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Greece returns to talks with Libya but ties still strained by Tripoli’s deal with Ankara

Admiral crackdown ‘could signal the end of Erdogan’s Eurasianist shift’: Experts ANKARA: Turkey’s latest arrest wave targeting former admirals who signed a critical night-time declaration has stirred debate over whether the crackdown is a result of the country’s “Eurasianist shift.” On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused 104 former navy commanders of trying to…

Admiral crackdown ‘could signal the end of Erdogan’s Eurasianist shift’: Experts

ANKARA: Turkey’s latest arrest wave targeting former admirals who signed a critical night-time declaration has stirred debate over whether the crackdown is a result of the country’s “Eurasianist shift.”

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused 104 former navy commanders of trying to stage a “political coup” through an open letter that criticized the government’s new 45 kilometer-long artificial waterway, dubbed Kanal Istanbul, and its immediate impact on the 1936 Montreux Convention that regulates the traffic of warships in the Istanbul strait.

Among the signatories, the most notable name was Cem Gurdeniz, the mastermind of Turkey’s controversial maximalist maritime doctrine, known as Blue Homeland.

Gurdeniz, who has been held in police custody since Monday, is a well-known member of the prominent Eurasianist faction within the Turkish military. The group advocates an anti-Western strategy, and stronger relations with Russia and China.

Dr. Berk Esen, a political scientist from Sabanci University in Istanbul, said that the admirals’ statement came at a critical juncture when the Erdogan administration is recalibrating its position in the international arena.

“Over the last few years, the Turkish government has sought closer ties with authoritarian regimes like Russia and Qatar to draw support for its revisionist steps in the wider region,” he told Arab News.

In response to Western criticism against undemocratic Turkish politics, Esen said that some Turkish government officials have gathered support from retired officers and analysts belonging to the Eurasianist faction.

For several years, the Eurasianist movement has pushed Turkey’s leadership toward a rapprochement with Russia and China. It has been rumored that the faction has acquired significant clout in the government, letting it shape the direction of Turkey’s foreign and security policies.

The predominant ideology of the Eurasianists, who originated in the Turkish far-left, is based on an anti-Western foreign policy coupled with ultra-nationalism in the domestic sphere.

They advocate for leaving NATO and abandoning the EU candidacy process in favor of membership of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

According to Esen, the anti-Western policy of the Turkish government may soon come to an end, judging from reports of an agreement between Turkey and the EU.

“To strengthen this trend, Erdogan is seeking to curry favors from the Biden administration by supporting the recent US offensive against Russia. The admirals’ statement came against the backdrop of this shifting geopolitical situation,” he said.

The latest Russian troop movements in zones bordering eastern Ukraine have enraged the Biden administration, leading the US State Department to demand that Moscow explain the reported “provocations.”

However, Russia sees the the proposed Kanal Istanbul project as a threat because it would provide NATO members with free access to the Black Sea and Crimean peninsula, including the strategic port of Sevastopol, which Moscow annexed in 2014.

Therefore, the group of admirals fear that the new canal could anger Russia, as Turkey might break from the Montreux Convention that governs the transit of naval vessels during times of peace and war.

The length of stay and tonnage of warships from non-Black Sea naval forces are restricted by the convention. They cannot stay in the region for more than 21 days, while there is a maximum vessel weight limit of 45,000 tons.

However, in a televised speech on Monday, Erdogan said that the government is not considering a withdrawal from the convention, adding: “But if the need emerges in the future, we could revise every convention to help our country get better.”

According to Esen, although not all the signatories to the letter subscribe to the Blue Homeland doctrine, the admirals are likely worried that Erdogan will use the Montreux Convention as a bargaining chip with the US, which has for decades tried to undermine the agreement in order to gain access to the Black Sea.

“After seeking a tacit alliance with the Eurasianists for the last couple of years, Erdogan may have gotten a convenient excuse to eliminate the retired officers affiliated with the Blue Homeland doctrine as he considers strengthening ties with the US,” Berk said.

Meanwhile, the Chinese embassy in Ankara condemned the capital’s mayor Mansur Yavas and Good Party leader Meral Aksener for penning messages commemorating the massacre of Uighurs by the Chinese military in 1990.

“China reserves the right to proportionately respond,” the embassy tweeted, adding: “The Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region is an integral part of Chinese territory. This is an internationally accepted and indisputable fact.”

Turkey’s opposition has long criticized the government for remaining silent on China’s oppression of Uighur Muslims.

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Hostage policemen released by TLP religious party after government negotiations

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced. The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will…

PARIS: France is imposing entry restrictions on travelers from four countries — Argentina, Chile, South Africa and Brazil — in hopes of keeping out especially contagious coronavirus variants, the government has announced.

The restrictions include mandatory 10-day quarantines with police checks to ensure people arriving in France observe the requirement.  Travelers from all four countries will be restricted to French nationals and their families, EU citizens and others with a permanent home in France.

France previously suspended all flights from Brazil. The suspension will be lifted next Saturday, after 10 days, and the new restrictions “progressively” put in place by then, the government said. 

The flight suspension for Brazil will be lifted followed by “drastic measures” for entering France from all four countries, plus the French territory of Guiana, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said.

The four countries “are the most dangerous in terms of the number of variants that exist and in the evolution of the pandemic in these countries,” Le Drian said Saturday on the France 3 television station.

The list of countries subject to tougher border checks could be extended, he said.

Under the new restrictions, travelers must provide an address for where they plan to observe the 10-day confinement period and police will make visits and fine those who are found in violation, the government said.

Along with the mandatory quarantine, France is requiring more stringent testing for the coronavirus. 

Travelers must show proof of a negative PCR test taken less than 36 hours instead of 72 hours before they boarded a flight, or a negative antigen test less than 24 hours

France has reported the deaths of 100,00 people in the COVID-19 pandemic.

A variant first identified in England spread to continental Europe and is now responsible for about 80 percent of the virus cases in France, while the variants first seen in Brazil and South Africa make up less than 4% of French infections, Health Minister Olivier Veran said last week.

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UEFA says will ban clubs who take part in breakaway ‘European Super League’

LONDON: Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final on Saturday. A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup…

LONDON: Chelsea ended Manchester City’s quest for a historic quadruple of trophies as Hakim Ziyech’s goal earned a 1-0 win to take the Blues into the FA Cup final on Saturday.

A damaging day for City also saw them lose Kevin De Bruyne to an ankle injury just over a week away from the League Cup final, where they face Tottenham, and the first leg of their Champions League semifinal against Paris Saint-Germain.

Chelsea were good value for another impressive win under Thomas Tuchel and will be favorites for the German’s first silverware in English football when they face Leicester or Southampton May 15.

Tuchel could land an even bigger prize in the Champions League just months after replacing the sacked Frank Lampard in January.

His side showed they can get the better of City in what could be a dress rehearsal for the Champions League final should the English clubs see off PSG and Real Madrid in the last four.

The physical demands of City’s bid for a clean sweep of trophies was shown as Pep Guardiola made eight changes from the side that beat Borussia Dortmund in midweek with goalscorers Phil Foden and Riyad Mahrez among those rotated.

Tuchel made just three changes and Chelsea looked the far less disjointed side in a bright start.

Timo Werner’s cross was swept home by Ziyech after just six minutes, but the goal was ruled out for offside against the German international.

That proved to be the only shot on target of a cagey first 45 minutes that did little to whet the appetite of a potential reunion in Istanbul for European club football’s greatest prize on May 29.

Despite the number of changes, the ease with which Chelsea were able to spring quick counter-attacks will be of concern to Guardiola with the fearsome duo of PSG’s Kylian Mbappe and Neymar to come.

From one slick break, Chelsea’s wing backs combined but Ben Chilwell could only slice Reece James’s cross wide.

City got to half-time without any damage on the score line, but suffered a potentially huge blow to their hopes of still clinching a treble of trophies early in the second half.

Just 11 days before the first leg of the PSG tie, De Bruyne appeared to roll his ankle in a challenge with N’Golo Kante and was replaced by Foden.

City were still reeling from the loss of the Belgium attacker when they were finally caught out by the Chelsea counterattack.

Guardiola’s decision to retain Zack Steffen in goal for domestic cup competitions backfired as the American was caught in no man’s land when Werner raced in behind and once again squared for Ziyech to roll into an empty net.

Steffen made some measure of amends moments later to deny Ziyech a second when the Moroccan was clean through.

City took until the final 20 minutes to get going, but their best chance of sending the game to extra time came from a corner as Ruben Dias headed over from close range.

Instead, it was Chelsea who found the net again through Christian Pulisic in stoppage time only for the offside flag to again come to City’s rescue.

But there was no saving a bid for history for Guardiola’s men as they cannot now better Manchester United’s treble of Champions League, Premier League and FA Cup from 1998/99.

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Gaza man winning hearts by donating traditional food to the poor

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches. Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during…

BEIRUT: Controversial Lebanese judge and Mount Lebanon state prosecutor Ghada Aoun carried out a second raid on a money exchange in northern Lebanon on Saturday in defiance of a senior judiciary decision dismissing her from an investigation into possible currency export breaches.

Aoun was accompanied by several activists from the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) during the raid on the money exchange in the Awkar district in northern Lebanon.

Less than 24 hours earlier she raided the office with members of the security services.

Aoun remained in the money exchange for several hours on Friday in protest at her dismissal by the the discriminatory Public Prosecutor, Judge Ghassan Oweidat, a decision that caused widespread anger among the Lebanese public.

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

After the meeting Najm voiced her anger at the situation regarding the judiciary, saying that she refuses to be “a false witness to the decay of the judiciary and the fall of the fig leaf in this state.”

Najm said the events involving Aoun are an indication of “the failure of state institutions.”

Lebanon is facing a political and economic crisis amid disputes between state officials, a deadlock that has led to the collapse of the national currency.

However, critics accuse Aoun of a lack of respect for due process.

HIGHLIGHT

Caretaker Justice Minister Marie-Claude Najm held an emergency meeting on Saturday with Oweidat as well as Supreme Judicial Council head Judge Suhail Abboud and Judicial Inspection Authority head Judge Borkan Saad.

There are six criminal cases and 28 complaints against her before the Judicial Inspection Authority — the largest number of cases filed against any judge in the history of the Lebanese judiciary.

Aoun was investigating the Mecattaf money exchange company and Societe Generale Bank for allegedly withdrawing dollars from the market and shipping the funds abroad.

The Supreme Judicial Council dismissed Aoun along with two other judges who had previously been suspended by the Disciplinary Council for Judges.

Judge Oweidat on Friday asked the Director-General of State Security, Maj. Gen. Antoine Saliba, to suspend the officers who accompanied Aoun on the exchange office raid.

People in Lebanon on Friday watched on TV as Aoun requested that the money exchange office be sealed because the owner, Michel Mecattaf, refused to provide her with details of currency transfers on behalf of banks.

Earlier, Mecattaf’s agents informed Aoun that she had been dismissed from the case.

Aoun remained alone for hours inside the office after state security personnel left. A medical team checked on her after her blood pressure rose, and she left the premises soon after. Later she stepped on to the balcony of her home to wave to FPM supporters, who gathered outside to offer support.

After Aoun’s second raid on Saturday, the head of the Mecattaf financial company accused her supporters of “breaking into private property by force.”

Mecattaf described the case as “eminently political,” saying that he is “a witness and not a convict.”

Najm described the events as “unacceptable.”

“I am not in a position to please this political party or that team. We want an effective and independent judiciary. The problem is not the laws — oversight and accountability have been absent for years,” she said.

Najm also said that “the judiciary is incapable of fighting corruption,” and called on judges to “rise up against this reality.”

She added: “There is a lack of confidence in the judiciary, and this is a major insult.”

Retired General Prosecutor Hatem Madi told Arab News: “Judge Oweidat’s decision shows that some judges are working independently, but things must be put to rights. Regardless of whether Oweidat’s decision was right or wrong, the public prosecution offices in Lebanon must be an integrated unit.”

The decision to dismiss Aoun revived a political dispute between the FPM and the Future Movement, the two parties in conflict over the formation of the government.

The FPM, headed by MP Gebran Bassil, said that it will “continue to expose every file related to the fight against corruption,” saluting “every judge who rightfully performs their duties despite the injustice to which they are sometimes exposed.”

The Future Movement said that “mourning for judges after encouraging them to violate laws and asking them to open discretionary files for opponents is a matter that no longer fools any of the Lebanese people.”

 

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