Archives

Categories

How Bosnia is helping Cyprus find peace

In the 1960s and 1970s, hundreds of Cypriots disappeared. Now, there is a renewed effort to find out what happened to them – mass graves are being dug up and a laboratory in Sarajevo is helping to identify the bodies. Forty years ago, Maria Georgiadis (above in the white dress), lost her whole family – her mother, her father, her sister and her brother. But she has never been able to lay their bodies to rest. Georgiadis, a Greek Cypriot, was 28 years old at the time and was living in the capital of Cyprus, Nicosia, with her husband and two young children. The rest of her family lived 10km away in Kythrea, but in August 1974 after a Greek-inspired coup and intervention by Turkish troops, their village became part of a Turkish-Cypriot enclave. For two months, she tried to find out what had happened to her relatives. Eventually her fears were confirmed when she saw their names listed in a local newspaper – they had all been killed. Chrystala (her mother, back row second from right), Andreas (her father, middle back row) Melitsa (her sister, back row far right) and Christy were four of 2,001 Greek and Turkish Cypriots who went missing in the early 1960s and 1970s – like hundreds of others, their bodies still haven’t been found. “It’s as though something is missing. For a long time I was waiting for a knock on the door, for them to come in. Now I just want them to be in one place, where I can go and place some flowers,” says Georgiadis. Today, aged 69, with children and grandchildren of her own, she wants a proper funeral and a grave to visit where she can light a candle. For years, the issue of the missing in Cyprus was mired in politics, and with little communication between Greek and Turkish Cypriots it wasn’t until 2007 that they could even agree on an official list of who had disappeared (Source: BBC).

EU Protests Russia's 'Forced' Capture of Lithuanian Fishing Boat in Barents Sea

The European Union has protested to Russia over what it called the “forced apprehension” of a Lithuanian fishing boat by Russian border guards, it said Tuesday. The EU’s relations with Russia have been strained by Moscow’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region and its support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Russian authorities detained the boat, the J?ros Vilkas, and its crew in “high seas waters” of the Barents Sea on Sept. 18 and towed the vessel to Russian territory, an EU spokesman said. “We are concerned by the forced apprehension of the Lithuanian fishing vessel,” the spokesman said.  Lithuania, a Baltic coast state, is an EU member that was long under Moscow’s control until the Soviet Union’s break-up in 1991. “The European Union calls on Russia to respect its international obligations and to immediately release the vessel,” he said, adding that the EU had raised the issue with the Russian Ambassador to the bloc, Vladimir Chizhov. The Russian Foreign Ministry published a statement on its website last week saying Russian border guards had detained the ship on Sept. 18 after it was checked and determined to have been fishing in Russia’s exclusive economic waters. The statement said that on board the ship were found 15 tons of illegally fished crabs. It said the ship tried to move into Norway’s economic zone waters during checks. The ship was later forced to sail to Russia’s northern port of Murmansk. Lithuania has also protested to Russia over the fishing boat incident and demanded that the ship and its crew be set free (Source: The Moscow Times).

Turkey Is Paying the Price for Its Support of Syrian Radicals

The country has been strangely reserved when it comes to dealing with the Islamic State. It is the neighboring country that is perhaps most threatened by the jihadist fighters, but it has refrained thus far from joining US President Barack Obama’s anti-terror coalition, even if Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly hinted over the weekend that it might do so soon. When it comes to combatting the Islamic State and putting an end to the Syrian civil war, Turkey has a key role to play. The government in Ankara had justified its hesitancy by pointing to the dozens of Turkish diplomats taken hostage by the Islamic State in Mosul. Now that they have been released, however, all eyes are on Turkey to see what responsibilities it might take on. On the way back to Turkey from the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Erdogan told reporters that his country is now prepared to join the coalition. At the World Economic Forum meeting in Istanbul on Sunday he added, in reference to the fight against the Islamic State: “We cannot stay out of this.” From the US perspective, Turkey has often been a difficult partner. Still, after the civil war in Syria began, the two countries expanded cooperation, with American intelligence agencies operating centers in southern Turkey and delivering information about intercepted extremist communications to their Turkish counterparts in near real time.  When US Vice President Joe Biden met with Erdogan in New York last Thursday, he greeted him warmly, saying “congratulations on the election, old friend.” The friendliness is carefully calibrated. The US badly needs NATO-member Turkey in its anti-Islamic State coalition and has been doing all it can to get Erdogan to join (Source: Der Spiegel).

Russia's State Media Portray Hong Kong Protests as US Plot

Russian state news outlets have begun airing reports casting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong as a U.S.-organized plot, echoing previous Russian coverage of similar demonstrations that have cropped up far closer to home. The coverage reflected the Kremlin’s contention that pro-democracy protests in Moscow and Kiev in recent years amounted to Western schemes designed to undermine the Russian government, as opposed to bona fide outpourings of popular discontent. On Monday, when the demonstrations in Hong Kong dominated headlines around the world, Russia’s main news broadcast on the state-controlled First Channel skipped the story. State-controlled NTV aired a brief report on the protests and little more. But by Tuesday, state-controlled channels—the primary source of news for the vast majority of Russians—were presenting the Hong Kong protesters as agents of a U.S.-organized revolt just like their counterparts in Kiev. “According to the Chinese press, the leaders of the movement received special training from the American intelligence services,” the anchor on state-owned Rossiya 24 said during a segment on the Hong Kong protests. Later in the day, the anchor on state-controlled First Channel introduced the report from Hong Kong by suggesting the U.S. was behind the protests. “Beijing has said the protest organizers are linked to the American State Department,” the anchor said. The Chinese government, however, hasn’t explicitly made such an accusation (Source: The Wall Street Journal).

Ukraine prosecutor opens criminal case against Russian officials

Ukrainian state prosecutors said on Tuesday they had opened a criminal investigation against a Russian law enforcement agency, accusing it of supporting separatist and “terrorist” groups in the east of the country. The move appeared to be a tit-for-tat response to a criminal case launched on Monday by Russia against “unidentified representatives of Ukraine’s senior political and military leadership”, National Guard and nationalist organizations, in which it accused them of committing “genocide”. The two legal investigations will further ratchet up tensions between the two ex-Soviet neighbors and put pressure on a ceasefire agreed on Sept. 5 between Kiev’s forces and pro-Russian separatists that has been marred by daily skirmishes and artillery shelling. In a statement, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office said it had opened a criminal investigation against officials of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, a law enforcement body that answers only to President Vladimir Putin. The statement accused the Russian officials of “carrying out illegal interference” in the work of Ukraine’s law enforcement bodies and armed forces. “(This interference) is aimed at aiding the terrorist organizations ‘Donetsk People’s Republic’ and ‘Luhansk People’s Republic’ in their criminal activities and obstructing the performance of duties by government officials,” it said. The separatists have declared two “states” in mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine centered on the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk and say they will not return to Kiev’s rule (Source: Reuters).

Russia's Putin to Visit Serbia in Mid-October

Russian President Vladimir Putin will pay a visit to Serbia on October 16, the Kremlin press service said Tuesday. During talks with Serbian President Tomislav Nicolic and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the Russian leader will discuss “key issues of bilateral cooperation, first of all in the trade and economic sphere,” the Kremlin said in a statement (Source: RIA Novosti).

Merkel flags review of Russia energy partnership

Germany and the EU might need to reevaluate their energy policies with Russia, if Moscow continued to violate basic principles in eastern Ukraine, chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday. However, she added that there were good reasons to continue the deal, and any future review should not completely cut it off. Following talks with Finnish prime minister Alexander Stubb in Berlin, Merkel said there were no opportunities to scale back economic sanctions against Moscow. “Unfortunately, we are a very long way away from that,” Merkel said, adding that the situation in eastern Ukraine was “anything but satisfactory.” “The elementary question of the cease-fire is not yet cleared up, still less the future status and cooperation between the Luhansk and Donetsk regions and the Ukrainian central government,” Merkel said. “There is no protection of the border along the entire Luhansk and Donetsk region – no control, no buffer zones, and all of that is the minimum condition for us to be able to consider revoking sanctions. She said a complete ceasefire was necessary in the region, and for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to monitor free elections in Ukraine in agreement with the government in Kyiv. Both Kyiv and several Western countries have repeatedly blamed Moscow for supporting the insurgency in eastern Ukraine with weapons and personnel, but Russia has adamantly denied involvement. Stubb, whose country shares a long land border with Russia, said Helsinki would not apply for membership in NATO (Source: Deutsche Welle).

Belgium begins largest 'terrorism' trial

Belgiian prosecutors have begun the country’s biggest-ever terrorism trial, accusing 46 men of being members of a terrorist organisation that indoctrinated young men to fight in Syria. Nine of those charged were present in court in Antwerp on Monday, including the alleged ringleader Fouad Belkacem. The others were allegedly still in Syria, with many possibly dead in the fighting there. Prosecutors said the accused belonged to Sharia4Belgium, a group disbanded two years ago which prosectors say was led by the 32-year-old Belkacem.  Members, the court heard, approached young men and a few teenage women in Antwerp and Vilvoorde, north of Brussels, to invite them to their centre in Antwerp where they were indoctrinated and readied for their trip to Syria. “The clear aim was to prepare them for armed combat,” Luc Festraets, a prosecutor, told the court. Ann Fransen, another prosecutor, said evidence woud be presented in the trial of Belkacem telling his alleged followers that “jihad” was as important in Islam as praying and fasting. “Belkacem’s words can only be interpreted as a call to violence and jihad,” said Fransen. Once in Syria, the recruits joined organisations such as the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, and groups which now aligned with or part of the ISIL group, prosecutors said. Quoting from tapped telephone conversations and statements by one of the suspects, who will be a key prosecution witness, Fransen said the accused were deeply entwined with the groups inspired by fighting in Syria. Sharia4Belgium was disbanded nearly two years ago. Prosecutors now want to prove it was a terrorist organisation. Fransen said that leading a terrorism group has a maximum sentence of 20 years (Source: Al Jazeera).

Russia, Egypt to discuss MiG-35 fighter jets deal in October

Russia plans to hold talks in Egypt next month over the latter’s planned purchase of MiG-35 fighter jets, reported Russian news agency ITAR-TASS on Monday. “They [Egyptian representatives] visited our corporation. We hope that we will be invited to technical talks next month,” Director-General of Russia’s Aircraft Corporation MiG Sergei Korotkov said. The deal, which is reportedly worth LE21 billion ($3 billion), was reported in February amid suggestions Egypt is aiming to reduce its military cooperation with the US, whose ties with the North African country took a turn after the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year. In an interview during the last presidential election, however, Egypt’s president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, stressed that Egypt has always had strong ties with Russia and that this does not affect cooperation with the US. Since signing a peace treaty with Israel in 1970, Egypt has been receiving some LE9.1 billion ($1.3 billion) in annual US military aid. Egypt had strong ties with Russia in the 1950s and 1960s, as the Soviet Union was the main supplier of arms to Egypt until the early 1970s. After Morsi’s ouster, the United States held the delivery of Apache helicopters but decided to lift its ban in April. The attack aircrafts are yet to be delivered, with El-Sisi calling on the US to send them in a recent televised interview with American station, CBS (Source: Aswat Masriya).

ISIS Is Russia’s Problem, Too, and This Chechen Is One Reason Why

Red-bearded Abu Omar has become a symbol of much that Washington hates and fears in its war on ISIS or ISIL, as the group is widely known: he is a foreign fighter—a convert to Islam, no less—and a veteran of the U.S.-trained Georgian military. He’s proved able to implement devastating tactics against the Kurdish and Iraqi armies, and wreaked havoc with the moderate Syrian rebel forces the Americans are rushing to train. According to U.S. intelligence, he is a member of the shura council, a group of the top ISIS leaders; he helped organize the seizure of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, and now commands ISIS forces in northern Syria that are the focus of the American-led bombing campaign. His units are believed to have about 1,000 foreign fighters in their ranks, and may have been responsible for holding foreign hostages. But Abu Omar also is a figure whose history on the battlefield extends into the rebellious Russian province of neighboring Chechnya, where his mother had her roots. And even as he plots defenses against American and allied air raids, he is taunting Vladimir Putin and his allies in Grozny. One of the friends, a drop-out from Georgian Technical University who wore a beard and no mustache, a look typical of many would-be jihadis, said that most of his friends were thinking of hopping on a bus and going first to Turkey and then to join Abu Omar’s troops in northern Syria, “to die for Allah.” The current front line around Kobane, Syria, is only a day’s drive away. To them, anybody supporting Bashar Assad or joining the war against ISIS is taken to be a direct enemy (Source: The Daily Beast).