Archive for May, 2020


March 09, 2019

LONDON (AP) — British Home Secretary Sajid Javid faced criticism Saturday after the death of a U.K. teenager’s baby in a Syrian camp. Shamima Begum, who had left London as a 15-year-old in 2015 to join the Islamic State group, had pleaded with British authorities before her baby was born to let her return to Britain to raise the child.

But Javid revoked her passport, saying Begum hadn’t shown any remorse. The teen had told newspaper reporters she didn’t have a problem with IS actions, including the beheading of captives. Begum’s infant son died Friday. Begum’s family said the boy appeared to be in good health when he was born on Feb. 17. No clear cause of death has yet been given, but reports suggested he was having respiratory problems.

Fellow Conservative Party lawmaker Phillip Lee said Saturday he was “deeply concerned” by Javid’s handling of the case, suggesting he had taken a hard line in order to please populists. He said it was clear 19-year-old Begum “holds abhorrent views,” but called her a child who was a product of British society. Britain had a moral duty to her and to her baby, he said.

When Begum first started speaking to reporters more than three weeks ago, she said the first two children she had given birth to since joining the extremist group had died of malnutrition and other ailments. She said she wanted to come home so she didn’t lose another child.

Her predicament sparked a national debate on how the U.K. should handle Britons who had joined the extremists and now seek to return because IS has lost its territory in Syria and Iraq. The challenge faces other European countries as the final IS stronghold in Syria is on the brink of falling, giving its fighters and their often youthful spouses no place left to hide.

U.S. President Donald Trump weighed in on the matter last month, saying European countries have a responsibility to take back and put on trial about 800 IS fighters who have been captured by U.S.-backed forces in Syria.

Begum is married to a Dutch national who joined IS extremists and has since been taken into custody. He said last week that he wanted to be able to live in the Netherlands with his wife and newborn son, who is now dead.

Kirsty McNeill, a director at Save the Children UK, said Britain should “take responsibility for their citizens” in Syria to prevent further unnecessary losses. “It is possible the death of this baby boy and others could have been avoided,” she said.

Javid didn’t comment directly on the baby’s death. A government spokesman said “the death of any child is tragic” and reiterated the British government’s advice that citizens avoid travel to Syria.

May 24, 2020

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s health minister on Sunday announced 32 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death to in the country to 4,340. Fahrettin Koca also tweeted there were 1,141 new infections confirmed in the past 24 hours. The total number of infections has reached 156,827.

Turkey ranks ninth in a global tally by Johns Hopkins University but experts believe the number of infections could be much higher than reported.More than 118,000 people have recovered, according to the health ministry statistics.

The Muslim holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, traditionally a time of gathering, was marked by a nationwide lockdown, the first of its kind in Turkey to combat the coronavirus. Previous weekend and holiday lockdowns affected a maximum of 31 out of 81 provinces.

Senior citizens above 65 were allowed out for a few hours for a third Sunday. People under 20 and above 65 have been under full lockdown, but days and times outside have been allotted according to age groups as part of easing efforts.

May 17, 2020

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s senior citizens were allowed to leave their homes for a second time as the country continues to ease some coronavirus restrictions. People above 65 —the age group most at risk of developing serious COVID-19 symptoms— can be outside for six hours Sunday, but their lockdown on other days continues. The health minister urged them to wear masks and practice social distancing.

Turkey has instituted partial lockdowns with people above 65 and under 20, who are ordered to stay at home. The measure towards senior citizens came into force on March 21 and were relaxed for the first time last week.

Children and teenagers were also allowed out this week on different days for several hours. The latest statistics by the health ministry put confirmed infections at 148,067 and the death toll at 4,096.

May 15, 2020

BRUSSELS (AP) — Jordan’s king warned Israel of a “massive conflict” if it proceeds with plans to annex large parts of the occupied West Bank, as European Union foreign ministers agreed on Friday to step up diplomatic efforts to try to head off such a move.

Israel has vowed to annex Jewish settlements and the Jordan Valley, which could spell the end of the long-stalled peace process by making it virtually impossible to establish a viable Palestinian state. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has moved a step closer by reaching an agreement to form a government after more than a year of political deadlock.

President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan, which overwhelmingly favors Israel and was rejected by the Palestinians, gave a green light to annexation, but most of the rest of the international community is strongly opposed.

“Leaders who advocate a one-state solution do not understand what that would mean,” Jordan’s King Abdullah II said in an interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel published Friday. “What would happen if the Palestinian National Authority collapsed? There would be more chaos and extremism in the region. If Israel really annexed the West Bank in July, it would lead to a massive conflict with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan,” he said.

Jordan is a close Western ally and one of only two Arab states to have signed a peace treaty with Israel. Abdullah declined to say whether annexation would threaten that agreement. “I don’t want to make threats and create an atmosphere of loggerheads, but we are considering all options. We agree with many countries in Europe and the international community that the law of strength should not apply in the Middle East,” he said.

At a video-conference, EU foreign ministers reaffirmed their support for a two-state solution and opposition to any annexation. The ministers, whose countries are deeply divided in their approach to Israel, agreed to ramp up diplomatic efforts in coming days with Israel, the Palestinians, the United States and Arab countries.

“We reaffirm our position in support of a negotiated, two-state solution. For this to be possible, unilateral action from either side should be avoided and, for sure, international law should be upheld,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said after chairing the meeting.

“We must work to discourage any possible initiative toward annexation,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels. “International law has to be upheld. Here, and there, and everywhere.” He made no mention of the use of sanctions, saying only that the EU will use “all our diplomatic capacities in order to prevent any kind of unilateral action.”

The ministers had planned to welcome the formation of a new Israeli government and offer the bloc’s cooperation, but Netanyahu and his rival-turned-partner, Benny Gantz, have postponed the swearing-in of their controversial new Cabinet as the Israeli leader tries to quell infighting within his Likud party.

The ceremony, originally scheduled for Thursday, is now planned for Sunday to give Netanyahu more time to hand out coveted Cabinet appointments to members of his party. Their coalition agreement allows him to present an annexation proposal as soon as July 1.

The EU has long been committed to a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, with the possibility of mutually agreed land-swaps. Israel seized east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war. The Palestinians want all three to form their future state.

The bloc has already rejected Trump’s Mideast plan, which would allow Israel to annex about a third of the West Bank, leaving the Palestinians with heavily conditioned statehood in scattered territorial enclaves surrounded by Israel.

“In our opinion, an annexation is not compatible with international law,” German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Friday. “From our point of view, changes to borders must, if at all, be the result of negotiations and happen in agreement between both sides.”

Jordan has been lobbying the EU to take “practical steps” to make sure annexation doesn’t happen. In a statement, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi “stressed the need for the international community and the European Union in particular to take practical steps that reflect the rejection of any Israeli decision to annex.”

Associated Press writers Geir Moulson in Berlin and Joseph Krauss in Jerusalem contributed to this report.

May 16, 2020

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey’s health ministry says 41 more people have died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 4,096. The death rate is the lowest registered since the end of March.

Minister Fahrettin Koca also tweeted Saturday that 1,610 new infections were confirmed, which makes the total number of cases 148,067 in the nation of 82 million people. More than 108,000 people have recovered, according to the statistics.

Fifteen provinces, including Istanbul, are on a four-day lockdown. The country has instituted partial lockdowns to combat the novel coronavirus. People under 20 and above 65 have been stuck at home for weeks though they are now allowed to leave for a few hours on allotted days.

Other easing measures have gone into effect, including the opening of malls, barbershops and hair dressers. The number of provinces under lockdown on weekends and national holidays has dropped from 31 to 15.

Also Saturday, Turkey’s Tourism Minister Mehmet Nuri Ersoy told private broadcaster NTV he hoped for domestic tourism to begin after May 28 if COVID-19 statistics continue on a downward trend.

May 13, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Parks filled with the sound of children on Wednesday as Turkey allowed kids ages 14 and under to leave homes for the first time in 40 days. The country’s youngest population were allowed to venture out for four hours between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. as Turkey eased some restrictions in place to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Youngsters between the ages of 15 and 20 will be able to leave homes for a few hours on Friday, while senior citizens were briefly allowed out for the first time in seven weeks on May 10.

In the capital Ankara’s main park, Kugulu Park (or Swan Park), young children wearing masks took turns going down slides and on swings. An adjacent street teemed with people and police called on the public to abide by social distancing practices.

“The weather is beautiful. This was a great opportunity because we were so bored at home,” said Zeyda Ozdemir, who brought her 8-year-old daughter, Zeynep, to the park. She added, however, that she felt “a little uneasy” because the park was more crowded than she had hoped it would be.

In the city’s Birlik Mahallesi neighborhood, two children were seen riding their scooters up and down a street while a voice from a loudspeaker on the top of the minaret of a nearby mosque called on the public not to be “fooled by the arrival of spring and good weather.”

“The danger of infection is not over yet,” the announcement said. The government set forth a “normalization plan” as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases have dropped, but warned of tougher measures if infections go up again. Malls, hairdressers, barber shops and hair salons were allowed to open Monday.

Meanwhile, a lawyer told The Associated Press that he has filed a lawsuit against China on behalf of a private company that is seeking compensation from the country for financial losses suffered because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Lawyer Melih Akkurt said the company was forced to suspend operations during lockdowns. It is the first commercial lawsuit in Turkey against China, where the coronavirus pandemic began, Akkurt said. The lawyer wouldn’t name the company, saying it wanted to remain anonymous. Other companies were preparing to file similar lawsuits, he said.

The lawsuit holds China responsible for economic losses, accusing it of among other things, failing to provide timely and accurate data to the World Health Organization, of concealing information on the virus’ infectiousness, of silencing doctors and not preventing its spread.

“My client believes there was intent rather than negligence by China,” Akkurt said. China rejects accusations of a cover-up or of not responding to the outbreak in a timely manner. Turkey has recorded more than 140,000 cases of the virus and nearly 4,000 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to a tally by John Hopkins University. The true number is likely much higher because many people haven’t been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without displaying symptoms.

April 28, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey has dispatched a planeload of personal protective equipment to support the United States as it grapples with the coronavirus outbreak. A Turkish military cargo carrying the medical equipment took off from an air base near the capital Ankara on Tuesday, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. It was scheduled to land at Andrews Air Force Base near Washington later in the day.

A top official said Turkey is donating 500,000 surgical masks, 4,000 overalls, 2,000 liters (528 gallons) of disinfectant, 1,500 goggles, 400 N-95 masks and 500 face shields. Turkey has sent similar medical equipment aid to a total of 55 countries — including Britain, Italy and Spain — in an apparent attempt to improve its global standing by positioning itself as a provider of humanitarian aid in times of crisis.

“We pledge to help our friends and allies in need to the best of our ability and stand in solidarity with nations around the world at this difficult time,” said Fahrettin Altun, the presidential communications director.

The U.S. ambassador to Turkey, David Satterfield, issued a statement thanking Ankara for the donation. “During times of crisis, like the worldwide effort to combat COVID-19, close coordination among like-minded allies and partners is key to developing a swift and effective response. None of us can do this alone.”

He said: “On behalf of the U.S. Government, I want to thank our NATO Ally Turkey for today’s generous donation of medical supplies and other essential equipment.” Satterfield said the equipment would be “received and managed” by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.