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Archive for September, 2018

Extraordinary OIC Palestine summit held in Istanbul

18.05.2018

ISTANBUL

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sent out a strong message against Israeli violence that martyred at least 62 Palestinians during the ongoing extraordinary summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Friday.

A large number of heads of state and government, including Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Afghan President Ashraf Gani, Kuwaiti Amir Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah and Mauritanian President Mohammad Veled Abdulaziz participate in the summit meeting.

Erdogan, OIC Secretary General Yousef al-Othaimeen, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Hamdallah are expected to deliver speeches at the ongoing conference.

The event will enable the Muslim leaders to show a dedicated and joint stance against Israeli actions. A final declaration will be released afterwards.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu will also speak at the summit.

A total of 15 OIC members state foreign ministers are attending the gathering, including from Iran, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Azerbaijan, Tunisia, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt.

Monday’s protests in Gaza coincided with Israel’s 70th anniversary – an event Palestinians refer to as Nakba or the “Catastrophe” – and the relocation of the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Since the mass Gaza rallies began on March 30, more than 100 Palestinian protesters have been martyred by Israeli army gunfire.

Last week, the Israeli government claimed that the ongoing Gaze protests constitute a “state of war” in which international humanitarian law does not apply.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/middle-east/extraordinary-oic-palestine-summit-held-in-istanbul/1150495.

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North and South Korea say they plan bid for 2032 Olympics

September 19, 2018

PYONGYANG, North Korea (AP) — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in a statement Wednesday that the countries planned to jointly bid for the 2032 Summer Olympics.

At a major summit, the two leaders gave no details of which cities might host certain events at the games, or how advanced the plans were. The International Olympic Committee traditionally does not announce host cities until seven years ahead of the games. That would give the Koreas until 2025 to put together a joint bid.

Germany, with a multi-city bid, Brisbane, Australia and Jakarta, Indonesia are among those who have indicated they would bid for the 2032 Games. The India Olympic Committee has also said it could bid for 2032, as has South Africa’s Olympic committee in an attempt to bring the Olympics to Africa for the first time.

A successful bid by the Koreas would mark the second time South Korea hosted or co-hosted the Summer Games, the first being 1988 in Seoul. South Korea also hosted the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang in February.

Asia features in the next two Olympics — the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo and the 2022 Winter Games in Beijing, which also hosted the summer version in 2008. The joint statement Wednesday also said the Koreas would look to cooperate in major sports events such as the 2020 Games, also without elaborating.

Experts air new concerns about UN response to Myanmar crisis

September 19, 2018

GENEVA (AP) — U.N.-backed investigators who examined a bloody crackdown by Myanmar security forces that caused hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to flee to neighboring Bangladesh issued a searing critique Tuesday of the United Nations’ own response to the human rights crisis.

In a 432-page report, the members of a fact-finding mission on Myanmar fleshed out preliminary findings and recommendations released in a shorter version three weeks ago. “With a heavy heart and deep sadness, we have drawn conclusions, on the basis of the facts, that we never expected would be as grave as they are,” team chairman Marzuki Darusman said he presented the report to the U.N.-supported Human Rights Council.

“What we have found are not only the most serious human rights violations, but crimes of the highest order under international law,” he said. The team reiterated that some top Myanmar military leaders should be prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide against the Rohingya during a deadly crackdown that erupted in August 2017 following militant attacks on security posts in Rakhine state.

In a rare rebuttal by Myanmar’s government, its new ambassador in Geneva lashed out at what he called a “one-sided” report. The team has said Myanmar’s government had not responded to its report or honored requests for access to violence-hit regions.

“The way the report portrays … the national races of Myanmar is misleading,” the ambassador, Kyaw Moe Tun, told the 47-member body. “It also undermines the government’s effort to bring peace, national reconciliation and development to the entire nation.”

“Regardless of the lack of balance, impartiality and fairness, the government of Myanmar takes the allegations of human rights violations seriously,” he said. “The government will not condone human rights violations.”

After Marzuki spoke of the rape of women and girls by military forces, the ambassador countered, “We share deep sympathy and concern for all displaced persons, especially women and girls.” The full report also provided new details about the investigators’ concerns about how the United Nations reacted during the spasm of violence. It noted that the “only statement” from the U.N. resident coordinator’s office “was to condemn the ARSA (militant group) attacks and losses suffered by the Myanmar security forces.”

The council created the fact-finding mission 18 months ago, after years of abuses against ethnic minorities in Myanmar, focusing on the time since 2011 when the country began opening up after decades of isolation under a long-ruling military junta.

Though the investigators looked at the treatment of minority groups across the Southeast Asian nation, their mandate came just six months before the crackdown against the Rohingya in Rakhine, injecting the mission with far greater importance to help detail those abuses, crimes and human rights violations.

The report provides details of violence in Kachin, Shan and Rakhine states, much of which has been documented and made public through collection of witness accounts, satellite imagery and other sources. It cited allegations of crimes by the military and other security forces including murder, torture, pillaging, execution without due process, rape, sexual slavery and hostage taking.

It said some acts by ethnic armed groups and the Rohingya militant organization ARSA could also constitute war crimes. Crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide can be considered by tribunals such as the International Criminal Court, but Myanmar is not a party to it. The country’s government has snubbed a ruling by the court’s judges that said the ICC has jurisdiction to investigate alleged crimes against the Rohingya. The court’s chief prosecutor said Tuesday she was opening a preliminary investigation into Myanmar’s expulsions of Rohingya.

The report’s critique of the United Nations focused not only on the world body’s response to the Rohingya crisis, but its efforts across the country. For example, the investigators noted that the U.N. had rolled out a “Human Rights Up Front Action Plan” in Myanmar in 2013, but said its “human rights driven” approach was “rarely, if ever, pursued.”

“Rather, it was largely ‘business as usual,’ with development goals and humanitarian access prioritized only,” the authors wrote. They cited allegations that some U.N. personnel who tried to pursue a human rights agenda “were ignored, criticized, sidelined or blocked in these efforts.”

They alluded to criticism from Fieldview Solutions, an outside group that works to advance human rights, in July that cited some in U.N. and humanitarian circles for not doing enough to expand their “political space” in Myanmar, adding, “The Myanmar government has learned that it can count on U.N. and humanitarian self-censorship.”

The U.N. experts said some U.N. entities and staffers showed “a lack of cooperation” with their work, and “appeared to view it as a threat, rather than a means to address the most deep rooted human rights challenges facing Myanmar.”

“This attitude and approach must change,” they added. The investigators did acknowledge that some people in the country had faced “intimidation and reprisals” for their “engagement” with the United Nations.

The team renewed its urgent call for “a comprehensive, independent inquiry into the United Nations’ involvement” in hopes of “establishing whether everything possible to prevent or mitigate the unfolding crises was done.” It also sought to draw lessons and — “as appropriate” — make recommendations on accountability.

The investigators bemoaned that “there has been no review of what happened, of where the approach taken had some positive effect and where it did not, and of how the U.N.’s approach could be improved in future crises.”

Kingsley Abbott, senior legal adviser at the International Commission of Jurists, said the U.N.’s failure to implement the Human Rights Up Front Action Plan in Myanmar requires a credible and transparent investigation.

“The situation has demonstrated yet again that the U.N. secretary-general and his staff in Myanmar must ensure that the entire U.N. system actually puts human rights up front in its day- to-day work in the country,” he added.

The team said a second fact-finding mission should be authorized to examine continued threats to human rights in Myanmar, and urged the creation of a separate team to collect evidence that could be used in possible future prosecutions.

Turkey to provide $1 million in aid to embattled Gaza

18.05.2018

JERUSALEM

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) will provide $1 million in emergency aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip during the month of Ramadan, according to TIKA officials.

Bulent Korkmaz, TIKA’s Palestine program coordinator, told Anadolu Agency on Friday that recent Israeli atrocities against unarmed Palestinian protesters in Gaza had prompted outrage in Turkey, leading Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to order an immediate aid disbursement.

The aid will include the distribution of food packages throughout Ramadan to 12,000 Gazan families and hot fast-breaking (iftar) meals to 1,000 families each day, Korkmaz said.

He added that the aid would also include the provision of medicine and medical equipment worth $200,000 to hospitals in Gaza.

According to Palestine’s official statistics agency, the poverty rate in Gaza reached 53 percent in 2017, with at least 250,000 people — of the strip’s roughly two-million-strong population — facing unemployment.

An ongoing Israeli blockade, imposed since 2006, is believed to be the primary reason for the economic stagnation.

Ramadan this year comes amid heightened tensions in the Palestinian territories.

On Monday, scores of Palestinian demonstrators were martyred — and thousands more injured — by Israeli troops near the fence separating the Gaza Strip from Israel.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/todays-headlines/turkey-to-provide-1-million-in-aid-to-embattled-gaza/1150201.

Turkey to continue aid efforts for Rohingya in Ramadan

17.05.2018

ANKARA

Turkish charitable groups aim to reach thousands of Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA) plans to deliver food parcels to 5,000 families living in refugee camps and in villages in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The agency is also set to set up tents to serve iftars, or fast-breaking meals, for as many as 30,000 Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

TIKA will also supply a separate group of 30,000 people with food parcels that contain salt, sugar, biscuit, persimmon, tea, onion, potato, pepper and chickpea, along with personal care items.

The agency will also establish new shelters for 180 families in Rakhine.

Also, the Turkiye Diyanet Foundation (TDV) — the charity organization of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs — is set to distribute more than 6,000 food packages for Rohingya in Myanmar and provide 5,000 families with iftar meals.

The foundation also plans to deliver 10,000 food packages and serve iftar meals for 13,000 Rohingya in Cox-Bazaar, Bangladesh.

The Turkish Red Crescent Society will give food parcels and personal care products to 2,000 families in Bangladesh on a weekly basis during Ramadan.

The Turkish Red Crescent will also organize two iftar meals in Cox Bazaar.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, some 750,000 Rohingya, mostly children, and women, fled Myanmar when Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to the Amnesty International.

At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24, according to Doctors Without Borders.

In a report published on Dec. 12, the global humanitarian organization said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of 5.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/turkey-to-continue-aid-efforts-for-rohingya-in-ramadan/1149094.

Extraordinary summit of OIC on Palestine to be held in Istanbul, Friday

May 16, 2018

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) will hold an extraordinary summit in Istanbul on Friday to discuss “the latest serious developments in the State of Palestine.”

The organization, which comprises 57 member nations, said in a statement that the summit will be held at the invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the chairman of the 13th session of the Islamic Summit Conference.

The Israeli occupation army killed 61 Palestinians on Monday, including a baby girl, and injured nearly 3,000 during a protest in the Gaza Strip against the transfer of the US Embassy to the occupied city of Jerusalem.

Turkey also declared a three-day mourning period for those killed in Gaza on Monday, and called its ambassadors in Washington and Tel Aviv for consultations.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20180516-extraordinary-summit-of-oic-on-palestine-to-be-held-in-istanbul-friday/.

Turkey, Russia agree on demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib

September 17, 2018

MOSCOW (AP) — The leaders of Russia and Turkey agreed Monday to establish a demilitarized zone in Syria’s Idlib region, the last major stronghold of anti-government rebels where fears had been running high of a devastating offensive by government forces.

The zone will be established by Oct. 15 and be 15-20 kilometers (9-12 miles) deep, with troops from Russia and NATO-member Turkey conducting coordinated patrols, President Vladimir Putin said at the end of a more than three-hour meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi.

The deal marked a significant agreement between the two leaders and effectively delays an offensive by Syria and its Russian and Iranian allies, one that Turkey fears would create a humanitarian crisis near its border.

Putin said “radical militants” would have to withdraw from the zone. Among them would be those from the al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham — Arabic for Levant Liberation Committee. The group denies it is linked to al-Qaida.

It was not immediately clear exactly how the deal would be implemented in the province, which is home to more than 3 million Syrians and an estimated 60,000 rebel fighters from various groups. “I believe that with this agreement we prevented a great humanitarian crisis in Idlib,” Erdogan said at a joint briefing with Putin.

Turkey has been eager to prevent an assault by Syrian government troops in the province. Putin said he believed the agreement on Idlib could hasten final resolution of Syria’s long and devastating civil war.

“We agreed that practical implementation of the steps we plan will give a fresh impetus to the process of political settlement of the Syrian conflict and will make it possible to invigorate efforts in the Geneva format and will help restore peace in Syria,” he said.

Asked whether Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government agreed with the Putin-Erdogan plan, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters in Sochi that “in the coming hours, we will agree with them on all the positions put forth in this document.”

Ahmed Ramadan, a spokesman for the Syrian political opposition in exile, said the agreement offered Russia a chance to walk back its threat against Idlib and represented a success for diplomatic pressure from Turkey and the United States, which was also against an offensive.

Ramadan also said the deal offers the Syrian government and Russia one of their main demands, which is securing the highway that passes through Idlib and links northern Syria with other cities. That was one of the government’s strategic aims in an offensive in Idlib.

“Turkey offered Putin a ladder with which to climb down from the tree, threatening a military offensive in Idlib that had little chance for success,” Ramadan said in a series of text messages with The Associated Press. “The Turkish and U.S. serious pressures were the reason behind Russia abstaining from the offensive and offering an air cover which means Iran alone won’t be able to carry out the offensive with the overstretched forces of the Assad regime.”

He said Russia has also refrained from its accusations that the rebels are all terrorists. “Russia swallowed all its accusations,” he said. “Turkey is in a strong position.” He said the zone would be enforced by Turkish patrols on the opposition side and Russian patrols on the government side.

Ramadan added that the opposition was now stronger than when it was after losses in Daraa and Ghouta. He said the Russians reached the agreement without negotiating it first with the Syrian government, pointing to Shoigu’s comments that Moscow will discuss the deal with the Syrian government later.

Abu Omar, a spokesman for the Turkey-backed rebel group Faylaq al-Sham, thanked Erdogan for preventing an offensive and giving the rebels time to defend their rebellion and people. Millions “of civilians in Idlib are in peace,” he tweeted.

He said he was confident that the deal “would not have been possible without the steadfastness of our people and fighters. Thank you, Erdogan.” Capt. Naji al-Mustafa, a spokesman for the Turkey-backed umbrella group of opposition fighters known as the National Front for Liberation, said diplomatic efforts have prevented a wide-offensive on Idlib but that his group still needs to learn the details of the deal.

He said the nature of the demilitarized zone and how it would be implemented are not yet clear. “We need details,” he said, adding that the Assad government has broken many agreements before, including the Russian-Turkey negotiated de-escalation zones.

“We will remain ready for fighting,” he said. Russia has called Idlib a hotbed of terrorism and had said the Syrian government has the right to retake control of it. In recent weeks, Russian officials repeatedly claimed rebels in Idlib were preparing a chemical weapons attack that could be blamed on the Syrian government and prompt a retaliatory strike by the West.

Turkey had appealed to Russia and Iran, its uneasy negotiating partners, for a diplomatic resolution. At the same time, it has sent reinforcements to its troops ringing Idlib, a move designed to ward off a ground assault, at least for now.

The International Rescue Committee, a New-York based humanitarian group, said the people of Idlib “will rest easier tonight knowing that they are less likely to face an impending assault.” However, Lorraine Bramwell, the group’s Syria country director, cautioned that previous de-escalation deals didn’t last long.

“In order to give people in Idlib peace of mind then, this agreement needs to be built upon by the global powers working together to find a lasting political solution that protects civilians,” Bramwell said. “It is also essential that humanitarian organizations are allowed to reach those who will remain in need throughout Idlib, including in any ‘demilitarized zone.'”

Idlib and surrounding areas were quiet Monday, a continuation of the calm that started less than a week ago amid Russia-Turkey talks.

Associated Press writer Jim Heintz reported this story in Moscow and AP writer Sarah El Deeb reported from Beirut. AP writer Neyran Elden in Istanbul, Turkey, contributed to this report.

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