Doner diplomacy: German president’s kebab trip to Turkiye sparks controversy

The faux pas risked overshadowing the celebration of 100 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations. (Getty/File)
The faux pas risked overshadowing the celebration of 100 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations. (Getty/File)
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Updated 25 April 2024
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Doner diplomacy: German president’s kebab trip to Turkiye sparks controversy

Doner diplomacy: German president’s kebab trip to Turkiye sparks controversy
  • German-Turkish say 60-kg kebab skewer brought from Germany in diplomatic mission reduces community’s contributions to stereotypical image

LONDON: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier’s visit to Turkiye this week has stirred controversy after he brought along a 60-kg kebab skewer as part of his diplomatic mission.

Starting his three-day tour in Istanbul instead of Ankara, Steinmeier served kebabs at a reception, viewing it as a symbol of cultural exchange between the two nations.

“It is these special and intense relationships that bridge distances, and also some differences, today,” he said.

However, rather than emphasizing the close personal ties between Germans and Turks, the gesture drew criticism from many in the diaspora who viewed it as reducing their community’s contributions to a stereotypical image.

Germany, home to 2.7 million people of Turkish descent, welcomed hundreds of thousands of workers in the 1960s as part of its “guest worker” program, a bilateral agreement with Ankara to address labor shortages.

Turkish-Germans took to social media to condemn what they saw as a clumsy attempt to represent their community, accusing Steinmeier of failing to take them seriously or treat them as equals.

“Turkish-Germans discovered the 1st COVID vaccine in the world; some were movie directors who won awards on behalf of Germany, numerous writers, musicians, intellectuals from Turkey call Germany home,” wrote Evren Celik Wiltse, a professor of political science, on X.

“Of all of these, the (German) president chose the kebab maker to accompany him to (Turkiye)”, she added.

Berkay Mandıracı, a senior analyst of Turkish-German heritage at the non-governmental organization Crisis Group, acknowledged that the gesture was well-intentioned but felt it was “anachronistic and reductionist.” 

The faux pas, which risked overshadowing the celebration of 100 years of diplomatic ties between the two nations, received the approval of Arif Keles, a third-generation kebab shop owner invited on the delegation trip by Steinmeier.

Keles, who served kebabs during the reception, described the opportunity as a “great honor.”

The dish of thinly sliced meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie was introduced to Germany by Turkish migrants.

Packed with chopped vegetables and doused with mayonnaise, the doner kebab has gained iconic status.

Local sales of the kebab total an estimated €7 billion ($7.5 billion), an immigrant success story the German presidency wanted to celebrate as an example of “how much Turkiye and Germany have grown together.”

Relations between Berlin and Ankara have been strained by various disputes, including disagreements over the Gaza conflict.

Steinmeier, visiting Turkiye for the first time since assuming office in 2017, has had a challenging relationship with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, criticizing him for his approach to concerns about democratic norms in Turkiye.

Turkish-Germans have long spoken up about economic and social exclusion. Last year, Germany agreed to significantly ease citizenship rules to allow more dual nationals, a move welcomed by many Turkish individuals who have lived in Germany for decades.

With AFP


Actor Ian McKellen, 85, is in ‘good spirits’ and expected to recover from fall off stage in London

Actor Ian McKellen, 85, is in ‘good spirits’ and expected to recover from fall off stage in London
Updated 18 June 2024
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Actor Ian McKellen, 85, is in ‘good spirits’ and expected to recover from fall off stage in London

Actor Ian McKellen, 85, is in ‘good spirits’ and expected to recover from fall off stage in London
  • The theater was evacuated and the play was canceled as medics treated the actor

LONDON: Actor Ian McKellen is expected to make a full recovery after he toppled off a London stage Monday during a fight scene and was hospitalized, a spokesperson said.
McKellen, 85, was in “good spirits” after doctors said a scan showed he was expected to fully recover from the fall, a spokesperson for the Noel Coward Theatre said.
The stage and screen veteran known for playing Gandalf in the “Lord of the Rings” films and many stage roles over a six decade career cried out in pain after the fall, according to a BBC journalist at the theater.
McKellen was playing John Falstaff in “Player Kings,” a production of Henry IV, parts one and two, adapted and directed by Robert Icke, at the Noel Coward Theatre.
He lost his footing and fell off the stage in a scene with the Prince of Wales and Henry Percy. The tumble startled theatergoers.
“Sir Ian seemed to trip as he moved downstage to take a more active part in the scene,” audience member Paul Critchley told the PA news agency, saying it was a shock. “He picked up momentum as he moved downstage which resulted in him falling off the stage directly in front of the audience.”
Staff and two doctors in the audience helped the ailing actor, the spokesperson said.
The theater was evacuated and the play was canceled. The production for Tuesday was also canceled to give McKellen time to rest.
McKellen’s career includes playing Magneto in the X-Men films and several Shakespearean characters including Richard II, Macbeth and King Lear.
He has won a Tony Award for “Amadeus,” several Laurence Olivier Awards and has been nominated for two Oscars and several BAFTA awards.


Team ‘Melodi’ woos India as Meloni-Modi video goes viral

Team ‘Melodi’ woos India as Meloni-Modi video goes viral
Updated 17 June 2024
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Team ‘Melodi’ woos India as Meloni-Modi video goes viral

Team ‘Melodi’ woos India as Meloni-Modi video goes viral

NEW DELHI: When Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Italy for the G7 summit, it was not diplomatic meetings that dominated headlines back in India — but the relationship with his Italian counterpart.
“Hello from the ‘Melodi’ team,” Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said in a video posted to social media on Saturday, waving next to her fellow right-wing leader Modi, beaming a wide grin.
The duo have a close public friendship, seen during the G20 summit in India last year and the COP28 climate talks in Dubai.
Modi, who reposted Meloni’s video on X and praised ties between Rome and New Delhi in Italian, was in the resort of Borgo Egnazia on the sidelines of the G7 summit, which brings together Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
He wrote he had meetings with Meloni to bolster ties “in areas like commerce, energy, defense, telecoms and more.”
But in India, it was the short Modi-Meloni video that grabbed attention on Sunday — fueling a flurry of memes and videos on social media dedicated to the fictional relationship between the two leaders.
In that make-believe world, the leaders have become central characters of an Internet love story that has betrayals and heartaches as well as happy moments.
AI-generated videos watched by millions show Modi crooning a love song every time Meloni appears with a political leader other than him.
But newspapers were also deeply critical and swift to cool temperatures down.
“Like other women in high offices, Meloni is being seen through a male prism — hot or not?” the Times of India’s editorial read.
“No matter how influential she is, no matter what she knows or becomes, a woman can always be subjected to such demeaning framing,” it added.
“As the Meloni discourse shows, old-fashioned misogyny dies hard.”
 


Officer removed from duty after ramming runaway cow: UK police

Officer removed from duty after ramming runaway cow: UK police
Updated 16 June 2024
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Officer removed from duty after ramming runaway cow: UK police

Officer removed from duty after ramming runaway cow: UK police
  • 10-month-old cow, christened “Beau Lucy,” was examined by a vet and reunited with its owner

LONDON: An officer who tried to intercept a fleeing cow by hitting it with a vehicle in England has been removed from duty, police said in a statement on Sunday.
The incident occurred on Friday evening after police were called to a sighting of a cow in a residential area of the small town of Staines-upon-Thames in southern England.
Surrey Police on Sunday said that the officer driving the car had been “removed from frontline duties pending the outcome of these investigations.”
Deputy Chief Constable Nev Kemp of Surrey Police said: “I fully appreciate the distress our handling of this incident has caused and will ensure that it is thoroughly and diligently investigated.”
Images published on social media and in the British press showed a police car hitting the animal twice. The cow ended up with its head and upper body trapped under the police car.
“I can think of no reasonable need for this action. I’ve asked for a full, urgent explanation for this. It appears to be unnecessarily heavy handed,” Home Secretary James Cleverly wrote on X, formally Twitter.
On Saturday, police said that after several unsuccessful attempts to recover the cow and taking public safety into account, a decision was made to intercept the cow using the police vehicle.
The 10-month-old cow, christened “Beau Lucy,” was examined by a vet and reunited with its owner who said the animal was “doing better.”


Young British royals say ‘We love you, Papa’ in Father’s Day message

Young British royals say ‘We love you, Papa’ in Father’s Day message
Updated 17 June 2024
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Young British royals say ‘We love you, Papa’ in Father’s Day message

Young British royals say ‘We love you, Papa’ in Father’s Day message
  • The photograph was released a day after Kate, Britain’s Princess of Wales, was seen in public for the first time

LONDON: The three young children of British heir-to-the-throne Prince William and his wife Kate released a Father’s Day message and photograph on Sunday, saying “We love you, Papa.”
The photo shows the three children, Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, 9, and Prince Louis, 6, hugging William on a beach, with the photograph taken from behind as they all look out to sea.

The caption says the photo was taken by Kate and reads: “We love you, Papa. Happy Father’s Day,” followed by two red hearts and G, C & L.
The photograph was released a day after Kate, Britain’s Princess of Wales, was seen in public for the first time since she revealed she was undergoing treatment for cancer.
Kate, William and the children joined King Charles and other members of the royal family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace after watching a military parade to celebrate the monarch’s official birthday.
The princess, 42, spent two weeks in hospital in January after she underwent major abdominal surgery. Two months later she announced in a video message that tests had revealed the presence of cancer and she was receiving preventative chemotherapy.
She is still undergoing treatment, but she said in a statement on Friday that she was able to attend the “Trooping the Color” event because she was making good progress, although she noted that she was “not out of the woods” yet.
In a separate post on Sunday, the couple shared a photograph of William as a child playing football with his father, Charles.

 


Divers find remains of Finnish WWII plane that was shot down by Moscow with a US diplomat aboard

Divers find remains of Finnish WWII plane that was shot down by Moscow with a US diplomat aboard
Updated 15 June 2024
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Divers find remains of Finnish WWII plane that was shot down by Moscow with a US diplomat aboard

Divers find remains of Finnish WWII plane that was shot down by Moscow with a US diplomat aboard
  • A diving and salvage team in Estonia said this week that it had located well-preserved parts and debris from the Junkers Ju 52 plane operated by Finnish airline Aero
  • The downing of the civilian plane, named Kaleva, en route from Tallinn to Helsinki happened on June 14, 1940

HELSINKI: The World War II mystery of what happened to a Finnish passenger plane after it was shot down over the Baltic Sea by Soviet bombers appears to finally be solved more than eight decades later.
The plane was carrying American and French diplomatic couriers in June 1940 when it was downed just days before Moscow annexed the Baltic states. All nine people on board the plane were killed, including the two-member Finnish crew and the seven passengers — an American diplomat, two French, two Germans, a Swede and a dual Estonian-Finnish national.
A diving and salvage team in Estonia said this week that it had located well-preserved parts and debris from the Junkers Ju 52 plane operated by Finnish airline Aero, which is now Finnair. It was found off the tiny island of Keri near Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, at a depth of around 70 meters (230 feet).
“Basically, we started from scratch. We took a whole different approach to the search,” said Kaido Peremees, spokesman for the Estonian diving and underwater survey company Tuukritoode OU, explained the group’s success in finding the plane’s remains.
The downing of the civilian plane, named Kaleva, en route from Tallinn to Helsinki happened on June 14, 1940 — just three months after Finland had signed a peace treaty with Moscow following the 1939-40 Winter War.
The news about the fate of the plane was met with disbelief and anger by authorities in Helsinki who were informed that it was shot down by two Soviet DB-3 bombers 10 minutes after taking off from Tallinn’s Ulemiste airport.
“It was unique that a passenger plane was shot down during peacetime on a normal scheduled flight,” said Finnish aviation historian Carl-Fredrik Geust, who has investigated Kaleva’s case since the 1980s.
Finland officially kept silent for years about the details of the aircraft’s destruction, saying publicly only that a “mysterious crash” had taken place over the Baltic Sea, because it didn’t want to provoke Moscow.
Though well documented by books, research and television documentaries, the 84-year-old mystery has intrigued Finns. The case is an essential part of the Nordic country’s complex World War II history and sheds light into its troubled ties with Moscow.
But perhaps more importantly, the downing of the plane happened at a critical time just days before Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union was preparing to annex the three Baltic states, sealing the fate of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania for the next half-century before they eventually regained independence in 1991.
Moscow occupied Estonia on June 17, 1940 and Kaleva’s doomed journey was the last flight out of Tallinn, though Soviets had already started enforcing a tight transport embargo around the Estonian capital.
American diplomat Henry W. Antheil Jr., who is now considered one of the first US casualties of World War II, was aboard the plane when it went down.
The 27-year-old Antheil, the younger brother of the acclaimed composer and pianist George Antheil, was on a rushed government mission evacuating sensitive diplomatic pouches from US missions in Tallinn and Riga, Latvia. as it had become clear that Moscow was preparing to annex the small Baltic nations.
An Associated Press wire item dated June 15, 1940 noted that “Henry W. Antheil Jr. of Trenton, N. J., attached to the United States Legation in Helsinki, was killed in the mysterious explosion of a Finnish airliner yesterday.” In the US media, Antheil’s death was overshadowed by much bigger news from Europe at the time: the Nazi occupation of Paris.
The US Embassy in Tallinn has thoroughly documented and researched the case over the years.
Embassy spokesman Mike Snyder told the AP that “news of the possible location of the wreck of the Kaleva passenger plane is of great interest to the United States, especially since one of the first US casualties of the Second World War, Diplomat Henry Antheil, occurred as a result of the plane being downed.”
Earlier this month, the US ambassador in Estonia, George P. Kent, shared a post on X that included photos of Antheil, Kaleva and a memorial plaque by the American Foreign Service Association in Washington with Antheil’s name engraved in it.
Kaleva was carrying 227 kilograms (500 pounds) of diplomatic post, including Antheil’s pouches and material from two French diplomatic couriers — identified as Paul Longuet and Frederic Marty.
Estonian fishermen and the lighthouse operator on Keri told Finnish media decades after the downing of the plane that a Soviet submarine surfaced close to Kaleva’s crash site and retrieved floating debris, including document pouches, that had been collected by fishermen from the site.
This has led to conspiracy theories regarding the contents of the pouches and Moscow’s decision to shoot down the plane. It still remains unclear why precisely the Soviet Union decided to down a civilian Finnish passenger plane during peacetime.
“Lots of speculation on the plane’s cargo has been heard over the years,” Geust said. “What was the plane transporting? Many suggest Moscow wanted to prevent sensitive material and documents from exiting Estonia.”
But he said that it could have simply been “a mistake” by the Soviet bomber pilots.
Various attempts to find Kaleva have been recorded since Estonia regained independence more than three decades ago. However, none of them have been successful.
Not even the US Navy’s oceanographic survey vessel Pathfinder could locate remains of the plane in a 2008 search around the Keri island in a venture commissioned by the Estonian government from the Pentagon.
“The wreckage is in pieces and the seabed is quite challenging with rock formations, valleys and hills. It’s very easy to miss” small parts and debris from the aircraft,” Peremees said. “Techniques have, of course, evolved a lot over the time. As always, you can have good technology but be out of luck.”
New video taken by underwater robots from Peremees’ company show clear images of the three-engine Junkers’ landing gear, one of the motors and parts of the wings.
Peremees and his group are “absolutely” convinced the parts belong to Kaleva because of the distinctive and recognizable design of the German-made Junkers Ju 52, one of the most popular European passenger and wartime transport planes in the 1930s and early 1940s.
The plane was operated by the predecessor of the Finnish national airline Finnair.
Jaakko Schildt, chief operations officer of Finnair, described Kaleva’s downing as “a tragic and profoundly sad event for the young airline” that Finnair, then named Aero, was in 1940.
“Finding the wreckage of Kaleva in a way brings closure to this, even though it does not bring back the lives of our customers and crew that were lost,” Schildt said. “The interest toward locating Kaleva in the Baltic Sea speaks of the importance this tragic event has in the aviation history of our region.”
Peremees said his company would now focus on creating 3D images of Kaleva’s debris and discuss with Estonian authorities about the possibility of raising some of the items and, if found, the plane’s cargo and human remains.
Snyder from the US Embassy in Tallinn said that Washington is closely monitoring the diving group’s efforts.
“We are following the investigation of the site and will be happy to discuss with our Finnish and Estonian (NATO) allies any developments resulting from recovery efforts,” Snyder said.
A stone memorial set up in the early 1990s to the victims of the Kaleva crash is located on Keri, and Helsinki’s old preserved Malmi airport terminal building, where Kaleva was supposed to arrive, has a memorial plaque set up in 2020 with the names of the victims.