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Posts tagged ‘Land of the French Oppression’

Turkey calls French warning about Syria an ‘insult’

February 01, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey has fired back after France’s president warned it against invading a Kurdish enclave in Syria, calling his remarks an “insult.” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Thursday that France was in no position to “teach a lesson” to Turkey over its cross-border offensive, referring to past French military interventions in Algeria and other parts of Africa.

His comments were in response to remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron, who warned Turkey against an “invasion operation.” Turkey launched the offensive against the Afrin enclave on Jan. 20 to drive out the Syrian Kurdish People’s Defense Units, or YPG, a militia it says is an extension of the outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

Cavusoglu said France understood that Turkey was fighting “terrorists” and did not aim to invade Afrin.


France seeks closer ties with Russia despite Syria tensions

February 09, 2018

PARIS (AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin and French President Emmanuel Macron discussed cooperating more closely to resolve the Syrian crisis in a phone call Friday, as France tries to smooth ties with Russia and move beyond years of tensions over Syria and Ukraine.

Macron is making his first presidential trip to Russia in May. The two leaders talked Friday about preparations for the visit, where Macron plans to attend the St. Petersburg Economic Forum and to meet with Putin.

The Kremlin said in a statement that Putin and Macron underlined during their call the need for developing closer cooperation on Syria. The statement did not elaborate. Macron’s office said he pushed for more robust Syrian peace talks — notably after a Russia-sponsored effort last month boycotted by the Syrian opposition.

Macron also pressed Putin to stop “intolerable degradation of the humanitarian situation” in regions of Syria that were pummeled by Syrian and Russian airstrikes in recent days, according to a statement from his office.

The presidents discussed another sore point in relations: the conflict in Ukraine. They stressed the need to enforce the 2015 Minsk peace agreement that was sponsored by France and Germany. Putin and Macron also hailed a potentially problematic project launched Friday to encourage contacts among Russian and French citizens. Called the Trianon Dialogue, the initiative appears aimed at minimizing European sanctions against Russia for its support of separatists in eastern Ukraine.

The French-Russian project is aimed at encouraging interactions through joint theater productions, school trips, sister city agreements and real estate investments. Yet geopolitical tensions threaten to complicate the effort.

Among the Russians overseeing the Trianon Dialogue are magnate Gennady Timchenko, a longtime associate of Putin’s, and former railways chief Vladimir Yakunin — both targets of U.S. sanctions over Russia’s actions in Ukraine. A former ambassador who is an outspoken supporter of Russia’s bombings of Syria and annexation of Crimea also is involved.

An official in Macron’s office acknowledged that “we may run into difficulties” in juggling the project’s open-arms mission with today’s East-West tensions. The official said the French side would remain “vigilant” to prevent Putin’s administration from using the event for political ends.

Macron has remained publicly committed to the European Union’s sanctions on Russia, but the Trianon Dialogue could be seen as undermining them. Aides said he pushed for the project “to encourage Franco-Russian economic relations” despite curbs on trade prompted by the sanctions and a Russian embargo.

The French members of the project’s board all are from outside politics. They include an astronaut, a ballet star, the director of the Versailles Chateau and the CEOs of oil giant Total and car-sharing company Blablacar.

Vladimir Isachenkov in Moscow contributed.

Corsican nationalists protest ahead of French leader’s visit

February 03, 2018

CORSICA, France (AP) — Corsica’s nationalist leaders are demonstrating along with unions and students ahead of a visit next week by French President Emmanuel Macron. The newly elected leaders on the French Mediterranean island hope that Saturday’s march will spur on fresh talks with the French government about demands including equal status for the Corsican language and the release of Corsican prisoners held in mainland prisons.

In December, Corsican nationalists swept the election for a new regional assembly, crushing Macron’s young centrist movement and traditional parties. The nationalists want more autonomy from Paris but unlike some in Spain’s nearby Catalonia, they aren’t seeking full independence — yet.

They also want protections for locals buying real estate on the destination that the French refer to as the “Island of Beauty,” which is famed as Napoleon’s birthplace.


Floods peak in Paris as France sees worst rains in 50 years

January 30, 2018

PARIS (AP) — Floodwaters peaked in Paris on Monday and were threatening towns downstream as the rain-engorged Seine River winds through Normandy toward the English Channel. Rivers swollen by France’s heaviest rains in 50 years have engulfed romantic quays in Paris, swallowed up gardens and roads, halted riverboat cruises — and raised concerns about climate change.

The Meteo France weather service said January has seen nearly double normal rainfall nationwide, and the rains in the past two months are the highest measured for the period in 50 years. “I’m amazed. I’ve come to Paris since 1965, most years, and I’ve never seen the Seine as high,” said Terry Friberg, visiting from Boston. “I love Paris with all my heart but I’m very worried about the level of the river.”

Flood monitoring agency Vigicrues said the water levels in Paris hit a maximum height of 5.84 meters (19 feet, 2 inches) on the Austerlitz scale early Monday. That’s below initial fears last week, and well below record levels of 8.62 meters in 1910, but still several meters above normal levels of about 1.5 meters on the Austerlitz scale.

And the waters are expected to stay unusually high for days or weeks. That’s bad news for tourists hoping to cruise past Paris sites on the famed “bateaux mouches” riverboats, or visit the bottom floor of the Louvre Museum, closed since last week as a precaution. Riverside train stations along the line that serves Versailles are also closed, and will remain that way for several more days.

Water laps the underside of historic bridges, and treetops and lampposts poke out of the brown, swirling Seine. South African tourist Michael Jelatis, visiting Notre Dame Cathedral on an island in central Paris, was among many people linking the floods to global warming, blamed for increasing instances of extreme weather.

“Around the world we’re all aware that things like this, unusual weather, are happening. I mean back home we are in a serious drought at the moment as well,” he told The Associated Press. Overall, Paris is better prepared than when it was last hit by heavy flooding in 2016, and Parisians have largely taken disruptions in stride this time.

Other towns on the surging Seine have seen it much worse. The floods have caused damage in 242 towns along the river and tributaries already and more warnings are in place as the high waters move downstream.

In Lagny-sur-Marne south of Paris, Serge Pinon now has to walk on a makeshift footbridge to reach his home and its flooded surroundings. His basement is submerged in water, as are the plants he was trying to grow in a backyard greenhouse tent. He lost a freezer, a refrigerator, a washing machine and dryer to flood waters.

“We’re up to the maximum, maximum and now we’re just waiting for it to go down,” he said. “This year the flood has risen more rapidly than usual. Here it usually rises in a regular fashion and we have the time to see it coming we can save things. But this time it rose too quickly.”

Elsewhere in the town, street signs stick out of the water and a lonely boat floats in the Marne River, once accessible from the riverbank but now unreachable on foot. Mayor Jean-Paul Michel said that residents are used to seasonal floods, but this one is exceptionally long-lasting, now in its third week. “So it goes on and on, and we think it’s going to carry on for (another) long week before the flood starts subsiding,” he said.

AP journalist Angela Charlton contributed to this report.


Hundreds evacuated around Paris as Seine keeps swelling

January 25, 2018

PARIS (AP) — Almost 400 people were evacuated from their homes in the Paris region as a precaution Thursday as rivers across France kept swelling. Thirteen departments across the country remained on alert for floods as heavy rainfall continued to batter many regions.

In addition to Paris, where the Seine river is expected to keep rising until Saturday, the other regions threatened are in the north and east of the country. Seven other departments in central France have been placed on alert for snow and ice.

Meteo France said that exceptionally high levels of rain this winter were to blame for the floods, with rainfall in Paris twice as high as normal. The Seine reached 5.53 meters (over 18 feet) Thursday evening at the Austerlitz bridge in the east of the city. It was expected to keep rising, reaching 6.1 meters (20 feet) by Saturday, as high as the June 2016 flooding when authorities were forced to close several monuments, including the Louvre Museum.

Paris police said in a statement Thursday 395 people have been evacuated protectively from their homes along the banks of the river in the Paris region. No major incident was observed. The Louvre museum remains open for now but the lower level of the department of Islamic Art has been closed to the public until at least Sunday.

Two years ago, the Louvre was closed for four days due to flooding and 35,000 artworks were moved to safe zones. “Since then, a large number of reserve collections has been packed to ensure their rapid evacuation in the event of flooding, and staff have also been trained,” the Louvre said in a statement.

The situation was far less severe than during the 1910 Great Flood, when the Seine water level rose to 8.62 meters (more than 28 feet), forcing many Parisians to evacuate their homes.


Rivers keep swelling in France, disrupting services

January 24, 2018

PARIS (AP) — Rivers across France kept swelling on Wednesday despite a pause in the rain, with train service disrupted in Paris as the Seine River rose and flooded walkways. In one outlying suburb, soldiers were on alert to intervene. In another, small boats were put at the disposal of town folk.

Meteo France, the national weather agency, said 23 departments remained on orange alert, the second highest level of vigilance, urging people to limit their movement and to stay vigilant. In Paris, the Seine River reached 5.18 meters (nearly 17 feet) by noon at the Austerlitz bridge in the east, the Transport Ministry said. It was expected to keep rising, reaching 6.10 meters (20 feet) by Saturday — as high as the June 2016 flooding when authorities were forced to close several monuments, including the Louvre Museum.

Roads along the shores of the Seine remained closed on Wednesday as well as seven train stations alongside the river. In the southeastern Paris suburb of Villeneuve-Saint-Georges, which is crossed by both the Seine and its Yerres tributary, local mayor Sylvie Altman said soldiers will be deployed to help evacuate the population. Police forces and fire brigades were on site, patrolling flooded streets on small boats.

Altman told France Info radio that water levels were expected to keep rising until Friday. “We should get military trucks to help us evacuate and make people move along,” she said. In the flooded village of Conde-Sainte-Libiaire, east of Paris, where the Seine and the Morin rivers pass, small boats were made available so residents could keep appointments, deputy mayor Rene Salacroup told BFM TV.

West of Paris, the Seine River burst its banks in some spots and spread to almost twice its usual breadth between the towns of Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Le Pecq. The area is well downstream of Paris.


Three French female jihadists face possible death penalty in Iraq


PARIS – Three French women who joined the Islamic State group before being captured by Iraqi forces could be facing the death penalty as they await trial in Baghdad, sources close to their cases said.

The women were detained after Iraqi fighters ousted the jihadists from Mosul last July, one source said, confirming a report on RMC radio.

One 28-year-old woman left in 2015 for the group’s “caliphate” stretching over parts of Syria and Iraq along with her husband, who has reportedly been killed.

She is being detained with her daughter, who was born after their arrival.

“We don’t know what exactly she is accused of, what her detention conditions are like and whether she is being allowed the means to defend herself,” said the woman’s lawyer, .

He said he had received “no response” from France’s foreign ministry on the case, for which the Red Cross has been his only source of information.

A second woman, a 27-year-old named as Melina, also left for the region in 2015, and is being held with her baby. Her three older children have been returned to France.

“We expect France, if Melina is sentenced to death, to mobilize with the same intensity it has for other French citizens sentenced to death, in particular Serge Atlaoui,” said her lawyers, William Bourdon and Vincent Brengarth.

French diplomats have waged an intense campaign to free Atlaoui, who is being held in Indonesia and facing the death penalty on drug trafficking charges.

But government officials have said French fighters arrested in Syria and Iraq should be tried there if they can be guaranteed a fair trial.

Defense minister Florence Parly said Sunday that “we can’t be naive” regarding French citizens who left to join IS.

“When they are caught by local authorities, as far as possible they should be tried by these local authorities,” she told France 3 television.

– Children detained –

On Sunday, an Iraqi court condemned a German woman to death by hanging after finding her guilty of belonging to IS, the first such sentence in a case involving a European woman.

In December, an Iraqi-Swedish man was hanged along with 37 others accused of being IS or Al-Qaeda members, despite efforts by Sweden to have the prisoner serve a life sentence instead.

Iraqi authorities have not disclosed how many jihadists are being held prisoner since the counter-offensive that dislodged IS fighters from the country’s urban centers last year.

Around 40 French citizens, both men and women, are currently in detention camps or prisons in Syria and Iraq, including about 20 children, a source close to the matter has said.

On Monday, Parly reiterated that she had “no qualms” regarding the fate of French jihadists, despite requests by some of them to be repatriated.

“These jihadists have never had any qualms about what they’re doing, and I don’t see why we should have any for them,” she said.

Source: Middle East Monitor.



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