How The World Is Reacting To Turkey’s Assault In Syria

Smoke rises from the Syrian town of Tal Abyad after Turkish bombings, in a picture taken from the Turkish side of the border near Akcakale in the Sanliurfa province on October 9, 2019. BULENT KILIC / AFP

 

World governments reacted with concern Wednesday after Turkey launched a military offensive on Kurdish forces in northern Syria, while the UN Security Council plans to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the assault.

Here are some of the initial comments following the start of the attack, called “Operation Peace Spring”.

 ‘Act with restraint’ 

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg urged Turkey to show “restraint”, while acknowledging that Ankara had “legitimate security concerns”.

“It’s important to avoid actions that may further destabilise the region, escalate tensions, and cause more human suffering,” Stoltenberg said at a news conference in Rome, in remarks released by his office.

The UN Security Council’s president, South African ambassador Jerry Matthews Matjila, also appealed to Turkey to “protect civilians” and exercise “maximum restraint”.

 ‘Bad idea’ 

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday called the incursion into northern Syria a “bad idea”.

He insisted Washington “does not endorse this attack”, despite having withdrawn US troops from the area in what was interpreted as a green light for Turkey to assault Kurdish militias previously allied with America.

Earlier this week, Trump said he would “obliterate” Turkey’s economy if it went too far.

The US and the UK also expressed concern over the risk of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region.

 ‘Think carefully’ 

Ahead of the launch of the offensive, Russian President Vladimir Putin urged his Turkish counterpart President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “think carefully” before taking any action “so as not to harm overall efforts to resolve the Syrian crisis,” the presidency said following a phone call between the two leaders.

Erdogan for his part told Putin that the offensive “will contribute to Syria’s peace and stability and ease the path to a political solution”.

 No funding for ‘safe zone’ 

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker demanded a halt to the operation, telling Ankara the bloc would not pay for any so-called “safe zone” that might be created.

He told the European Parliament he recognised Turkey had “security concerns” along the border. But he warned that the military action would not lead to a “good result”, saying a political solution was the only way to end the Syrian conflict.

‘Risk of resurgent IS’ 

Turkey “is willingly risking further destabilising the region and a resurgence of IS” (Islamic State) by attacking northeastern Syria, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said.

“Syria needs stability and a political process… however, the Turkish offensive now threatens to cause a new humanitarian disaster,” Maas said in a statement, adding that Berlin would “urge Turkey to end its offensive and to pursue its security interests peacefully”.

 ‘Must stop’ 

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said the offensive “must stop”.

“It calls into question the security and humanitarian efforts of the coalition against Daesh and risks undermining Europeans’ security,” he said in a tweet, using the Arabic name for the Islamic State (IS) group.

French European Affairs Minister Amelie de Montchalin earlier said France, Germany and Britain were working on a joint declaration “which will be extremely clear on the fact that we very strongly condemn” the Turkish campaign.

 ‘Risks destabilising the region’ 

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab expressed “serious concerns about the unilateral military action that Turkey has taken”.

The action “risks destabilising the region, exacerbating humanitarian suffering, and undermining the progress made against Daesh which should be our collective focus,” he added in a statement.

Ambassador summoned 

Dutch foreign minister Stef Blok said he had summoned Turkey’s ambassador to condemn the assault.

“I call on Turkey not to follow the path it has chosen,” Blok, whose country is a member of the coalition against the Islamic State, said on Twitter.

“No one can benefit from the potentially terrible humanitarian consequences. The operation can trigger new refugee flows and harm the fight against IS and stability in the region.”

 Already struggling population 

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it was “deeply concerned that any escalation in the country’s north-east could harm an already struggling population,” stressing that “the humanitarian space” needs to be preserved”.

AFP

Asia Stocks Slump On Recession Fears

Investors look at stock prices on a screen at a securities company in Beijing on August 15, 2019.  NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP

 

Asian markets sank Thursday after the Dow suffered its worst day of the year as fears of a global recession mounted with investors fleeing equities.

Tokyo’s key Nikkei index nosedived nearly two percent at the open before recovering slightly to finish the morning 1.2 percent down.

The losses followed a dark day on European bourses and on Wall Street, with all three US benchmarks tumbling around three percent and US bond yields plunging as investors deserted stocks for safer Treasury assets.

“The Japanese stock market is sliding against the backdrop of sharp falls in US shares,” Okasan Online Securities said in a note.

“Worries over the US economic recession grew, while negative economic data for China and Germany also prompted investors to downgrade their views on the global economy,” Mizuho Securities added.

The yield on the 10-year US Treasury note briefly slid below the yield on the two-year bond, a so-called “inversion” that has been a reliable harbinger of recession for decades.

Coming on the back of an intensifying US-China trade war that shows no signs of resolution, the flight to bonds signalled the growing fears of a global recession.

“US-China trade tensions have metastasised into something more sinister by affecting global growth to such a large degree that bond markets are pricing-in a high probability of a worldwide recession”, warned Stephen Innes, managing partner at VM Markets.

The trade war has hammered global demand, with Chinese industrial output hitting a 17-year low while investment and retail sales have also slowed in the world’s number two economy.

Weeks of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong have added to the climate of uncertainty, with Beijing referring to the increasingly violent demonstrations as “terrorism”, stoking fears of a Chinese crackdown.

Shanghai and Jakarta fell 0.7 percent while Sydney plummeted more than two percent. Singapore also shed 0.9 percent. But Hong Kong edged up 0.1 percent after opening 1.5 percent down.

‘Risk-toxic environment’

Economists have warned for months that the trade tensions were threatening investment and dampening global sentiment, which is already suffering due to China’s slowdown and fears over Brexit’s impact on Britain and Europe.

The release of German data showing that the Europe’s largest economy contracted in the second quarter did not help matters, with Frankfurt slumping Wednesday to its lowest level since March.

“In this risk-toxic environment, the only thing that could help shift equity sentiment is if the Fed pulls back to back (rate cuts) out of their hat, something the markets are beckoning them to offer up but are unlikely to deliver,” said Innes.

US President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly slammed the Federal Reserve for not cutting interest rates more sharply and frequently, blasted Chair Jerome Powell on Wednesday, calling him “clueless” for being too slow to lower rates.

But some observers wonder whether the Fed and other central banks will be able to do much to avert a downturn as the trade spat deepens.

Key figures around 0300 GMT

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: DOWN 1.2 percent at 20,404.92 (break)

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: UP 0.1 percent at 25,332.01

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 2,790.71

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.1143 from $1.1138 at 2100 GMT

Pound/dollar: DOWN at $1.2053 from $1.2056

Euro/pound: UP at 92.45 pence from 92.38 pence

Dollar/yen: UP at 105.93 yen from 105.78 yen

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 25 cents at $54.98 per barrel

Brent North Sea crude: DOWN 39 cents at $59.09 per barrel

New York – Dow: DOWN 3.1 percent at 25,479.42 (close)

London – FTSE 100: DOWN 1.4 percent at 7,147.88 (close)

Water System Of Medieval German City Gets World Heritage Status

A picture taken on July 3, 2019, shows a view of the waterworks at the Hochablass (High Drain) near the city of Augsburg, southern Germany. CHRISTOF STACHE / AFP

 

 

 

The German city of Augsburg was Saturday granted World Heritage status by UNESCO for its over 800-year-old water management system boasting an aquaduct, water towers, ornate fountains, canals and hundreds of bridges.

The 2,000-year-old city in Bavaria state calls the system which has since the Middle Ages provided clean drinking water and sanitation an “intricate interplay between the innovative spirit and a technical tour de force”.

The old town centre of Augsburg, located on Germany’s Romantic Road, is criss-crossed with canals and boasts over 500 bridges, “more than in Venice”, according to the city.

“The history of water in Augsburg is linked to the cultural and artistic wealth of this city,” Thomas Weitzel, the city’s cultural affairs director, told AFP.

“Augsburg considered water such a precious asset that it has always sought to protect it.”

Augsburg’s resourceful engineers were European forerunners in damming and redirecting river water, from the Lech, Wertach and Singold streams.

Water flowed via an aquaduct and into water towers from 1416, making the waterworks at the city’s Red Gate “the oldest in Germany and also in central Europe”.

The water flowed through hollowed pine logs connected with metal casts to ornamental fountains in the city, including the Mercury and Hercules fountains.

It also entered the city’s butchers house, the Stadtmetzg, where the flowing water helped to cool the meat and dispose of the waste.

Later water power was used for industry, with water wheels driving mills and pumping stations as Augsburg became an early centre of textile and paper production.

With the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the city saw the creation of the first large hydroelectric power plant, at nearby Wolfzahnau.

One of the waterways, the Ice Canal, was designed to keep free floating ice from entering the city, and in 1970 became the world’s first artificially created whitewater canoe course, used for the 1972 Olympics.

AFP

PHOTOS: How The World Celebrated Valentine’s Day

Afghan girls buy gifts during Valentine’s Day in the Shar-e-Naw area of Kabul on February 14, 2019.  WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP

 

February 14 is a day set aside annually to celebrate love as the season connotes.  Valentine’s Day is a time when people show affection and friendship. It is celebrated in many ways worldwide and falls on February 14 each year.

Many people around the world celebrate Valentine’s Day by showing appreciation for the people they love or adore.

Some people take their loved ones for a romantic dinner at a restaurant while others may choose this day to propose or get married. Many people give greeting cards, chocolates, jewellery or flowers, particularly roses, to their partners or admirers on Valentine’s Day.

Across the world, the day was celebrated by many who took out time to show love to their spouses, parents and loved ones.

In Paris, the French capital, most couples still took out time despite the work schedule to celebrate the season.

The situation wasn’t different from Afghanistan, the Philippines, Iraq, Pakistan, Britain, the United States and other countries where Valentine’s day was celebrated in love.

READ ALSO: Florida Remembers School Shooting Victims One Year After

Meanwhile, in India, more than 10,000 schoolchildren, some as young as six, made Valentine’s Day pledge not to marry without their parents’ consent.

The vast majority of Indian marriages are arranged by families and couples who defy tradition to marry outside caste and religion face a severe and sometimes deadly backlash.

Some 10,000 pupils aged six to 17 and even some teachers took a vow at 25 schools to “love and respect their parents till eternity” in the western state of Gujarat — the stronghold of Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“I will always respect their decision because no one in the world has sacrificed for me like them,” said student Samadrita Banerjee.

People in swiftly-changing but still largely conservative India also often frown upon unmarried couples who can find themselves being abused and harassed in public places.

Elsewhere, a school association in the southern state of Karnataka alerted teachers and parents to ensure children did not celebrate Valentine’s Day by bunking classes to go to shopping malls or the movies, The Times of India newspaper reported.

SEE PHOTOS BELOW:

Ousted FIFA Executive Warner Rejoices In U.S. World Cup Flop

fifa former vice president, jack warner
Jack Warner

Disgraced former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, the Trinidad businessman banned for life from football after charges in a US corruption investigation, was joyful at the Americans ouster from the 2018 World Cup.

“I wanted to party,” Warner said in a Trinidad radio interview, according to a story on the Trinidad Express newspaper website. “I have not been in better spirits. This is the happiest day of my life.”

Warner, a former president of North American regional football group CONCACAF, was charged with wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering in a major US scandal that led to changes at FIFA and his being banned in September of last year.

So when the US squad lost 2-1 at Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday and were undone when Panama and Honduras took victories to pass them on the final table, Warner had a feeling of payback.

Warner said the Americans “reduced football in CONCACAF to a nightmare. They have used their government to help to dismember FIFA in a way that is unimaginable. And last night on the field of play Trinidad and Tobago reduced them to their knees.”

“For me personally, it has reduced the US to a laughingstock… As far as I am concerned this is the beginning of the end for US football. Nobody in CONCACAF likes the US.”

Warner said he knew there was celebration in the United States at his downfall from football and took pleasure in seeing the US disappointing flop, the Americans missing out on their first World Cup since 1986.

“Last September 27 when the judge ruled against Jack Warner there was a party in the US, they were quite happy,” Warner said.

“Knowing that this has happened I wanted to go out and party as they partied last September when a judge ruled against me. I wanted to party. This was my personal feeling.”

AFP

ECOWAS Members Meet To Deliberate On Proliferation Of Small Arms

ecowasThe Chairpersons of National Commissions on Small Arms of ECOWAS Member States met in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, to deliberate and come up with dynamic approach towards the elimination of the illicit flow of Small Arms among member states.

Declaring the 3-day workshop open, Deputy Governor of Cross River State, Professor Evara Esu, maintained that the proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons (SALW) among ECOWAS States have created a dangerous global situation in terms of rapid development.

According to him, the Nigerian government, through the Presidential Committee on Small Arms and Light Weapons, should be committed to ensuring that it collectively dismantles the template from which the problems of insecurity are drawing support.

He averred that it is more noteworthy for political and diplomatic means to be used to resolve conflict and efforts stepped up for peacekeeping, so as to stop the illicit trade at the root.

The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of the ECOWAS Commission, Salamatu Suleiman, believes Small Arms Proliferation still remains a challenge as demonstrated in the Sahel and in Northern Nigeria through the activities of terrorists and illegal armed groups.

Suleiman sued for the government’s support towards ensuring adequate security at the borders, which according to her, presently allows easy accessibility of dangerous military style weapons to non-state actors.

Amosun Preaches Harmony At Easter

amosunThe Ogun State Governor, Ibikunle Amosun, joined millions of Christians around the world to observe the Easter season, stressing the need for harmony among Nigerians.

In a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media, Mrs Olufunmilayo Wakama, Governor Amosun stressed the need for harmony in the quest for a new Nigeria, irrespective of ethnic, political and religious affiliations.

He said that “the period is symbolic for us as a nation, having recently elected a new President”.

“As we commemorate the resurrection of Christ, I see a new Nigeria under the leadership of the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari and I urge all well meaning Nigerians to join hands with him to bring about accelerated socio-economic progress,” he said.

The governor urged all Christians and Nigerians to ponder over the supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and take a cue from His selflessness, by eschewing all forms of political, social and religious vices.

Governor Amosun prayed for God’s guidance and blessings for the leadership of Buhari and continuity in Ogun State, as Nigerians go to the polls to choose their representatives in the forthcoming Gubernatorial and State House of Assembly elections.

Amosun also wished everyone a blessed celebration.

BBOG Campaigners Seek Chibok Girls’ Release, Rehabilitation By March 2016

chibok girlsAs Nigeria joins the world to celebrate Mother’s Day, the ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ Campaigners (BBOGC) have asked the Federal Government to ensure that the abducted Chibok girls are rescued and rehabilitated before March 2016.

As they continue their daily sit-out in Abuja, the nation’s capital, convener of the group, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili, said that the government should not pay lip service over the fate of the Chibok girls, as the world has joined in calling for their safe return.

Dr. Ezekwesili noted that the mothers of the Chibok girls, having borne huge agony for almost a year, are asking questions on whether or not the government is close to winning the fight to free the girls from their abductors.

The Bring Back Our Girls Campaigners (BBOGC) had, on February 14, launched a formal six weeks count-down for the rescue of the abducted Chibok girls who have been in captivity since April 2014.

According to the group, the countdown would help them monitor the activities of the multinational forces towards the eradication of the insurgents and the rescue of the Chibok girls from their captors.

The group have since continued to express confidence in government’s ability to restore security in the north east and rescue the schoolgirls.

BET Awards: Beyonce, Pharrell, Davido, Nicki Minaj Win Big

BEETThe 2014 BET Awards held on Sunday night, June 29 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

African stars and media including Tiwa Savage, Mafikozolo, Ice Prince, Stephanie Coker and Gbemi Olateru-Olagbegi were at the event.

Nigerian music star, Davido won the Best International Act-Africa.

The night’s big winner was Beyonce. The pop superstar got three awards, including the 2014 FAN-demonium award, voted on by viewers. Pharrell Williams and August Alsina also had a happy night, taking home two awards apiece.

Nicki Minaj won for Best Female Hip Hop Star, and in her acceptance speech, she praised herself as a hip-hop star that doesn’t have someone writing for her, an apparent dig at Iggy Azalea. Drake beat out Jay Z for Best Male Hip Hop star.

12 Years a Slave was chosen as Best Movie, with the film’s stars, Lupita Nyong’o and Chiwetel Ejiofor, taking home acting awards. Lionel Richie was honored as the Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

One memorable moment of the night was Kevin Hart interrupting presenter, Kerry Washington and referring to himself as “Oliver Pope,” a reference to Washington’s Scandal character, Olivia Pope.

Full list of winners below… 

Best Male R&B/Pop Artist: Pharrell Williams

Best Group: Young Money

Best Male Hip Hop Artist: Drake

Video Of The Year: Pharrell Williams

Best New Artist: August Alsina

Best Actor: Chiwetel Ejiofor

Best Movie: 12 Years A Slave

Sportsman Of The Year: Kevin Durant

Best International Act UK: Krept And Konan

Viewers’ Choice Award: August Alsina

Best Female R&B/Pop Artist: Beyonce

Best Collaboration: Beyonce And Jay Z

Best Female Hip Hop Artist: Nicki Minaj

Video Director Of The Year: Hype Williams

Best Gospel Artist: Tamela Mann

Best Actress: Lupita Nyong’o

Youngstars Award: Keke Palmer

Sportswoman Of The Year: Serena Williams

Best International Act Africa: Davido

Centric Award: Jhene Aiko

Security Forces Storm Pro-Mursi Town Near Cairo To Reassert Control

Security forces and militants fought gun battles on Thursday during a government operation to wrest back control of a town near Cairo dominated by Islamist supporters of ousted President Mohamed Mursi.

A police general was killed by gunfire and at least nine policemen and soldiers were wounded by a hand grenade in the clashes in Kerdasa, 14 km (9 miles) from the capital.

Dozens of police and army vehicles entered the town at daybreak but met resistance from gunmen.

It was the second operation this week to restore control over areas where Islamist sympathies run deep and hostility to the authorities has grown since the army overthrew the Islamist Mursi on July 3.

Eleven police officers were killed in an attack on Kerdasa’s main police station on August 14. The building was hit with rocket-propelled grenades and torched after police had stormed pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo that day and killed hundreds of his supporters.

There had been little or no sign of state authority in Kerdasa since then.

“The security forces will not retreat until Kerdasa is cleansed of all terrorist and criminal nests,” Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif told state media at the start of the operation.

MENA state news agency said 65 people had been arrested so far, quoting a security source. Dozens of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, had been seized, security sources said.

At the start of the raid, security forces in body armor and armed with automatic rifles fanned out in the town. Army checkpoints were set up at its entrances and militants set fire to tires to obstruct the operation.

Heavy gunfire was heard in a village near Kerdasa as police chased a group of men into side streets, television footage showed.

State television showed around a dozen residents dragging a man towards an army checkpoint, yelling “We caught one”. After handing him over to soldiers, they chanted “the army and the people are one hand”.

They said he had been caught in a car with weapons.

The television showed two men cowering in a van crying as policemen stood by, and a bearded man with his hands raised being led out of a building by police.

It also showed policemen entering buildings and courtyards with rifles raised and pointing them at windows. Helicopters hovered over the deserted streets.

ATTACKS INCREASING

Militant attacks have been on the rise since the overthrow of Mursi, Egypt’s first freely-elected president.

The army-installed authorities have launched a crackdown, saying they are in a new war on terror against the Islamists. State media have labeled the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that propelled Mursi to power last year, as an enemy of the state.

In a similar operation earlier this week, the security forces moved into the town of Delga in the southern province of Minya – another area known for Islamist sympathies and a major theatre for an insurrection waged by Islamists in the 1990s.

The army is also mounting an operation in the Sinai Peninsula against al Qaeda-inspired groups. Shootings and bomb attacks have also taken place in the Nile Valley – two members of the armed forces were shot dead in the Nile Delta on Tuesday.

In Cairo on Thursday, explosives experts defused two primitive bombs on the metro public transport system.

The August 14 attack on Kerdasa’s police station was triggered by the security forces’ assault on the pro-Mursi protest camps in Cairo that same day.

In a spasm of violence, more than 100 members of the security forces were killed as well as the hundreds of Mursi supporters, and a spate of attacks targeted the Coptic Christian community.

Mass arrests have netted at least 2,000 people, mostly Mursi supporters, since his overthrow. The former president and many Brotherhood leaders have been jailed on charges of inciting violence.

Egypt has been in a state of emergency since August 14 and large parts of the country remain under a nighttime curfew. The government on Thursday shortened the hours of the curfew to start at midnight instead of 11 p.m. from Saturday. It will still start at 7 p.m. on Fridays, traditionally a day of protest.

A pro-Mursi alliance, the National Coalition to Support Legitimacy, called for nationwide protests to take place on Friday under the banner “The youth are the pillar of the revolution”.

Indian Rupee Falls To A Record Low Against The Dollar

Currency dealer, MumbaiThe Indian rupee has hit a record low against the dollar despite recent efforts to prop-up the currency. On Wednesday India’s central bank put further restrictions on the amount of money that companies and individuals can send out of the country.

That had little impact and the rupee fell to 62.03 to the dollar, below its previous low of 61.80 hit on 6 August. Overseas investors have been pulling money out of Indian shares and debt on concerns over the economy.

According to official data, international investors have withdrawn $11.58bn in shares and debt from India’s markets since the beginning of June.

India’s economy had been growing at a fast clip, reaching annual growth of 9%. In recent months, it has seen a sharp decline largely because of a slowdown in its manufacturing and services sectors.

“There is a complete lack of faith in the markets. There are fears that the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) measures may not help improve the rupee,” said Param Sarma, chief executive with NSP Forex.

Indian authorities are concerned that the weak rupee is stoking inflation.The nation relies on imports of crude oil, chemicals and some foodstuffs, which are priced in dollars.

The weak rupee makes those more expensive, a cost that is eventually handed on to the consumer.

In July, India’s main gauge of inflation, the Wholesale Price Index, was 5.79% higher than a year earlier, up from 4.86% in June

Madagascar Postpones Presidential Election Again

Madagascar postponed a presidential election, the government said on Thursday, further delaying a vote that the president promised to hold shortly after seizing power in 2009.

The decision to put the vote back a month to Aug. 23 came after the electoral commission said it could not hold the ballot because foreign donors had suspended financing due to President Andry Rajoelina’s volte-face on a promise not to run.

Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana, the man he unseated from power, both bowed to regional pressure in January and agreed not to run in the election. The African Union said it would not recognise either as president if they won.

But Rajoelina said in May the deal was broken when Ravalomanana’s wife, Lalao, said she would run.

Ravalomanana’s allies said they wanted the election to go ahead as scheduled.

“But some people always find a way to upset the election calendar in order to prolong the situation for their own benefit,” said Senate Vice President Hanitra Razafimanantsoa, a Ravalomanana supporter.

She did not say whether Lalao Ravalomanana should drop her plan to run for president.

Madagascar’s finance minister told Reuters last month that prolonged political uncertainty risked slowing the Indian Ocean island’s economic recovery from the 2009 turmoil that deterred foreign investors and tourists.