Erdogan signals Turkiye isn’t ready to ratify Sweden NATO membership, saying there’s more work to do

Erdogan signals Turkiye isn’t ready to ratify Sweden NATO membership, saying there’s more work to do
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 03 July 2023
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Erdogan signals Turkiye isn’t ready to ratify Sweden NATO membership, saying there’s more work to do

Erdogan signals Turkiye isn’t ready to ratify Sweden NATO membership, saying there’s more work to do
  • Turkiye has delayed giving its final approval to Sweden’s NATO membership, accusing the country of being too lenient toward anti-Islamic demonstrations

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled Monday that his country is not ready to ratify Sweden’s membership in NATO, saying Stockholm had to work harder on the “homework” it needs to complete.
Speaking after a Cabinet meeting, Erdogan also renewed his condemnation of a Qur’an-burning protest that took place in Sweden last week, describing the action as a hate crime against Muslims.
“We have made it clear that the determined fight against terrorist organizations and Islamophobia are our red line,” Erdogan said. “Everyone must accept that Turkiye’s friendship cannot be won by supporting terrorism or by making space for terrorists.”
Turkiye has delayed giving its final approval to Sweden’s membership in the military alliance, accusing the country of being too lenient toward anti-Islamic demonstrations and groups that Ankara regards as security threats. These include militant Kurdish groups that have waged a deadly, decades-long insurgency in Turkiye.
The Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, has waged a 38-year insurgency against Turkiye that has left tens of thousands dead. It is designated a terrorist organization by the US and the European Union.
NATO wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time NATO leaders meet in Lithuania on July 11-12 but Erdogan said Stockholm still had obligations to fulfill. NATO requires the unanimous approval of all existing members to expand, and Turkiye and Hungary are the only countries that have not yet ratified Sweden’s bid.
“Instead of wasting time with distraction tactics, we believe that keeping to the promises will be a more rational, more beneficial method,” Erdogan said. “We advise them to scrutinize themselves and do their homework better.”
He was referring to a memorandum that Sweden and Finland signed with Turkiye last year under which they agreed to address Ankara’s concerns. Fighting Islamophobia was not included in the memorandum.
Last week, Swedish police allowed a protest outside a mosque in central Stockholm citing freedom of speech after a court overturned a ban on a similar Qur’an-burning.
“The vile attack on our holy book, the Holy Qur’an, in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, enraged us all,” Erdogan said. “This perverted disregard for the feelings of 2 billion Muslims cannot be compatible with the most basic human values, let alone freedom of thought.”
Sweden and Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella, fearing they might be targeted by Moscow after Russia invaded Ukraine last year. Finland joined the alliance earlier this year after Turkiye’s parliament ratified the Nordic country’s bid.
Sweden changed its anti-terror legislation since applying for NATO membership, but Turkiye argues supporters of militant groups can freely organize demonstrations, recruit and procure financial resources in the country.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg last week called a meeting of senior officials from Turkiye, Sweden and Finland for July 6 to try to overcome Turkish objections to Sweden joining the military alliance.


Fighting in Gaza’s Rafah as tensions soar on Israel-Lebanon border

Fighting in Gaza’s Rafah as tensions soar on Israel-Lebanon border
Updated 59 min 24 sec ago
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Fighting in Gaza’s Rafah as tensions soar on Israel-Lebanon border

Fighting in Gaza’s Rafah as tensions soar on Israel-Lebanon border
  • More than eight months of war have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory
  • Israeli army earlier announced that its plans for an offensive in Lebanon had been approved
GAZA STRIP, Palestinian Territories: Israeli air strikes and clashes between troops and Palestinian militants rocked Gaza on Wednesday, as Israel’s army warned it had readied an “offensive” against the Lebanese Hezbollah movement on the country’s northern front.
Witnesses and the civil defense agency in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip reported Israeli bombardment in western Rafah, where medics said drone strikes and shelling killed at least seven people.
The Israeli military has announced a daily humanitarian “pause” in fighting on a key road in eastern Rafah, but a UN spokesman said days later that “this has yet to translate into more aid reaching people in need.”
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian territory and repeated UN warnings of famine.
The Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt has been shut since Israeli troops seized its Palestinian side in early May, while nearby Kerem Shalom on the Israeli border “is operating with limited functionality, including because of fighting in the area,” said UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq.
He told reporters that in recent weeks, there had been “an improvement” in aid reaching northern Gaza “but a drastic deterioration in the south.”
“Basic commodities are available in markets in southern and central Gaza. But... it’s unaffordable for many people.”
The war has sent tensions soaring across the region, with violence involving Iran-backed Hamas allies.
The Israeli military, which has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Lebanon’s Hezbollah since October, said late Tuesday that “operational plans for an offensive in Lebanon were approved and validated.”
On Wednesday the military said its warplanes had struck Hezbollah sites in southern Lebanon overnight, while reporting a drone had infiltrated near the border town of Metula in an attack claimed by Hezbollah and targeting troops.
The Iran-backed group also announced the death of two of its fighters.
Lebanon’s official National News agency reported Israeli strikes on several areas in south Lebanon on Wednesday morning, including on the border village of Khiam, where an AFP photographer saw a large cloud of smoke.
The army’s announcement that its plans for an offensive in Lebanon had been approved, along with a warning from Foreign Minister Israel Katz of Hezbollah’s destruction in a “total war,” came as US envoy Amos Hochstein visited the region to push for de-escalation.
Syrian state media said an Israeli strike on military sites in the country’s south killed an army officer on Wednesday. Israel has not commented on the report.
In Gaza, Islamic Jihad, a Palestinian armed group that has fought alongside Hamas, said its militants were battling troops amid Israeli shelling of western Rafah.
Witnesses reported seeing Israeli military vehicles enter the city’s Saudi neighborhood, followed by nighttime gunbattles.
Parts of central Gaza also saw fighting overnight, with witnesses reporting artillery shelling and heavy gunfire in Gaza City’s Zeitun neighborhood.
The October 7 attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,396 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.
At least 24 people died over the past day, the ministry said.
A UN report issued Wednesday detailed six “indiscriminate and disproportionate” Israeli strikes that killed at least 218 people in the first two months of the war.
It said the strikes involved “the suspected use” of heavy bombs — a shipment of which the United States had paused in May over concerns Israel might use them in its Rafah assault.
The strikes targeted “densely populated” areas including refugee camps, a school and market, the UN rights office said, making the use of heavy bombs “highly likely to amount to a prohibited indiscriminate attack.”
UN human rights chief Volker Turk said: “The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid, or at the very least minimize to every extent, civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel’s bombing campaign.”
More than six months since the attacks featured in the report, “there is no clarity as to what happened or steps toward accountability,” Turk said.

Israeli strike on Syria kills army officer: state media

Israeli strike on Syria kills army officer: state media
Updated 19 June 2024
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Israeli strike on Syria kills army officer: state media

Israeli strike on Syria kills army officer: state media
  • News agency: Israel carried out aggression using drones against two military positions in the provinces of Quneitra and Daraa

DAMASCUS: A Syrian army officer was killed Wednesday in an Israeli air strike in the country’s south, the official SANA news agency reported, citing a military source.
“The Israeli enemy carried out an aggression using drones against two military positions of our armed forces in the provinces of Quneitra and Daraa,” the agency said, adding the attack resulted in the death of the officer and material damage.


No future US government can prevent Iran oil exports, minister says

No future US government can prevent Iran oil exports, minister says
Updated 19 June 2024
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No future US government can prevent Iran oil exports, minister says

No future US government can prevent Iran oil exports, minister says
  • In 2018, then-President Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran and re-imposed sanctions which hurt Iran’s oil sector
  • US President Joe Biden took office in 2021 and since then Iran has managed to raise output to 3.5 million bpd while tripling exports

DUBAI: Iranian oil exports will continue regardless of who is elected as the next US president, Iranian Oil Minister Javad Owji said on Wednesday, amid concerns that a Donald Trump presidency could curb Iranian crude sales.
“Whatever government comes to power in the United States will not be able to prevent Iranian oil exports,” Owji said in comments quoted by Iran’s official news agency IRNA.
In 2018, then-President Trump withdrew from a 2015 nuclear pact with Iran and re-imposed sanctions which hurt Iran’s oil sector, with production dropping to 2.1 million barrels per day (bpd).
US President Joe Biden took office in 2021 and since then Iran has managed to raise output to 3.5 million bpd while tripling exports, according to Owji.
Iran has expanded oil trade with China.
Iran will elect a new president on June 28 following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash in May.
The US presidential election is scheduled for November 5.


Israeli use of heavy bombs raise ‘serious concerns’ under laws of war: UN

Israeli use of heavy bombs raise ‘serious concerns’ under laws of war: UN
Updated 19 June 2024
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Israeli use of heavy bombs raise ‘serious concerns’ under laws of war: UN

Israeli use of heavy bombs raise ‘serious concerns’ under laws of war: UN
  • Israel’s air and ground offensive has killed more than 37,400 people in the Hamas-ruled Palestinian territory

GENEVA:  Israel’s repeated use of heavy bombs in the densely-populated Gaza Strip indicates repeated violations of the laws of war, the UN said Wednesday, highlighting six attacks that killed at least 218 people.
In a fresh report, the United Nations rights office provided details on the six attacks, which it said were emblematic of a concerning pattern, involving the suspected use of up to 2,000-pound bombs on residential buildings, a school, refugee camps and a market.
The rights office said it had verified 218 deaths in those attacks, which were carried out in the early months of the war that erupted in Gaza on October 7, but said it had information indicating the number of fatalities “could be much higher.”
“The requirement to select means and methods of warfare that avoid or at the very least minimize to every extent civilian harm appears to have been consistently violated in Israel’s bombing campaign,” UN rights chief Volker Turk said in a statement.
The report concludes that the series of Israeli strikes, exemplified by the six attacks carried out between October 9 and December 2, suggested that Israel’s military had “repeatedly violated fundamental principles of the laws of war,” the statement said.
Among the attacks listed were the strikes on Ash Shujaiyeh neighborhood, in Gaza City on December 2 last year.
It caused destruction across an approximate diagonal span of 130 meters, destroying 15 buildings and damaging at least 14 others, it said.
The extent of the damage and the craters visible and seen on satellite imagery indicated that around nine 2,000-pound GBU-31 bombs were used, it said, adding that it had received information that at least 60 people were killed.
GBU-31s, along with 1,000-pound GBU-32s and 250-pound GBU-39s “are mostly used to penetrate through several floors of concrete and can completely collapse tall structures,” UN rights office spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters.
Gaza’s deadliest war was sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented attack inside Israel on October 7, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,372 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.


Ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea in second-such sinking

Ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea in second-such sinking
Updated 19 June 2024
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Ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea in second-such sinking

Ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in fatal assault sinks in Red Sea in second-such sinking
  • The Tutor came under attack about a week ago by a bomb-carrying Houthi drone boat in the Red Sea

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: A bulk carrier sank days after an attack by Yemen’s Houthi rebels believed to have killed one mariner on board, authorities said early Wednesday, the second-such ship to be sunk in the rebel campaign.
The sinking of the Tutor in the Red Sea marks what appears to be a new escalation by the Iranian-backed Houthis in their campaign targeting shipping through the vital maritime corridor over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
The attack comes despite a monthslong US-led campaign in the region that has seen the Navy face its most-intense maritime fighting since World War II, with near-daily attacks targeting commercial vessels and warship.
The Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned-and-operated Tutor sank in the Red Sea, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said in a warning to sailors in the region.
“Military authorities report maritime debris and oil sighted in the last reported location,” the UKMTO said. “The vessel is believed to have sunk.”
The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the sinking. The US military as well did not immediately acknowledge the sinking and did not respond to requests for comment.
The Tutor came under attack about a week ago by a bomb-carrying Houthi drone boat in the Red Sea. John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, said Monday that the attack killed “a crew member who hailed from the Philippines.” The Philippines has yet to acknowledge the death, but the man who had been aboard the Tutor has been missing for over a week in the Red Sea, which faces intense summertime heat.
The use of a boat loaded with explosives raised the specter of 2000’s USS Cole attack, a suicide assault by Al-Qaeda on the warship when it was at port in Aden, killing 17 on board. The Cole is now part of a US Navy operation led by the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Red Sea to try and halt the Houthi attacks, though the rebels continue their assaults.
The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, killing four sailors. They’ve seized one vessel and sunk two since November, according to the US Maritime Administration. A US-led airstrike campaign has targeted the Houthis since January, with a series of strikes May 30 killing at least 16 people and wounding 42 others, the rebels say.
In March, the Belize-flagged Rubymar carried a load of fertilizer sank in the Red Sea after taking on water for days following a rebel attack.
The Houthis have maintained their attacks target ships linked to Israel, the US or the UK However, many of the ships they’ve attacked have little or no connection to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.
The war in Gaza has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians there, while hundreds of others have been killed in Israeli operations in the West Bank. It began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking around 250 hostage.
A recent report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency acknowledged container shipping through Red Sea has declined by 90 percent since December over the attacks. As much as 15 percent of the world’s maritime traffic flows through that corridor.