Greek, Turkish leaders seek common ground over Ukraine war

Greek, Turkish leaders seek common ground over Ukraine war
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis (R) in Istanbul. (AFP)
Greek, Turkish leaders seek common ground over Ukraine war
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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan meets with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in Istanbul, Turkey March 13, 2022. (Reuters)
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Updated 13 March 2022

Greek, Turkish leaders seek common ground over Ukraine war

Greek, Turkish leaders seek common ground over Ukraine war
  • Aegean Sea neighbors entered a dangerous stand-off in 2020 over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the waters off their coasts
  • “We stressed the need to forge a positive agenda”: Mitsotakis

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held talks in Istanbul on Sunday, seeking a rapprochement against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“The meeting focused on the benefits of increased cooperation between the two countries” in view of “the evolution of the European security architecture,” the Turkish presidency said in a statement after two hours of talks.
“Despite the disagreements between Turkey and Greece, it was agreed... to keep the channels of communication open and to improve bilateral relations,” the statement added, saying the two leaders discussed the conflict in Ukraine and their differences in the eastern Mediterranean.
“We are facing so many challenges at the moment... that the most important thing is to concentrate on what unites us rather than on what divides us,” the Greek prime minister told journalists after the meeting.
“We stressed the need to forge a positive agenda,” Mitsotakis said.
The meeting between the leaders of the neighboring NATO members came as Ankara seeks to shore up its credentials as a regional power player by mediating in the conflict.
Last Thursday, the Turkish resort city of Antalya hosted the first talks between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba since the start of Russia’s invasion.
They failed to broker a cease-fire.
The Turkish and Greek leaders met on Sunday mindful that the burgeoning conflict in Ukraine looms larger than the long-standing tensions between Athens and Ankara.
“From the standpoint of both countries, having a potentially new crisis between them would certainly be very unwanted at this particular point in time,” Sinan Ulgen, president of the Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies in Istanbul, told AFP.
The Aegean Sea neighbors and NATO allies entered a dangerous stand-off in 2020 over hydrocarbon resources and naval influence in the waters off their coasts.
Mitsotakis then unveiled Greece’s most ambitious arms purchase program in decades and signed a defense agreement with France, to Turkey’s consternation.
Senior Turkish officials continue to question Greek sovereignty over parts of the Aegean Sea, but last year Ankara resumed bilateral talks with Athens.
“Obviously, Turkey is pursuing a very clear wave of normalization with regional rivals, after several years of having pursued a sort of very assertive foreign policy and being regionally isolated,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations.
“I think that both Turkish and Greek leaders understand that the world is changing and the European security order is challenged in ways they have not imagined three months ago,” she added.
This week, the Israeli president also visited Ankara after more than a decade of diplomatic rupture.
Antonia Zervaki, assistant professor of international relations at the University of Athens, says Sunday’s meeting in Istanbul would provide an opportunity to “bring the two countries closer together” after a fraught period in relations.
Before his trip to Turkey, Mitsotakis had said he was heading there in a “productive mood” and with “measured” expectations.
“As partners in NATO, we are called upon... to try to keep our region away from any additional geopolitical crisis,” he told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.
Alongside its European partners, Athens strongly condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, calling it a “revisionist” attack and “flagrant violation of international law.”
Before lunch, Mitsotakis attended a celebration at the Orthodox St. George’s Cathedral, Turkey’s largest, in Istanbul.




Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, fifth right, talks to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, fifth left, after attending a ceremony for Orthodox Christians at the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in Istanbul on March 13, 2022. (AP)

The Greek government spokesman this week said Mitsotakis was already due to visit the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on Sunday and had been invited to lunch by Erdogan at the presidential mansion on the banks of the Bosphorus.
Bartholomew, who has said he is “a target for Moscow,” called during the mass for an “immediate cease-fire on all fronts” in Ukraine.
In 2018 the patriarch recognized an independent Ukrainian Orthodox church, a huge blow to Moscow’s spiritual authority in the Orthodox world.
On Sunday he praised the “vigorous resistance” of the Ukrainians and “the courageous reaction of Russian citizens.”


Kuwait’s Nayef Palace granted Islamic Heritage Site status

Kuwait’s Nayef Palace granted Islamic Heritage Site status
Updated 15 August 2022

Kuwait’s Nayef Palace granted Islamic Heritage Site status

Kuwait’s Nayef Palace granted Islamic Heritage Site status
  • ICESCO award recognizes historical significance of 219-room building
  • Decision marks another cultural milestone for Kuwait, official says

KUWAIT: Naif Palace in Kuwait City has been designated an Islamic Heritage Site by the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the Kuwait News Agency reported on Monday.

Dr. Waleed Al-Saif, president of the heritage committee of the Islamic world at ICESCO, said the decision to recognize the palace was made during the committee’s 10th session in Rabat.

He hailed it as another cultural milestone for the country.

Kuwait’s Kazma area, Failaka Island and Al-Qurainya are already on the list.

Other Kuwaiti sites that made the ICESCO preliminary list were: Sheikh Abdullah Al-Jabir Palace, Mubarak Al-Kabeer marine reserve and Boubyan Island.

According to Al-Saif, the committee has members from nine Islamic nations chosen by the culture ministers of 54 Muslim countries.

He said the decision to make Naif Palace an Islamic Heritage Site was made in accordance with international standards of evaluation, adding that such monuments needed to be preserved and protected for future generations.

Naif Palace, which covers an area of 28,802 square meters, was built in 1919, during the reign of Emir Sheikh Salem Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah. It has 219 rooms and also houses a mosque, a garrison dormitory and an ammunition depot.

The palace was expanded in 1950 and now serves a ceremonial role during Ramadan, with a canon drill performed and broadcast on national TV to signal the breaking of fast.


Muslim rescues children from Egypt church fire

Muslim rescues children from Egypt church fire
Updated 15 August 2022

Muslim rescues children from Egypt church fire

Muslim rescues children from Egypt church fire
  • Muhammad Yahya: I quickly entered the church to save people … and I encountered a lot of fire and smoke
  • The density of the fumes obstructed Yahya’s breathing and vision, so he took off his T-shirt, doused it in water and placed it over his nose to block the fumes

CAIRO: A young Egyptian Muslim rescued five children from Sunday’s fire at the Abu Sefein church in the city of Giza, which killed 41 people and injured 14.

“I quickly entered the church to save people … and I encountered a lot of fire and smoke,” said Muhammad Yahya, who lives next door and was injured during the rescue.

He added that he headed to the church because he heard screams from inside the building. The density of the fumes obstructed Yahya’s breathing and vision, so he took off his T-shirt, doused it in water and placed it over his nose to block the fumes from his respiratory path.

He tried to rescue an elderly man by carrying him on his back, but he slipped due to the large amount of water used to extinguish the fire, and they both fell to the ground.

Yahya broke his leg in the fall and was taken to hospital. He has been visited by priests checking on his health and thanking him for his bravery.


UN envoy says opening roads in Taiz, other Yemeni governorates remains at forefront of efforts

UN envoy says opening roads in Taiz, other Yemeni governorates remains at forefront of efforts
Updated 15 August 2022

UN envoy says opening roads in Taiz, other Yemeni governorates remains at forefront of efforts

UN envoy says opening roads in Taiz, other Yemeni governorates remains at forefront of efforts
  • UN envoy expressed gratitude for the support of Saudi Arabia, Oman, and UN Security Council
  • Highlighted responsibility of helping Yemen and its people to take the necessary and decisive steps toward peace

LONDON: The UN special envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg said on Monday the opening of roads in Taiz and other Yemeni governorates remains at the forefront of his efforts.

Whilst briefing the UN Security Council on the situation in the country, Grundberg said that despite several proposals being presented to the parties, there has been no progress on the issue.

“Several proposals with different sets of roads and sequencing options have been presented to the parties. It is regrettable that, despite these efforts, there has not been more progress achieved on road openings to date,” Grundberg said. 

The UN envoy also expressed gratitude “for the concerted support” of Saudi Arabia, Oman, and the UN Security Council.

He highlighted the joint responsibility of helping Yemen and its people to take the necessary and decisive steps toward peace to end the conflict and not merely manage it.

He also told the council that since the start of the truce in April, 33 ships were cleared to enter Hodeidah port, bringing in one million metric tons of much-needed fuel products. 

In addition to this, 31 round-trip flights were operated to and from Sanaa, transporting more than 15,000 passengers, he said.

He said that as a result of the support provided by Jordan, the frequency of commercial flights between Sanaa and Amman has increased to three per week.

Grundberg said the latest truce extension that was announced on August 2 “allows us to continue to expeditiously work toward an expanded truce agreement.”

He continued: “I am therefore intensifying my efforts to support the parties in resolving outstanding issues.

“In my discussions with the parties, they continue to emphasize the need to build on the existing truce to achieve a wider array of economic and security priorities and to move toward more durable solutions for issues with political implications.”


Fire-ravaged Abu Sefein Church to undergo repairs

Fire-ravaged Abu Sefein Church to undergo repairs
Updated 15 August 2022

Fire-ravaged Abu Sefein Church to undergo repairs

Fire-ravaged Abu Sefein Church to undergo repairs
  • Egypt’s Armed Forces Engineering Authority tasked with project
  • Cash support for victims’ families from Al-Azhar and the government

CAIRO: President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi has tasked the Armed Forces Engineering Authority to restore the Abu Sefein church, which was damaged by a fire that killed 41 people and injured 16 others on Sunday.

Hisham El-Swefy, head of the authority, telephoned Pope Tawadros II to inform him of the plan.

Al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayeb has come to the aid of the families of the victims and is coordinating cash payouts for them with various NGOs.

Al-Tayeb sent a message of support to Pope Tawadros II.

“Al-Azhar and its scholars and sheikhs all stand by their brothers in this tragic accident and extend their sincere condolences to the families of the victims,” he said.

El-Sisi had earlier received messages of condolences from the presidents of Tunisia and Lebanon following the tragedy.

Prosecutor General Hamada El-Sawy confirmed that the Public Prosecution authority had completed its investigation into the incident and found that the victims had died of smoke inhalation.

El-Sawy said that 41 people had died, and 16 others, including four police officers, were injured.

El-Sawy stated that the authority had completed its questioning of the injured people.

The Egyptian Ministry of Interior confirmed that an electrical fault caused the fire, and that it broke out in the air-conditioning system on the second floor of the church building, which includes a number of classrooms.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly directed the Minister of Social Solidarity to pay compensation of EGP100,000 ($5,226) to every victim’s family, and a maximum of EGP20,000 ($1,045) to every injured person.

In an earlier statement, the Coptic Orthodox Church had said that the fire broke out during the Divine Liturgy at the building in the north of Giza, and that several worshipers were transferred to the Imbaba and Agouza hospitals.


Iran tanker retrieves oil seized by US, set to leave Greece

Iran tanker retrieves oil seized by US, set to leave Greece
Updated 15 August 2022

Iran tanker retrieves oil seized by US, set to leave Greece

Iran tanker retrieves oil seized by US, set to leave Greece
  • Oil seized by US from Lana prompted Iranian forces to seize two Greek tankers in the Arabian Gulf

ATHENS: An Iranian-flagged tanker has retrieved an oil cargo which the United States had confiscated and is set to leave Greece, sources familiar with the matter said on Monday.
The seizure from the Lana, formerly the Pegas, prompted Iranian forces in May to seize two Greek tankers in the Arabian Gulf which have not yet been released.
The United States had hired a tanker in April to impound the oil onboard the Lana tanker, which had been anchored off Greece.
The oil was then partly removed and placed aboard the Ice Energy tanker, which had been chartered by Washington and had been expected to sail to United States before Greece’s supreme court ruled that the cargo should be returned to Iran.
“The reloading process is complete,” one of the sources said. Another source said it was completed on Sunday.
The embassy of Iran in Athens said on Aug 12 on Twitter that the vessel would sail to Iran after the reloading was completed.
It was not clear if Lana, which had engine problems, could sail unassisted.
For over two months, Lana remained under arrest off the Greek island of Evia, near the town of Karystos. It was tugged to Piraeus following court orders that allowed its release.
The tanker has been anchored off Piraeus since late July.