Category: Europe

news from Europe

New Reports Highlight Russia’s Deep-Seated Culture of Corruption

New reports from Transparency International and the Russian Academy of Sciences on education highlight a pervasive culture of corruption in Russia that persists despite efforts by the government and opposition activists.The country scored 137th out of 180 countries in the FILE – Students walk outside the main building of Moscow State University, in Moscow, Russia, Feb. 10, 2015.According to FILE – Russian President Vladimir Putin (C) speaks during an annual televised call-in show in Moscow, Russia, June 20, 2019.”Where does the money go? To public revenue, to be sure,” Putin added when asked about common bribes. “Of course, officials, and representatives of law enforcement in particular,” he added.While corruption’s full economic effects are difficult to calculate, conservative government estimates put the cost of corruption at $2.5 billion from 2014 to 2017.Entrepreneur’s Rights Commissioner Boris Titov has labeled the issue the “biggest problem” facing Russian entrepreneurial growth.Yet Putin has insisted harsher punishments and “uncompromising efforts” are changing the tide.Among Putin measures lauded by outside experts are e-governance efforts and a public blacklist of government officials fired over a “loss of confidence.”State media portray Putin as something of an anti-corruption folk hero, seemingly alone trying to rein in Russia’s vast network of amoral civil servants.FILE – Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny gestures as a security officer guards an entrance of his Anti-Corruption Foundation during a raid of its offices, in Moscow, Russia, Dec. 26, 2019.”A real fight against corruption is impossible under Putin. His whole system is built around it,” the organization’s spokesperson Lyubov Sobol told VOA. “Every attempt to really take on corrupt officials has ended in nothing,” she said.Secret European villas, wealthy relatives, and private planes ferrying pet corgies to international dog shows have all been subjects of the foundation’s video investigations in recent years. Another alleges to have uncovered the secret wealth of former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and garnered over 33 million YouTube views.The revelations set off a series of nationwide protests last year and may have played a role in Medvedev’s dismissal in Putin’s Kremlin shakeup last week.FBK was also quick to note that Medvedev replacement Mikhail Mishustin has family holdings that far outstrip his past government salary as Russia’s chief tax officer.Meanwhile, the Kremlin has launched raids and criminal investigations against FBK, moves widely seen as revenge for the organization’s investigations and calls for democratic change.A poll last year by the independent Levada Center found most Russians view anti-corruption crackdowns as aimed at settling political scores.Sobol said the solution is independent judges and a reformed police force, but added, “for that you need political will.”
 

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Italians Vote in 2 Regions; Salvini Eyes Return to Power

Right-wing opposition leader Matteo Salvini is telling Italians who are voting in two regions to use their ballots to help his anti-migrant party return to national power.
Voting began Sunday morning in Emilia-Romagna, a northern region where the left-wing has held power for decades, and in Calabria, in the south, an area Salvini’s League party once disparaged as unproductive but where it now wants to expand a foothold .Results, expected early Monday, of the voting for governor and regional legislatures could rock Italy’s squabbling central government in Rome.
Salvini is demanding an early election to end Premier Giuseppe Conte’s coalition government, whose junior partner is the center-left Democrats. If the Democratic Party’s incumbent governor in Emilia-Romagna loses to the League’s candidate on Sunday, the bickering among Conte’s coalition partners could worsen and jeopardize the nearly 5-month-old government’s survival.
The senior party in Conte’s government is the populist 5-Star Movement, which itself is so plagued by infighting and defections that its political leader resigned his post last week.
Salvini in a Facebook post urged Italians as they headed to vote Sunday to “liberate these splendid regions” from the Democrats and “Let’s free the entire country.”
Salvini, who in Conte’s previous government took a hard line against immigration, lost his role as deputy premier and interior minister last year and his right-wing party lost its place in government when he yanked his support from Conte in a failed bid for an early election that Salvini had hoped with make him premier.
Conte then formed a new government with the Democrats, who set aside their deep rivalries with the 5-Stars to replace the League in the national coalition.
Voters could be forgiven if they had the impression Salvini himself was running to be governor of Emilia-Romagna. The League leader campaigned practically daily in the region, especially in the countryside and small towns, considered ripe for a shift toward the right. With his “Italians first” mantra, Salvini dashed from rally to rally, sampling local agricultural products in the region, which is one of Italy’s wealthiest and most productive. He boasted of how, when he was interior minister, fewer migrants, trafficked by Libya-based smugglers, arrived in Italy aboard charity rescue boats.
Opinion polls during the campaign indicated the race for governorship was neck-to-neck.
The League’s candidate is Lucia Borgonzoni, a League politician who as undersecretary for culture in Conte’s first government distinguished herself mainly for complaining that the Louvre in Paris was getting too many loans of Leonardo da Vinci’s artworks for an exhibition to mark the 500th anniversary of the Italian Renaissance master’s death.
The Democrats’ candidate is Gov. Stefano Bonacconi, under whose leadership the region’s reputation for a well-run health care system and other local services was reinforced.
But Salvini is banking on voters in Emilia-Romagna viewing Sunday’s ballot as a referendum on Conte’s government and a chance to boost his League’s fortunes. The right-wing League has consistently scored as Italy’s most popular party nationwide in recent opinion polls.
Conte says the outcome of Sunday’s votes won’t affect his determination to continue governing until the next election for Parliament is due in 2023.
Until recent years, the League’s profile was as a northern-based political power, with its leaders depicting the underdeveloped south as a parasitic drain on taxpayers’ money.
But Salvini revamped the image of the League, which had long been called the Northern League, into a nationwide force with rhetoric that blames migrants for crime and the European Union for what he says is infringement on Italy’s sovereignty.
His chief ally, the Brothers of Italy, has its roots in neo-fascism and is growing quickly in popularity.  

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Dozens Pulled From Rubble as Turkey Quake Toll Hits 35

Rescue teams working through the night pulled 45 people from collapsed buildings, Turkey’s disaster authority said on Sunday, as the death toll from a powerful earthquake in the country’s east rose to 35.Rescuers operating in sub-zero temperatures used drills, mechanical diggers and their bare hands to continue the search for survivors at three sites in Elazig province, where the magnitude 6.8 quake struck on Friday evening.It killed 31 people there and four in the neighboring province of Malatya, and was followed by more than 700 aftershocks, Disaster and Emergency Authority AFAD said on Sunday. More than 1,600 sustained injuries.Broadcast footage showed a 35-year-old woman and her infant daughter emerging from rubble in the Mustafa Pasa district of Elazig, some 550 km (340 miles) east of the capital Ankara.Rescuers who heard their screams took several hours to reach them in temperatures as low as -4 degrees Celsius (24.8°F), state media said. The woman’s husband was among those who died.AFAD said search and rescue operations were still underway at three different sites in Elazig.Other provinces sent thousands of emergency workers to support rescue efforts, which were also supplemented by hundreds of volunteers, officials said. Tents, beds and blankets were provided to shelter those displaced by the quake.AFAD urged residents not to return to damaged buildings because of the potential risk of collapse. It said officials had identified 645 heavily damaged and 76 collapsed buildings in the two provinces.President Tayyip Erdogan said steel-framed houses would be rapidly built in the region to provide housing for displaced residents. Speaking on Saturday during a visit to Elazig and Malatya, he called the quake a test for Turkey.The country has a history of powerful earthquakes. More than 17,000 people were killed in August 1999 when a 7.6 magnitude quake struck Izmit, a city southeast of Istanbul.
 

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Back To The Gates Of Hell: Survivor Prepares For Return To Auschwitz

Hundreds of former prisoners will return to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz Monday to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet troops, alongside several world leaders. At least 1.1 million people – mostly Jews – were murdered at Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi death camps, between 1940 and 1945. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell traveled to Poland to speak with one survivor as he prepared to return to what many call ‘the gates of hell’.

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Back to Gates of Hell: Survivor Prepares for Return to Auschwitz

Hundreds of former prisoners will return Monday to the Nazi concentration and extermination camp at Auschwitz, Poland, alongside several world leaders, to mark the 75th anniversary of its liberation by Soviet troops.  At least 1.1 million people – mostly Jews – were murdered at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the Nazi death camps, between 1940 and 1945. Stanislaw Zalewski, 94, is among the former prisoners who will return for the anniversary. He says he keeps his memories locked away – “occasionally letting them out to share the horrors of the past.” Zalewski was 18 when he was arrested for painting Polish resistance symbols on walls in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. After a brutal interrogation, he was imprisoned in Waraw’s Pawiak prison. “About 37,000 of these prisoners were killed and about 60,000 were taken from Pawiak prison to concentration camps,” Zalewski told VOA in a recent interview. “I was among these 60,000. I was taken to Auschwitz-Birkenau on October 6, 1943.” Sorry, but your player cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
FILE – Stanislaw Zalewski, pictured at Auschwitz-Birkenau a year ago, is president of the Polish Union of Former Political Prisoners of Nazi Prisons and Concentration Camps. Seventy-five years on, he still struggles to reconcile what happened.As Soviet soldiers began to approach from the east, the Nazis transferred hundreds of thousands of prisoners to other camps on so-called “death marches” or in railroad cattle trucks. Tens of thousands died on the journey. Zalewski was taken to the Mauthausen-Guzen camp in Austria. In May 1945, rumors spread of the Allied advance — and German guards fled. “On May 5, American military vehicles arrived,” Zalewski says, tears welling in his eyes. “Two American soldiers got off. One of them knew some Polish and shouted, ‘You are free!’ It took me 78 days to get from Nuremberg to Warsaw. I arrived in Warsaw on July 22, 1945, wearing USA Army fatigues.” Zalewski is now president of the Polish Union of Former Political Prisoners of Nazi Prisons and Concentration Camps. Seventy-five years on, he still struggles to reconcile what happened. Sorry, but your player cannot support embedded video of this type, you can
download this video to view it offline. Embed” />Copy“When I say the Lord’s Prayer, there is a phrase: ‘Give us our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us.’ I face a dilemma at this point. Can I forgive those who had an inscription that read, ‘God is with us,’ on their belt buckles, who killed people with cold premeditation?” “I put my memories of Auschwitz into a box, I tied it with a string, and threw it into the water,” Zalewski says. “I worked, I started a family, I have a son and grandchildren. When I visit the camp or when we are talking like we are today, I pull out this box, I present its contents to you, and afterwards, I throw it back into the water. There are moments, however, when these memories break into my psyche, causing reflections and questions with no answers. ‘World has not learned’“I am sad because of what is happening in other parts of the world, where people for their own purposes commit armed, violent acts that take the lives of thousands of innocent people. The world has not learned the lesson of what had happened. The world has come full circle, so to speak. This history, this circularity, is powered by people who do not respect the dignity of another human being.”     Zalewski and about 200 fellow survivors will return to the so-called “gates of hell” for the 75th anniversary of the camp’s liberation, still determined to teach the world the lessons of Auschwitz. 

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Thousands Support Venezuela’s Guaido at Madrid Rally 

Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido joined thousands of supporters at a demonstration in Madrid on Saturday after arriving in Spain on the last leg of a European tour. Speaking in a central square packed with supporters holding signs calling for “democracy,” Guaido emphasized the importance of international support in unseating Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. “We need the support of the world to fight against the groups operating in Venezuela. We have the opportunity to get Venezuela back because we are together. We can heal Venezuela,” he told a crowd of people waving Venezuelan flags and chanting, “Yes, we can.” “It is the struggle of a whole country in favor of democracy,” he said. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez did not meet Guaido, a decision that angered right-wing opposition parties but was welcomed by Unidas Podemos, the far-left coalition partners of Sanchez’s Socialists. Podemos members have voiced support for Venezuela’s leftist ruling party in the past. Instead, Guaido met Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez Laya as well as Madrid’s mayor and regional president, both from the conservative People’s Party (PP). Guaido’s visit coincided with a political spat in Spain over reports that Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos secretly met a senior Maduro aide who is subject to a European Union travel ban at Madrid’s Barajas airport on Monday. PP leader Pablo Casado criticized Sanchez for not meeting Guaido and called on him to dismiss Abalos. Sanchez told reporters earlier in the day that Spain’s government wanted elections in Venezuela “as soon as possible,” but he criticized Spanish opposition parties for using the crisis in Venezuela “against the government.” He also voiced his backing for Abalos, saying “he put all his efforts into avoiding a diplomatic crisis and succeeded.” Guaido has defied a travel ban to seek support in Europe, where he has spoken at the European Parliament, attended the World Economic Forum in Davos and met with leaders including Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson. 

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Death Toll From Eastern Turkey Earthquake Climbs to 29

The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey climbed to 29 on Saturday night as rescue crews searched for people who remained trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, officials said. Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said at a news conference earlier in the day that 18 people had been killed in Elazig province, where Friday night’s quake was centered, and four in neighboring Malatya. The national disaster agency later updated the total with seven more casualties. Rescue workers search on a collapsed building after an earthquake in Elazig, Turkey, January 25, 2020. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 1,243 people had been injured, with 34 of them in intensive care but not in critical condition. On Saturday afternoon, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited the hardest-hit areas and attended the funeral of a mother and son killed in the quake. He warned people against repeating negative'' hearsay about the country being unprepared for earthquakes. Turkish officials and police try to keep warm at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig, eastern Turkey, Jan. 24, 2020.Emergency workers and security forces distributed tents, beds and blankets as overnight temperatures dropped below freezing in the affected areas. Mosques, schools, sports halls and student dormitories were opened for hundreds who left their homes after the quake. The earthquake was very severe. We desperately ran out [of our home],” Emre Gocer told the state-run Anadolu news agency as he sheltered with his family at a sports hall in Sivrice. We don't have a safe place to stay right now.'' While visiting Sivrice and the city of Elazig, the provincial capital 565 kilometers (350 miles) east of Ankara, Erdogan promised state support for those affected by the disaster. We will not leave anyone in the open,” the Turkish leader said. Earlier, a prosecutor in Ankara announced an investigation into provocative'' social media posts. Anadolu reported that Turkey's broadcasting authority was also reviewing media coverage of the quake. At least five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Malatya province were destroyed in the disaster, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said. Hundreds of other structures were damaged and made unsafe. Ramazan Emek surveys the damage in Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, where the quake struck just before 9 p.m. Friday local time. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)AFAD reported that 42 people had been rescued as search teams combed wrecked apartment buildings. Television footage showed emergency workers removing a woman from the wreckage of a collapsed building 19 hours after the main earthquake struck. A prison in Adiyaman, 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of the epicenter, was evacuated because of damage, and its more than 800 prisoners were transferred to nearby jails. AFAD said 28 rescue teams had been working around the clock. More than 2,600 personnel from 39 of Turkey's 81 provinces were sent to the disaster site. Unmanned drones were used to survey damaged neighborhoods and coordinate rescue efforts. Our biggest hope is that the death toll does not rise,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said. A calf stands next to its mother, which has a broken leg, in the village of Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, Elazig, Turkey, Jan. 25, 2020. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)Communication companies announced free telephone and internet services for residents in the quake-hit region. Neighboring Greece, which is at odds with Turkey over maritime boundaries and gas exploration rights, offered to send rescue crews to assist the Turkish teams. Erdogan appeared to reject the offer of outside assistance during his visit to the city of Elazig, telling reporters, “Our state does not need anything.” Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines, and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people. A magnitude 6.0 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010. 

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Death Toll From Eastern Turkey Earthquake Climbs to 21

The death toll from a strong earthquake that rocked eastern Turkey climbed to 22 on Saturday as rescue crews searched for people who remained trapped under the rubble of collapsed buildings, officials said.Speaking at a televised news conference near the epicenter of the quake in Elazig province, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said 18 people were killed in Elazig and four in neighboring Malatya.Rescue workers search on a collapsed building after an earthquake in Elazig, Turkey, January 25, 2020. Some 1,103 people were injured, with 34 of them in intensive care but not in critical condition, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said.Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attended the funeral of a mother and son killed in the quake while visiting the hardest-hit areas. He warned people against repeating “negative” hearsay about the country being unprepared for earthquakes.“Do not listen to rumors, do not listen to anyone’s negative, contrary propaganda, and know that we are your servants,” Erdogan said.Turkish officials and police try to keep warm at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig, eastern Turkey, Jan. 24, 2020.Earlier, a prosecutor in the capital Ankara announced an investigation into “provocative” social media posts. The Anadolu news agency reported that Turkey’s broadcasting authority was also reviewing media coverage of the quake.At least five buildings in Sivrice and 25 in Malatya province were destroyed in the disaster, Environment and Urbanization Minister Murat Kurum said. Hundreds of other structures were damaged and made unsafe.AFAD reported that 42 people had been rescued as search teams combed wrecked apartment buildings.Television footage showed emergency workers removing a woman from the wreckage of a collapsed building 19 hours after the main earthquake struck.A prison in Adiyaman, 110 kilometers (70 miles) southwest of the epicenter, was evacuated due to damage its more than 800 prisoners transferred to nearby jails.AFAD said 28 rescue teams had been working around the clock. More than 2,600 personnel from 39 of Turkey’s 81 provinces were sent to the disaster site. Unmanned drones were used to survey damaged neighborhoods and coordinate rescue efforts.“Our biggest hope is that the death toll does not rise,” Parliament Speaker Mustafa Sentop said.Ramazan Emek surveys the damage in Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, where the quake struck just before 9 p.m. Friday local time. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)“Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary,” said Zekeriya Gunes, 68, from Elazig city, after the quakes caused a building to collapse on her street.“It lasted quite long, maybe 30 seconds,” added Ferda, 39. “I panicked and was undecided whether to go out in this cold or remain inside.”Greece offers aidThe U.S. Geological Survey assessed the magnitude as 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875.“My wholehearted sympathy to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish people following the devastating earthquake that has hit Turkey. Our search and rescue teams stand ready to assist,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.In Athens, the Greek premier’s office said later that Mitsotakis had spoken by phone to Erdogan.“The Turkish president … said Turkish teams had the situation under control for now and that it would be re-evaluated in the morning,” his office added.A calf stands next to its mother, which has a broken leg, in the village of Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, Elazig, Turkey, Jan. 25, 2020. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)Quake-prone TurkeyCommunication companies announced free telephone and internet services for residents in the quake-hit region.Neighboring Greece, which is at odds with Turkey over maritime boundaries and gas exploration rights, offered to send rescue crews to assist the Turkish teams.Erdogan appeared to reject the offer of outside assistance during his visit to the city of Elazig, telling reporters, “Our state does not need anything.”Turkey sits on top of two major fault lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.A magnitude 6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.

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Powerful Quake Kills at Least 20, Injures More Than 1,000 in Eastern Turkey

ELAZIG, TURKEY — A powerful earthquake has killed at least 20 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey, as rescue teams searched through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors Saturday.At least 30 people were missing following the magnitude 6.8 quake Friday night, which had its epicenter in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in the eastern province of Elazig.“It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside,” 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the provincial capital of Elazig, told AFP.President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by the quake, which caused widespread fear.“We stand by our people,” Erdogan said on Twitter.Turkish officials and police try to keep warm at the scene of a collapsed building following a 6.8 magnitude earthquake in Elazig, eastern Turkey, Jan. 24, 2020.Emergency staff and people waiting at the scene lit fires in the streets to stay warm in freezing temperatures.Sports centers, schools and guest houses had been opened to accommodate quake victims in Malatya.Sivrice, a town with a population of about 4,000 people, is situated south of Elazig city on the shores of Hazar lake, one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris River.The lake is home to a sunken city with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.The tremor was felt in several parts of eastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, the Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, adding that neighboring cities had mobilized rescue teams for the quake area.Ramazan Emek surveys the damage in Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, where the quake struck just before 9 p.m. Friday local time. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)“Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary,” said Zekeriya Gunes, 68, from Elazig city, after the quakes caused a building to collapse on her street.“It lasted quite long, maybe 30 seconds,” added Ferda, 39. “I panicked and was undecided whether to go out in this cold or remain inside.”Greece offers aidThe U.S. Geological Survey assessed the magnitude as 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875.“My wholehearted sympathy to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish people following the devastating earthquake that has hit Turkey. Our search and rescue teams stand ready to assist,” Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.In Athens, the Greek premier’s office said later that Mitsotakis had spoken by phone to Erdogan.“The Turkish president … said Turkish teams had the situation under control for now and that it would be re-evaluated in the morning,” his office added.A calf stands next to its mother, which has a broken leg, in the village of Cevrimtas, near Sivrice, Elazig, Turkey, Jan. 25, 2020. (Mahmut Bozarslan/VOA Turkish)Quake-prone TurkeyIn 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Izmit in western Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 people dead including about 1,000 in the country’s largest city Istanbul.Last September, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul, causing residents to flee buildings.Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate the city of 15 million people, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.

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Erdogan Looks to Diplomacy Amid Concerns About Military Deployment in Libya

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is accusing Libyan militia leader General Khalifa Haftar of violating a cease-fire agreement. Despite deploying Turkish forces to back the Libyan Government of National Accord (GNA), though, Erdogan seems to be increasingly looking to diplomacy rather than force. “He [Haftar] says he agreed to a cease-fire, but two days subsequent, he bombed the [Tripoli] airport. So how can we trust him?” Erdogan said Friday in Istanbul with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Haftar’s forces control most of Libya in their war against the U.N.-recognized GNA. Merkel on Sunday hosted an international summit in Berlin aimed at resolving the Libyan civil war. A 55-article road map to end the conflict was drawn up at the meeting, which Erdogan attended. Erdogan challenged Merkel at the news conference, however, to confirm whether Haftar had signed the Berlin agreement. A visibly uncomfortable Merkel confirmed he only orally agreed to it, noting that officials were still waiting for his signature. FILE – Libyan Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj leaves after an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 29, 2018.Support for SarrajDespite the Berlin agreement’s reaffirmation of the Libyan international arms embargo, the Turkish president said he would continue supporting the GNA’s prime minister, Fayez al-Sarraj. “We sent them a [military] delegation and continue to do so. We won’t abandon Sarraj. We will give the support we can,” Erdogan said. “Our soldiers are there to assist in the training [of GNA forces]. We have a history of 500 years, and we have an invitation [from the GNA] that gives us our right,” he added. But Erdogan, several times during the news conference, said the forces were purely for training. Earlier this week, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Aktar also stressed the training purpose of the Libyan deployment. The Turkish force reportedly still only numbers in the dozens. The downplaying of the military deployment contrasts with Erdogan’s recent sharp rhetoric. Last week, the Turkish president, while announcing to Parliament soldiers’ deployment, said Ankara would not hesitate about “teaching a lesson” to Haftar if his forces continued attacking. Fears of wider warSuch language reportedly has set off alarm bells in the region over fears that Turkish forces in Libya could end up triggering a wider regional conflict with Haftar’s military backers, including Egypt. Given that Libya is 2,000 kilometers from Turkey, though, a military expert questioned whether Ankara was capable of sustaining a hot conflict. “The logistic challenge is enormous, and these challenges, as they look now, are insurmountable. It’s far away. It’s not like Syria is just across the border,” said former Turkish General Haldun Solmazturk, a veteran of cross-border military operations. “If fighting gets tough, casualties would be inevitable. Returning dead persons and wounded would also be a major challenge. Apart from the fuel, the ammunition, spare parts, there are thousands of items needed to be provided in such an environment,” added Solmazturk, who heads the 21st Century Turkey Institute, an Ankara-based research organization. FILE – Khalifa Haftar, the military commander who dominates eastern Libya, arrives at an international conference on Libya at the Elysee Palace in Paris, May 29, 2018.Turkish forces are already stretched, being deployed in Iraq and Syria, while analysts point out Haftar is in a strong military position. “At the moment the situation seems to be working on the side of Haftar. He has better weapons. He has jet fighters. He has superiority of the air and in the field,” said international relations professor Huseyin Bagci of Ankara’s Middle East Technical University. Further complicating Ankara’s situation is its international isolation over Libya’s military deployment. Erdogan’s shuttle diplomacy this month drew a blank, failing to win backing from Libya’s neighbors, Algeria and Tunisia. Erdogan also reportedly failed at the Berlin summit to secure backing for an international peacekeeping force, including the Turkish military, to be deployed to enforce a cease-fire in Libya. Military challenges for TurkeyAnalysts suggest Ankara’s isolation only compounds the military challenges it faces in Libya. “The Mediterranean, in terms of naval transportation, is controlled by not too friendly forces. And neighboring countries Tunisia, Algeria and Italy are less than willing to help or to provide any logistic bases or any other logistic support. They seem determined to stay out of this,” said Solmazturk. FILE – Turkish lawmakers vote on a bill that allows troop deployment to Libya, at the Parliament in Ankara, Jan. 2, 2020.”Libya threatens to be another Syria, where countless lives and many treasures will be wasted to defend a very ill-defined ‘national objective,’ ” warned analyst Atilla Yesilada of GlobalSource Partners, an economic and security research group based in New York. Erdogan appears increasingly to be looking to diplomacy in a bid to isolate Haftar. In a speech Thursday in the presence of Merkel, the Turkish president called for “pressure” to put on Haftar. Erdogan challenged the international community over its courting of Haftar, despite the general’s failure so far to sign on to a cease-fire. “It doesn’t make sense such support is continued,” he said at Friday’s news conference with Merkel, “if such a person is constantly so spoiled.” Migrant issueThe Turkish president also is seeking to play the migrant card against Europe, warning of “chaos” if Haftar remains unchecked. Some analysts are warning, however, that Ankara needs to face the reality that the region has little appetite for a Turkish role in Libya. “The region wants neither Turkey nor Russia seeking to extend its hegemony to Libya and the wider region. This is the reality,” said Bagci. But for now, Ankara is likely figuring on having a limited military presence in Libya while continuing to push for international deliberations on a resolution to Libya’s civil war and its future. 

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NPR Reporter: Pompeo Lashed Out at Her After Testy Interview

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo cursed at a National Public Radio reporter and repeatedly “used the F-word” in a shouted diatribe after she questioned him about Ukraine and the ousted American ambassador to Kiev in an interview on Friday, the reporter said.Mary Louise Kelly conducted a testy interview lasting about nine minutes with Pompeo for NPR’s “All Things Considered” program, asking him about Iran and former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted by President Donald Trump last May. Yovanovitch’s removal was a key event in the actions that prompted Trump’s impeachment in the House of Representatives last month.“Afterwards, Pompeo proceeded to shout his displeasure at being questioned about Ukraine. He used repeated expletives, according to Kelly,” NPR said in a statement.“He asked, ‘Do you think Americans care about Ukraine?’ He used the F-word in that sentence and many others,” Kelly said in an interview of her own with NPR later Friday.The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.Kelly said Pompeo shouted at her “for about the same amount of time as the interview itself.” Pompeo then had aides bring a blank map of the world and asked Kelly to show Ukraine.“People will hear about this,” Pompeo said after Kelly pointed at Ukraine on the map, she said.Questions on UkraineWhen Kelly turned her questioning to Ukraine in the latter part of the interview with Pompeo, he said he had agreed to discuss only Iran.Kelly said she had informed Pompeo’s aides that she would ask also about Ukraine, and posed several questions, including whether Pompeo owed an apology to Yovanovitch, who testified last year in the House impeachment inquiry about her ouster. The incident also has figured in Trump’s impeachment trial in the Senate.“I have defended every State Department official. … I’ve defended every single person on this team,” Pompeo replied.In November, Pompeo declined to defend Yovanovitch after Trump attacked her on Twitter.Yovanovitch was removed by Trump following a negative campaign against her by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and others. Giuliani at the time was pushing to have Ukraine investigate Trump’s political rival Joe Biden.

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Trump Moves Aggressively to Recast US Trade Relations

Following two victories on trade — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the Phase One deal with China — President Donald Trump is moving aggressively to recast U.S. trade relations with other nations. In an appearance at the World Economic Forum this week, he swept aside the consensus plan to focus on climate change, instead bringing his own agenda to Davos that included a surprise conversation with the head of the World Trade Organization. The WTO’s policymaking apparatus has been paralyzed in recent years by internal disagreements, and earlier this year the Trump administration crippled its enforcement arm as well by blocking the appointment of new judges to the panel that rules on trade disputes. Meeting with AzevedoOn Wednesday, though, Trump summoned WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo to an unscheduled meeting in Davos, and then convened a news conference in which he announced that they had discussed unspecified changes to the organization that the president described as “very dramatic.” The president added, “We’re talking about a whole new structure for the deal or we’ll have to do something.” FILE – World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo speaks at a news conference after a two-day General Council meeting at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 10, 2019.Speaking to reporters, Azevedo offered no details about what Trump was proposing, but also did not shut the door on substantial reforms. “If we are serious about changing and updating the WTO to make it more responsive to the changes of the 21st century, we need to be ready to do things that are unusual, that are important, that are maybe even dramatic,” he said. The meeting came after Trump spoke to the assembled political and business leaders in Davos, contending that his two most recent deals “represent a new model of trade for the 21st century — agreements that are fair, reciprocal, and that prioritize the needs of workers and families.” What those two deals also are, though, is limited in scope. The China agreement is strictly bilateral, and USMCA is trilateral. This jibes with Trump’s stated preference for making specific deals with individual countries rather than signing on to large regional or global agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which he withdrew the U.S. in his first days as president. Who will be partners?However, moving forward, Trump may find it difficult to find willing partners for bilateral talks, especially among the major European economies, on which many experts believe he is likely to focus over the next year.  “My guess is that 2020 will be the year of Europe in terms of Trump’s trade policy,” said economist Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. But negotiating trade deals in Europe is a vastly different process than negotiating them with some countries where Trump has found some success in the past, like Japan and China. Most trade in Europe is regulated not on a country-by-country basis but by the European Union as a whole.  “There’s no one in Europe who has the power of, let’s say, Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe of Japan or, obviously, President Xi [Jinping] of China,” Hufbauer said. “The way the European process works is that the countries have to agree as to any mandate to negotiate a trade agreement before the trade agreement can be negotiated, and that’s a very laborious process.” FILE – A worker walks along rows of Mercedes-Benz cars at a shipping terminal in the harbor of the town of Bremerhaven, Germany, March 8, 2012.For example, Trump has complained for years about the tariffs on American cars that are sold in Europe. However, nearly all the largest EU member economies have substantial automobile manufacturing sectors, and any one of them could block a change in trade policy. Complicating matters is that Trump’s favorite tool in trade agreements, punitive tariffs, could be very damaging to the European and U.S. economies at a time when the U.S. is still laboring under the economic drag of continuing tariffs on China. Tax delay by FranceTo be sure, Trump may still choose to wield tariffs, especially given his recent success in getting French President Emmanuel Macron to delay the implementation of a tax on digital services that would have hit U.S. technology firms especially hard. Macron faced the threat of U.S. tariffs on specific French exports. While Trump may have to resign himself to negotiating with large blocs when it comes to the WTO and Europe, he will have a clear opportunity to begin negotiations on another major bilateral deal. When Britain formally separates from the EU next week, a top agenda item in both Washington and London will be setting new terms for their trading relationship. FILE – President Donald Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak to reporters before a meeting at the Hotel du Palais on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 25, 2019.Both Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have spoken warmly about the prospect of negotiating such a deal, but there will be many sticking points, particularly in agriculture. The U.S. will have to decide how hard to press Britain to accept imports of certain U.S. products, such as chicken disinfected with chlorinated water, that are blocked by the EU. In all, getting such a deal done before the 2020 elections would be a major challenge, said Hufbauer.  “The U.K. is a big economy and the U.S. is obviously a giant economy, and there are just a lot of issues which would have to be raised,” he said. “And then there’s the important point that an agreement with the U.K., in my view, would have to go to Congress for ratification. … That makes a U.S.-U.K. deal being concluded in the year 2020 a really remote prospect.” 

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Trump Moves Aggressively to Recast US Trade Relations

Following two victories on trade — the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement and the Phase One deal with China — President Donald Trump is moving aggressively to recast U.S. trade relations with other nations. In an appearance at the World Economic Forum this week, he swept aside the consensus plan to focus on climate change, instead bringing his own agenda to Davos that included a surprise conversation with the head of the World Trade Organization. The WTO’s policymaking apparatus has been paralyzed in recent years by internal disagreements, and earlier this year the Trump administration crippled its enforcement arm as well by blocking the appointment of new judges to the panel that rules on trade disputes. Meeting with AzevedoOn Wednesday, though, Trump summoned WTO Director-General Roberto Azevedo to an unscheduled meeting in Davos, and then convened a news conference in which he announced that they had discussed unspecified changes to the organization that the president described as “very dramatic.” The president added, “We’re talking about a whole new structure for the deal or we’ll have to do something.” FILE – World Trade Organization Director-General Roberto Azevedo speaks at a news conference after a two-day General Council meeting at WTO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 10, 2019.Speaking to reporters, Azevedo offered no details about what Trump was proposing, but also did not shut the door on substantial reforms. “If we are serious about changing and updating the WTO to make it more responsive to the changes of the 21st century, we need to be ready to do things that are unusual, that are important, that are maybe even dramatic,” he said. The meeting came after Trump spoke to the assembled political and business leaders in Davos, contending that his two most recent deals “represent a new model of trade for the 21st century — agreements that are fair, reciprocal, and that prioritize the needs of workers and families.” What those two deals also are, though, is limited in scope. The China agreement is strictly bilateral, and USMCA is trilateral. This jibes with Trump’s stated preference for making specific deals with individual countries rather than signing on to large regional or global agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which he withdrew the U.S. in his first days as president. Who will be partners?However, moving forward, Trump may find it difficult to find willing partners for bilateral talks, especially among the major European economies, on which many experts believe he is likely to focus over the next year.  “My guess is that 2020 will be the year of Europe in terms of Trump’s trade policy,” said economist Gary Hufbauer, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics. But negotiating trade deals in Europe is a vastly different process than negotiating them with some countries where Trump has found some success in the past, like Japan and China. Most trade in Europe is regulated not on a country-by-country basis but by the European Union as a whole.  “There’s no one in Europe who has the power of, let’s say, Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe of Japan or, obviously, President Xi [Jinping] of China,” Hufbauer said. “The way the European process works is that the countries have to agree as to any mandate to negotiate a trade agreement before the trade agreement can be negotiated, and that’s a very laborious process.” FILE – A worker walks along rows of Mercedes-Benz cars at a shipping terminal in the harbor of the town of Bremerhaven, Germany, March 8, 2012.For example, Trump has complained for years about the tariffs on American cars that are sold in Europe. However, nearly all the largest EU member economies have substantial automobile manufacturing sectors, and any one of them could block a change in trade policy. Complicating matters is that Trump’s favorite tool in trade agreements, punitive tariffs, could be very damaging to the European and U.S. economies at a time when the U.S. is still laboring under the economic drag of continuing tariffs on China. Tax delay by FranceTo be sure, Trump may still choose to wield tariffs, especially given his recent success in getting French President Emmanuel Macron to delay the implementation of a tax on digital services that would have hit U.S. technology firms especially hard. Macron faced the threat of U.S. tariffs on specific French exports. While Trump may have to resign himself to negotiating with large blocs when it comes to the WTO and Europe, he will have a clear opportunity to begin negotiations on another major bilateral deal. When Britain formally separates from the EU next week, a top agenda item in both Washington and London will be setting new terms for their trading relationship. FILE – President Donald Trump and Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson speak to reporters before a meeting at the Hotel du Palais on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 25, 2019.Both Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have spoken warmly about the prospect of negotiating such a deal, but there will be many sticking points, particularly in agriculture. The U.S. will have to decide how hard to press Britain to accept imports of certain U.S. products, such as chicken disinfected with chlorinated water, that are blocked by the EU. In all, getting such a deal done before the 2020 elections would be a major challenge, said Hufbauer.  “The U.K. is a big economy and the U.S. is obviously a giant economy, and there are just a lot of issues which would have to be raised,” he said. “And then there’s the important point that an agreement with the U.K., in my view, would have to go to Congress for ratification. … That makes a U.S.-U.K. deal being concluded in the year 2020 a really remote prospect.” 

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