
“These attacks need to cease immediately,” the UN mission said on Twitter.
The United States said it “strongly condemns” Iran’s deadly strikes in Iraqi Kurdistan and warned against further attacks.
“We stand with the people and government of Iraq in the face of these brazen attacks on their sovereignty,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
Other Iranian strikes Wednesday destroyed buildings around Zargwez, where several exiled left-wing Iranian Kurdish parties maintain offices.
“The area where we are has been hit by 10 drone strikes,” Atta Nasser, an official from Komala, one exiled Iranian group, told AFP, blaming Iran for the strikes.
“The headquarters of the Kurdistan Freedom Party has been hit by Iranian strikes,” Hussein Yazdan, an official from the party, told AFP, about the site in the Sherawa region, south of Irbil.
Another group, the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran, said its bases and headquarters in Koysinjaq, east of Irbil, were struck by “missiles and drones.”
“These cowardly attacks are occurring at a time when the terrorist regime of Iran is unable to crack down on ongoing protests inside and silence the Kurdish and Iranian peoples’ civil resistance,” it tweeted.
Amini, 22, died in Tehran on September 16, three days after being arrested for allegedly violating Iran’s strict dress code for women that demands they wear hijab headscarves and modest clothes.
Her death sparked Iran’s biggest protests in almost three years and a crackdown that has killed at least 76 people, according to the Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights, or “around 60,” according to Iran’s semi-official Fars news agency.
Protests have rocked especially Kurdish communities in western Iran that share strong connections with Kurdish-inhabited areas of Iraq.
Many Iranian Kurds cross the border into Iraq to find work, due to a biting economic crisis in Iran driven in large part by US sanctions.
Iranian state television had said Sunday about earlier attacks that the “Revolutionary Guards targeted the headquarters of several separatist terrorist groups in northern Iraq with missiles and precision-guided attack drones.”
Two days later the Guards’ General Abbas Nilforoushan, deputy for operations, said “the establishment of a base by the enemies of the Islamic Revolution in this region is not acceptable,” Tasnim news agency reported.
“For some time now, counter-revolutionary elements have been attacking and infiltrating Iran from the northwest of the country to sow insecurity and riots and spread unrest.”
He added that several of “these anti-revolutionary elements were arrested during some riots in the northwest (of Iran), so we had to defend ourselves, react and bomb the surroundings of the border strip.”