Migrant Crisis: Turkish, EU Leaders Hold Talks In Brussels

Migrants-crisisTurkish and EU leaders are in Brussels for an emergency summit on tackling Europe’s migrant crisis.

The EU aims to stem the flow of migrants and plans to declare the route north through the Balkans closed.

It will press Turkey to take back economic migrants and has pledged to give Ankara €3 billion (£2.3 billion; $3.3 billion).

Last year, more than a million people entered the EU illegally by boat, mainly going from Turkey to Greece, causing the worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

Some 13,000 are stranded on Greece’s border with Macedonia.

The BBC reports that the EU states remain divided over their response to the crisis with strains showing this year even in Germany and Sweden, seen as the countries most open to refugees.

Anti-migrant parties won a general election in Slovakia on Saturday which saw the far right gaining seats.

Migrants Continue to Arrive

German Chancellor, Angela Merkel and Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, met their Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, at the Turkish embassy in Brussels late on Sunday to prepare for the summit.

The summit will be in two parts – the first session will involve Turkey, while the afternoon meeting will be of EU leaders seeking to reach a common approach to the crisis.

The EU is expected to ask Turkey to take back thousands of migrants who do not qualify for asylum. In return the EU will discuss plans to resettle in Europe some refugees already in Turkey.

Some of the stranded migrants told BBC that they would commit suicide if asked to return to Turkey.

More than 2,000 migrants continue to arrive daily in Greece from Turkey.

Syria Hospital Attacks Constitute War Crimes – Turkey

syriaA day after airstrikes brought down two hospitals in Syria, France and Turkey say the horrific attacks which killed several people constitutes war crimes.

The United Nations says up to 50 people have been killed in missile attacks on schools and hospitals in the region.

Turkey’s foreign ministry blames Russia for the attacks but Moscow is yet to respond to the allegations.

Meanwhile, Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad, has cast doubt over plans to implement a “cessation of hostilities” in Syria.

Last week world powers agreed to work towards a selective truce in Syria, to begin later this week.

But in his first comments on the announcement, President Assad says such a ceasefire does not mean all the parties will put down their weapons.

Syria Hospitals Hit: At Least 22 Dead, 8 Missing

Syria hospitalTwo hospitals and a school building in northern Syria have been struck on Monday morning, leaving at least 22 people dead, and eight others missing.

Fifteen people were killed when a hospital and a school building that was housing displaced people were struck in Azaz, in Syria’s Aleppo province.

A hospital employee known as Moudhar told CNN that staff were evacuating the wounded after the first strike on the Women and Children’s Hospital when the complex and road were struck again. Women and children were among the dead, he said.

Another projectile hit a nearby school building housing displaced people, he added.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the strikes.

Speaking in Kiev, Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, claimed Russia was responsible for the strikes in Azaz, which is close to the Turkish border. He also claimed Moscow had targeted the complex with ballistic missiles fired from the Caspian Sea.

The Kurdish anti-government forces had advanced from the west and have been fighting anti-government insurgents on the Of town, only a few kilometers away from the main Bab al Salam border crossing. The Syrian Army is advancing from the south.

Both the Kurds and the Army want to wrest control of that stretch of border with Turkey from the insurgents.

Russian bombing raids on rebel fighters are helping the Syrian Army to advance toward Aleppo, the country’s largest city and commercial center before the conflict. If the Army takes the city, it would be the Syrian government’s biggest victory of the war.

Turkey Bombs PKK In Northern Iraq

turkey bombs PKK in northern iraqA wave of air strikes have been launched by Turkey on Kurdish PKK rebel base in retaliation to the deadly attack on its army.

For six hours on Tuesday morning, dozens of jets, bombed the Kurdish PKK rebel bases in northern Iraq.

In the midst of the bombardment, a further attack on a police minibus on Tuesday claimed at least 12 lives.

PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) rebels targeted the vehicle, as it was heading towards a border post close to the Azerbaijan-run enclave of Nakhchivan, reports said.

The surge in violence follows the collapse of a ceasefire in July between the army and the PKK.

The Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has pledged to “wipe out” the rebel strongholds no matter what.

At least 16 Turkish soldiers died in Hakkari province after the group launched an attack on Sunday.

The truce, which began in 2013, unravelled after a suicide bombing by suspected Islamic State militants near the border with Syria led to mutual recriminations between Kurdish groups and Turkey.

ISIS Crisis: Nato Holds Emergency Meeting

Nato on ISISAmbassadors from 28 Nato countries are holding an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss Turkey’s military campaign against the Islamic State and Kurdish militants.

Turkey was a reluctant partner in the U.S. coalition against ISIS, but over the past few days, it had bombed ISIS and Kurdish positions.

Turkey is also backing plans for a buffer zone on the border with Syria.

Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said that he expected his country’s allies to show solidarity and support for its campaign.

The U.S. and Turkey are working together on plans to create an “ISIS-free zone” along the border with Syria.

Meanwhile, Turkish police have continued to arrest suspected members of  the ISIS, PKK and leftist groups.

They have, however, arrested more than 1,000 suspects  over the past week.

Turkey’s Air Force Attacks ISIS and PKK in Syria, Iraq

turkeyTurkey Air Force jets have carried out fresh attack against the jihadists positions in Syria and northern Iraq in a bid to renew onslaught against ISIS.

The statement was made by the Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu.

The Turkish PM’s office had said their fighter jets bombed seven militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in Northern Iraq.

Turkey also launched simultaneous ground attacks against the PKK and Islamic State in northern Syria, Reuters said.

Mr Davutoglu added: “Strikes were carried out on targets of the Daesh (Islamic State) terror group in Syria and the PKK terror group in northern Iraq”.

The Prime Minister told reporters that some 590 suspected members of ISIS and PKK and other militant groups had been arrested in raids across Turkey that began on Friday.

The statement came after the bomb attack in Turkey by ISIS that killed 32 people in Suruc.

A Turkish government statement on Saturday said that Turkey is determined to take every step to ensure its peace and security.

Turkey arrested hundreds of its supporters on Friday and said it would let the US use a key airbase to attack is targets.

Armenia Marks Centenary Of Ottoman Forces Mass Killing

ArmeniaCeremonies are being held in Armenia to mark the centenary of the massacre of up to 1.5 million of Armenians allegedly killed by Ottoman forces.

The Presidents of France, Francois Hollande and Russia,Vladimir Putin, joined other leaders at the memorial for the victims on the outskirts of the capital, Yerevan.

Armenia said up to 1.5 million people died, a figure disputed by Turkey.

Armenian President, Serzh Sarkisian and First Lady, Rita Sarkisian, laid a wreath at a hilltop memorial at the start of a solemn ceremony, commemorating the mass killings that began in 1915 during World War 1.

President Sarkisian expressed hope that recent steps to recognise the massacre as genocide would help “dispel the darkness of 100 years of denial”.

Each foreign diplomat held a yellow rose to put into the wreath laid at the foot of a monumental 44-metre needle, symbolising the nation’s rebirth.

Trying To Divert World Attention

Turkey strongly objects to the use of the term genocide to describe the killings and the issue has soured relations between the nations.

Turkey accepts that atrocities were committed but argues there was no systematic attempt to destroy the Christian Armenian people. Turkey said many innocent Muslim Turks also died in the turmoil of war.

A memorial service will also be held in Turkey on Friday and its prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has said the country will “share the pain” of Armenians. But he reiterated Turkey’s stance that the killings were not genocide.

Turkey is also hosting ceremonies on Friday to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gallipoli.

However, the actual fighting there began on 25 April, and  President  Sarkisian has accused Turkey of “trying to divert world attention” from the Yerevan commemorations.

CCTV Footage Shows Paris Attack Suspect In Turkey

Suspects Wanted In Connection With Paris Terrorist Attacks French police have gotten hold of CCTV footage, purportedly showing the partner of the supermarket attacker in Paris, Amedy Coulibaly, in Turkey.

Hayat Boumeddiene was seen passing through passport control at the airport.

Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, said she had arrived on January 2, before continuing to Syria six days later.

Boumeddiene’s partner, Coulibaly, had killed four people at a Kosher supermarket in eastern Paris on Friday before police stormed the building.

He is also believed to have shot dead a policewoman the day before.

Turkey said it had not been asked to deny her access, as they need to receive intelligence first before tracking people.

Turkish Prime Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said; “Is it Turkey’s fault that it has borders with Syria?”

This comes as France announced on Monday that it would be deploying 10,000 policemen to protect synagogues and mosques, and other sensitive areas, to boost security following last week’s attacks.

After Bombings,Turkey Says World Must Act Against Syria

Turkey accused a group with links to Syrian intelligence of carrying out car bombings that killed 46 people in a Turkish border town, and said on Sunday it was time for the world to act against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The two car bombs, which ripped through crowded shopping streets in Reyhanli on Saturday, increased fears that Syria’s civil war is dragging in neighboring states, despite renewed diplomatic moves to end it.

Damascus denied involvement, but Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said those behind the attacks were from an “old Marxist terrorist organization” with ties to Assad’s administration.

“It is time for the international community to act together against this regime,” he told a news conference during a visit to Berlin.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech broadcast later on Turkish television: “We will not lose our calm heads, we will not depart common sense, and we will not fall into the trap they’re trying to push us into.”

But he added: “Whoever targets Turkey will sooner or later pay the price.”

NATO-member Turkey has fired back at Syrian government forces when mortars have landed on its soil, but despite its strong words has appeared reluctant to bring its considerable military might to bear in the conflict.

It is struggling to cope with more than 300,000 refugees but is not alone in fearing the impact of Syria’s war, which is stirring the Middle East’s cauldron of sectarian, religious and nationalist struggles.

“We, like Jordan, are hosting hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Security risks to neighboring countries are rising,” Davutoglu said.

Diplomatic Efforts

The bombings took place as prospects appeared to improve for diplomacy to try to end the war, after Moscow and Washington announced a joint effort to bring government and rebels to an international conference.

Officials from Syria’s opposition coalition, in crisis since its president resigned in March, said it would meet in Istanbul on May 23 to decide whether to participate.

A Syrian opposition group said the toll from two years of civil war had risen to at least 82,000 dead and 12,500 missing.

Syrian Information Minister Omran Zubi, speaking on state TV, held Turkey responsible for the bloodshed in Syria by aiding al Qaeda-led rebels. He said Damascus had no hand in Saturday’s bombings.

“Syria did not and will never do such a act because our values do not allow this. It is not anyone’s right to hurl unfounded accusations,” he said.

Authorities have arrested nine people, all Turkish citizens and including the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Turkey’s deputy prime minister Besir Atalay told reporters.

Interior Minister Muammer Guler said the bombings – the deadliest incident on Turkish soil since Syria’s war began – were carried out by a group with direct links to Syria’s Mukhabarat intelligence agency.

The blasts scattered concrete blocks and smashed cars as far as three streets away.

Local Anger

There was a heavy police and military presence on Sunday in Reyhanli, where security forces cordoned off both blast sites while bulldozers shifted the rubble and shattered glass.

Men stood loitering around the town, looking on and discussing, often heatedly, the previous day’s events.

There was palpable anger against the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees in the town, which has become a logistics base for the rebels fighting Assad just over the border.

As the conflict has dragged on, local people have grown increasingly resentful over stretched economic resources and the violence being brought to their door.

Some smashed Syrian car windows, and others railed against Turkey’s foreign policy.

“We don’t want the Syrians here any more. They can’t stay here. Whether we even wanted them or not, they can’t stay after this,” said a teacher in Reyhanli, who gave his name as Mustafa.

He said the prime minister’s Syria policy was to blame.

“It’s Tayyip Erdogan’s politics that have done this. Turkey should never have got involved in this mess. We have a 900-km (550-mile) border with Syria. They come and go in wherever they like. Everyone here is in fear.”

Syrian families stayed inside their homes on Sunday, too afraid to come out.

Sunni-Shitte Tensions

Davutoglu said the Reyhanli bombers were believed to be from the same group that carried out an attack on the Syrian coastal town of Banias a week ago in which at least 62 people were killed.

Syria’s conflict has fuelled confrontation across the region between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, with Shi’ite Iran supporting Assad, and Sunni powers like Saudi Arabia backing the rebels.

Israel launched air strikes a week ago, aimed at stopping Iranian missiles near Damascus from reaching Tehran’s Lebanese allies Hezbollah for possible use against the Jewish state.

Days later, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said his forces would support any Syrian effort to recapture the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, raising the prospect of renewed conflict after decades of calm on that border.

In a separate development on Sunday, Syrian rebels freed four Filipino U.N. peacekeepers whom they had captured on the ceasefire line between Syria and the Golan last week.