Zelensky meets Turkiye’s Erdogan to push Ukraine NATO bid

President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to hold talks with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday on the latest leg of a tour to push Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and secure more weapons from allies. (Reuters/AFP)
President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to hold talks with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday on the latest leg of a tour to push Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and secure more weapons from allies. (Reuters/AFP)
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Updated 07 July 2023
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Zelensky meets Turkiye’s Erdogan to push Ukraine NATO bid

Zelensky meets Turkiye’s Erdogan to push Ukraine NATO bid
  • Talks in Istanbul come on the eve of the 500th day since Russia’s invasion

ISTANBUL: President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday entered crunch talks with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the final leg of a European tour aimed at pushing Ukraine’s bid to join NATO and secure more weapons from allies.
The talks in Istanbul came on the eve of the 500th day since Russia’s invasion, with Zelensky admitting Ukraine’s counteroffensive was progressing slowly.
He called on the United States and other allies to provide long-range weapons and artillery during a two-day visit to Prague.
“Without long-range weapons, it is difficult not only to fulfil an offensive mission, it is difficult to conduct a defensive operation, to be honest,” Zelensky told reporters.
US media reported earlier that the Pentagon was preparing a new package of arms and ammunitions that could include controversial cluster bombs capable of dispersing multiple small explosives over a wide radius.
While Ukrainian officials hailed the prospect, human rights groups condemned it saying the bomblets can go undetonated and subsequently endanger civilians.
After Prague, Zelensky visited Bratislava, where he said that NATO did not seem united on Swedish and Ukrainian membership.
“And this is a threat to the strength of the alliance” which is due to hold a summit in Vilnius next week, he added.
Zelensky is seeking NATO membership for his country, which has been battling Russia’s invasion since February 2022, and has said he wants the summit to lead to an “invitation” to join the bloc.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said he expected its leaders to “reaffirm that Ukraine will become a member of NATO and unite on how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal.”
Zelensky’s first visit to Turkiye since Russia’s invasion is being watched closely by the Kremlin, which tried to break its growing international isolation by building strong relations with Erdogan.
“We will very closely follow the results of these talks,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Friday.
“It will be interesting for us to find out what was discussed. It’s important,” he added.
Analysts expect Zelensky to push Erdogan to give a green light for Sweden’s NATO entry ahead of the summit.
Turkiye is blocking Sweden’s candidacy because of a longstanding dispute about what Ankara says is Stockholm’s lax attitude toward alleged Kurdish militants living in the Nordic country.
The talks with Erdogan — an important broker in the conflict — are also expected to focus on an expiring deal to ship Ukrainian grain across the Black Sea.
Both Zelensky and Erdogan want to extend the United Nations and Turkiye-brokered deal with Russia under which Ukraine has been allowed to ship grain to global markets during the war.
The deal will expire on July 17 unless Russia agrees to its renewal.
Erdogan has tried to leverage good working relations with both Zelensky and Russian President Vladimir Putin to mediate an end to the war.
Turkiye staged two early rounds of peace negotiations and is pushing for more talks.
Before visiting Prague and Bratislava, Zelensky traveled to Sofia to discuss weapons deliveries with Bulgaria, a major ammunition producer.
The Kremlin criticized the visit to Bulgaria, saying the Ukrainian leader was trying to “drag” other countries into the war.
The head of the UN’s nuclear watchdog said on Friday that it was “making progress” on inspecting several areas of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, after claims it had been mined.
Ukraine and Russia have accused each other of planning a provocation at the Russia-controlled site, raising alarm over the threat of radioactive disaster at Europe’s largest nuclear plant.
Ukraine’s military this week claimed “external objects similar to explosive devices” had been placed on the outer roof of the third and fourth reactors at the site.
Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had been able to “complete the tours of the cooling ponds and other places,” Rafael Grossi said in Tokyo.
They had “not seen any indications of explosives or mines,” he said, although he added IAEA officials had not yet been able to visit the facility’s rooftops.
Rescuers Friday found a tenth body in the rubble of buildings in Lviv after the biggest Russian missile attack on civilian infrastructure in the western Ukrainian city since the invasion, its mayor said.
The strike also wounded 42 people, including three children, Ukraine’s interior ministry said.


Russia launches ‘massive’ attack on Ukraine power infrastructure

Russia launches ‘massive’ attack on Ukraine power infrastructure
Updated 2 sec ago
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Russia launches ‘massive’ attack on Ukraine power infrastructure

Russia launches ‘massive’ attack on Ukraine power infrastructure
  • More than two years into the conflict, targeted missile and drone attacks have crippled Ukraine’s electricity generation capacity
KYIV: Ukraine on Saturday said Russia had launched a “massive” overnight attack on energy infrastructure in the country’s west and south.
“Equipment at (operator) Ukrenergo facilities in Zaporizhzhia and Lviv regions was damaged,” the energy ministry said, adding that two employees were wounded and hospitalized in Zaporizhzhia.
It said this was “the eighth massive, combined attack on energy infrastructure facilities” in the past three months.
More than two years into the Russian invasion, targeted missile and drone attacks have crippled Ukraine’s electricity generation capacity and forced Kyiv to impose blackouts and import supplies from the European Union.
Ukrainian authorities on Thursday said energy infrastructure, including a power station, had been damaged in a major overnight attack which left seven employees wounded.
DTEK, the largest private energy company in Ukraine, said the strikes caused “serious damage” at one of its plants.
Russian attacks have destroyed half of Ukraine’s energy capacity, according to President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Zelensky said this week that all hospitals and schools in Ukraine must be equipped with solar panels “as soon as possible.”
“We are doing everything to ensure that Russian attempts to blackmail us on heat and electricity fail,” he said Thursday.
DTEK chief executive Maxim Timchenko warned that Ukraine “faces a serious crisis this winter” if the country’s Western allies do not provide military aid to defend the energy network.
Zelensky has repeatedly urged Ukraine’s allies to send more air-defense systems to protect the country’s vital infrastructure.
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that Washington would prioritize deliveries of anti-air missiles to Kyiv, ahead of other countries that have placed orders.
Zelensky said in a message on X he was “deeply grateful” for the US move.
“These additional air defense capabilities will protect Ukrainian cities and civilians,” he wrote.

No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights — UN

No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights — UN
Updated 7 min 22 sec ago
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No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights — UN

No Afghan ‘reintegration’ without progress on rights — UN
  • Since their 2021 return to power, Taliban authorities have not been formally recognized by any nation
  • Taliban’s edicts on women’s freedoms have been described by United Nations as “gender apartheid“

United Nations, United States: Restrictions on women’s rights continue to prevent Afghanistan’s “reintegration” into the international community, a senior UN official said Friday, adding that the Taliban’s participation in upcoming talks in Doha was not a legitimization of the isolated government.
Since their 2021 return to power, Taliban authorities have not been formally recognized by any nation and apply a rigorous interpretation of Islam, leading to a suppression of women’s freedoms that the United Nations has described as “gender apartheid.”
Restrictions on women and girls, particularly in education, “deprive the country of vital human capital” and lead to a brain drain that undermines the impoverished country’s future, Roza Otunbayeva, head of the UN mission in the country, UNAMA, told the Security Council.
“By being deeply unpopular (the restrictions) undermine the de facto authorities’ claims to legitimacy,” she said.
“And they continue to block diplomatic solutions that would lead to Afghanistan’s reintegration into the international community.”
Last year marked the start of a process in Doha to consider strengthening the world community’s engagement with Afghanistan.
The first Doha talks included foreign special envoys to Afghanistan under the aegis of the United Nations, and in the presence of the country’s civil society, including women.
The Taliban had been excluded from the opening talks and refused to take part in the second round if other representatives from the country were involved.
The third round of talks is set for June 30 and July 1 in Doha, and the Taliban has given assurances it will attend.
“For this process to truly begin, it is essential that the de facto authorities participate at Doha,” Otunbayeva said, warning however that high expectations “cannot realistically be met in a single meeting.”
“It cannot be repeated enough that this sort of engagement is not legitimization or normalization,” she stressed.
Responding to criticism over the absence of Afghan civil society representatives, notably women, at the talks that include the Taliban, Otunbayeva said those groups would be present in Doha for a separate meeting on July 2.
“This is what is possible today,” she said.
Afghanistan’s UN ambassador Naseer Ahmad Faiq, who still represents the government that preceded the Taliban’s rise to power, called the absence of civil society and women at the table in Doha “disappointing.”
He also expressed concern the agenda does not include discussions on the political process and human rights in Afghanistan, saying “this will be perceived as a shift away from issues deemed essential to the people of Afghanistan.”


New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US

New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US
Updated 30 min 32 sec ago
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New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US

New Delhi in touch with family of Indian suspect in Sikh murder plot in US
  • Nikhil Gupta was extradited to United States this month after his arrest in Prague last year
  • Gupta is accused by US of unsuccessfully plotting with Indian official to kill a US citizen

NEW DELHI: New Delhi is in touch with the family of an Indian man who is accused of plotting with an Indian government official to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States, the foreign ministry said on Friday in reaction to a Reuters report.
Nikhil Gupta, extradited to the United States this month after his arrest in Prague last year, has been accused by US federal prosecutors of unsuccessfully plotting with an Indian official to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US citizen.
Gupta, 52, pleaded not guilty on Monday to murder-for-hire conspiracy charges in a court in Manhattan and a source close to his family told Reuters on Thursday that it wanted New Delhi’s help to “get justice.”
“We have so far not received any request for consular access from Gupta, but his family has got in touch with us,” Indian Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal told reporters. “We are in touch with the family members and we are looking at the matter as to what can be done on their request.”
The US government has said it thwarted the alleged plot to kill Pannun and warned India about concerns of its involvement.
India has designated Pannun an “individual terrorist” but has dissociated itself from the plot, saying it goes against government policy. Pannun advocates for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India.
The source, who declined to be named given the sensitive nature of a case that has diplomatic implications, had said Gupta’s family has not been able to establish direct contact with him since his extradition.
“Regardless of the allegations raised against him, he is an Indian citizen and a patriot who deserves the rights and protections granted by the government to its citizens.”
The source said the family believed Gupta “is a victim in this series of events” but that “he will get justice.”


Arab-American mayor warns Biden has not ‘earned my vote’

Arab-American mayor warns Biden has not ‘earned my vote’
Updated 49 min 14 sec ago
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Arab-American mayor warns Biden has not ‘earned my vote’

Arab-American mayor warns Biden has not ‘earned my vote’
  • First Muslim mayor of Dearborn thrust into the national spotlight for his outspoken criticism of fellow Democrat Joe Biden, over the president’s support for Israel’s military offensive in Gaza

DEARBORN, United States: Abdullah Hammoud’s election as the first Muslim mayor of Dearborn was a watershed moment for this city, an automaking hub home to the highest concentration of Arab-Americans in the United States.
But while his early focus was on upgrading sewer infrastructure and investing in parks, he has now been thrust into the national spotlight for his outspoken criticism of fellow Democrat Joe Biden, over the president’s support for Israel’s military offensive in Gaza.
“I’ll be the first to say that we don’t want to see (Donald) Trump reelected to the White House,” Hammoud told AFP in an interview. “But people want to be inspired to come out.”
Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit famous as the birthplace of Henry Ford and home of the Ford Motor Company’s headquarters, has a population of around 110,000 residents, of whom 55 percent claim Middle Eastern or North African heritage.
In 2020, Dearborn voters overwhelmingly supported Biden and their ballots could tip the scales in Michigan — a crucial swing state that may ultimately decide the White House winner in November’s election.
Hammoud’s profile surged in January after he declined an invitation to meet with Biden campaign officials seeking to shore up the Muslim vote.
Since then, he helped galvanize a movement that saw over 100,000 voters mark “uncommitted” in Michigan’s Democratic primary in protest against Biden’s policy on Israel, and was asked by Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein if he would be her running mate.
Hammoud, who won’t meet the Constitutional requirement of being 35 until next March, was too young to accept the role, though he said the offer was “very humbling.”
Besides, he remains unsure about how he’ll cast his ballot.
“I would say that no presidential candidate has earned my vote,” said the father-of-two, urging both parties to pay attention to increasing public disapproval of Israel’s actions.
“If you look at all the polling data that’s emerging across the country, from coast to coast, the issues that we have been advocating for, fighting for... are issues that have popular support.”
These demands include a permanent ceasefire as the pathway to provide safe harbor for all hostages and prisoners, unfettered access to humanitarian aid, and ending the supply of weapons to Israel.
The son of Lebanese immigrants, Hammoud grew up in a “working poor” blue collar family. His father drove a truck while his mother’s father worked on an auto factory assembly line.
He was drawn toward the Democratic Party for its support of the labor movement, and equally repelled by Republicans, whom he says have a history of “demonizing Arab Americans, Muslim Americans and other people of color.”
Hammoud’s first dream was to become a physician, but he wasn’t able to get the grades. He instead trained as an epidemiologist and began climbing the corporate ladder as a health care executive.
But the sudden death of his beloved elder brother — Hammoud was the second of five children — made him re-evaluate his priorities, and in 2016 he won election to the state legislature.
Then in 2022, he became the second in a trio of new Muslim mayors in the southeast Michigan cities of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights and Hamtramck.
Hammoud immediately set to work righting historical wrongs.
For decades, the city had been marred by a reputation for racism, exemplified by the openly segregationist policies of former mayor Orville Hubbard.
Hammoud appointed the city’s first Arab-American police chief, which led to a drastic drop in tickets issued to Black drivers within a year, according to his spokesman.
Until the war in Gaza, triggered by Hamas’s attacks and hostage taking on October 7, 2023, Hammoud considered Biden a “transformative” president, but now believes “the genocide outweighs the impact of that domestic policy.”
Hammoud sidesteps the question of whether he could ultimately endorse Biden under the right circumstances, emphasizing that whatever he might say, it’s too late for some of his constituents who have lost dozens of relatives to Israeli bombs.
He has no doubt that Trump, who imposed a Muslim travel ban during his tenure, would be an utter disaster — citing the Republican’s arming of Saudi Arabia against Yemen, backing of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and shifting the US embassy to Jerusalem.
But Hammoud recoils at suggestions that members of his community would be to blame for potentially paving the way for Trump’s return by withholding their support for Biden.
Asked how he would respond to this criticism, Hammoud said: “The question should be asked of President Joe Biden — what will he do to prevent Trump being reelected come this November? What will he do to help prevent the unraveling of American democracy and the fabric of our society?”


DR Congo militia kills more than 20 in village raid

DR Congo militia kills more than 20 in village raid
Updated 22 June 2024
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DR Congo militia kills more than 20 in village raid

DR Congo militia kills more than 20 in village raid
  • Locals blame Codeco militia, which claims to be fighting for the interests of the Lendu tribe against the rival Hema tribe, for the killings

BUNIA, DR Congo: Militia fighters on Friday killed more than 20 civilians in a village in the gold-rich Ituri province in northeast Democratic Republic of Congo, local residents said.
The residents blamed the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (Codeco) militia for the killings. Codeco claims to be fighting for the interests of the Lendu tribe against the rival Hema tribe.
“Codeco militias attacked the village of Lodjo on Thursday, where they killed eight civilians. They came back on Friday, the current death toll is 36,” Innocent Matukadala, head of the Banyali Kilo administrative center, that takes in Lodjo, told AFP.
He said the Congolese army “arrived too late” to prevent the massacre. “The population is in disarray,” he added.
“For now, there are 28 dead (on Friday) and a massive displacement of the population,” said a civil society leader on condition of anonymity.
Other sources put the number of dead at 23. One said the dead included gold miners, women and children.
Dozens of civilians have been killed in Codeco attacks on villages in the province since the beginning of this year.
Inter-communal violence killed thousands in Ituri from 1999-2003 until an intervention by European forces restored calm.
The conflict erupted again in 2017, resulting in thousands more deaths and the mass displacement of local people.
The southern part of Ituri has also suffered from the inter-communal violence spilling over from neighboring North Kivu province, which has been ravaged by attacks blamed on rebels of the Allied Democratic Forces group, affiliated with Islamic State.
The ADF, originally mainly Muslim Ugandan rebels, have established a presence over the past three decades in eastern DR Congo, killing thousands of civilians.