Greek riot police repel 13,000 migrants trying to cross to Europe from Turkey

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Migrants head for Greece near the Pazarakule border crossing in Edirne, Turkey, on March. 1, 2020, after Turkey opened its western borders to migrants and refugees hoping to head into the European Union. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic)
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Migrants wait near the buffer zone at Turkey-Greece border, at Pazarkule, in Edirne district, on Feb. 29, 2020. (AFP / BULENT KILIC)
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Migrants walk on the railway tracks heading for Greece near the Pazarakule border crossing in Edirne, Turkey, on March. 1, 2020 after Turkey opened its western borders to migrants and refugees hoping to head into the European Union. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
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Greek soldiers fire teargas canisters during clashes with migrants near the Kastanies border gate at the Greek-Turkish border on March 1, 2020. Migrants and refugees were trying to enter Greece by land and by sea after Turkey officially declared its western borders open to those hoping to head into the European Union. (AP Photo/Giannis Papanikos)
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A woman tries to stop locals from beating up a journalist trying to report on their effort to prevent migrants on a dinghy from disembarking at the port of Thermi on the island of Lesbos, Greece, on March 1, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 02 March 2020

Greek riot police repel 13,000 migrants trying to cross to Europe from Turkey

  • Erdogan tears up 2016 refugee deal with EU
  • Turkey launches new offensive in Idlib

ANKARA: Greek security forces fired tear gas on Sunday to stop up to 13,000 migrants from crossing the border from Turkey amid a growing crisis over the bloody Assad regime offensive in northwest Syria.

The violence in Idlib province has sent hundreds of thousands of civilians fleeing north toward Turkey, which already hosts more than 3.5 million Syrian refugees and says it can accommodate no more.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has responded on two fronts. First, after an air strike killed 33 Turkish soldiers in Idlib, Turkey launched an offensive to halt the advance of Assad regime forces backed by Russian air power. On Sunday, Turkey shot down two Syrian fighter jets over Idlib and destroyed a military airport in Aleppo, and ground forces exchanged fire.

Second, Erdogan has torn up a 2016 agreement with the EU to halt the flow of refugees from Turkey into Europe, and thrown open the border with Greece. The Turkish president says the EU has not kept to its side of the deal, to pay 6 million euros in aid to Ankara to cope with the influx of migrants.

The announcement triggered an instant rush of thousands of migrants to the border with Greece, which placed crossing points on maximum security alert and deployed riot police at the Kastanies border post.

At least 500 people fled to the Greek islands of Lesbos, Chios and Samos, close to the Turkish coast. On the mainland border, some waded across a shallow section of the Evro River to the Greek side. Authorities in Athens said some migrants prevented from crossing had thrown metal bars and tear-gas canisters at police on the Greek side.

UN refugee agency spokesman Babar Baloch called for “calm and easing of tensions on the border,” and urged countries to “refrain from the use of excessive and disproportionate force.”

Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, said that instead of being concerned about the relatively few refugees trying to enter Greece, the EU should press Russian President Vladimir Putin to halt the indiscriminate bombing of millions of civilians in northwest Syria.

“If the only alternative is a bloodbath in Idlib, the Turkish government will undoubtedly open its border with Syria, but it is already hosting 3.6 million Syrian refugees so we can expect many people who flee the slaughter to continue on to Greece,” he told Arab News.

The Syrian military was incapable of carrying out this slaughter without the support of Russian bombers, and Putin had the key to end it, Roth said.

“He may well want a refugee crisis in Europe, since his far-right allies would profit. European governments should change Putin’s calculations by imposing targeted sanctions on the Russian officials who are directing these war crimes unless they stop immediately,” he said.

Dr. Christina Bache, visiting fellow at the London School of Economics, said the EU and Turkey should have invested every ounce of influence available to promote an inclusive political settlement when the Syrian war began.

“Syrians have become victims of an increasingly authoritarian Turkey and its failing relationship with the EU,” she told Arab News. “As long as the EU fails to address its own institutional deficiencies in migration management, President Erdogan will exploit rising anti-immigrant sentiment in Europe for the sake of political opportunism.”

Bache said Ankara’s plans to relinquish its responsibility to protect asylum seekers could be violations of the international law principle of non-refoulement, which prevents the return of such migrants to a country where they would be in danger of persecution.

 “A political solution remains the most viable path to reconciliation, justice, and sustainable peace in Syria,” she said.


Iran cries victory after UN rejects US bid to extend arms embargo

Updated 15 August 2020

Iran cries victory after UN rejects US bid to extend arms embargo

  • Only two of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo
  • The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions

TEHRAN: Iran on Saturday hailed a UN Security Council vote rejecting a US bid to extend an arms embargo on the Islamic republic, saying its foe has “never been so isolated.”
President Hassan Rouhani said the United States had failed to kill off what he called the “half alive” 2015 deal with major powers that gave Iran relief from sanctions in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program.
“The United States failed in this conspiracy with humiliation,” Rouhani told a televised news conference.
“In my opinion, this day will go down in the history of our Iran and in the history of fighting global arrogance.”
Only two of the Council’s 15 members voted in favor of the US resolution seeking to extend the embargo, highlighting the division between Washington and its European allies since President Donald Trump withdrew from the Iran nuclear accord in May 2018.
Washington’s European allies all abstained, and Iran mocked the Trump administration for only winning the support of one other country, the Dominican Republic.
“In the 75 years of United Nations history, America has never been so isolated,” said foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi.
“Despite all the trips, pressure and the hawking, the United States could only mobilize a small country (to vote) with them,” he tweeted.
The result increases the likelihood that the US will try to unilaterally force a return of UN sanctions, which experts say threatens to plunge the Council into one of its worst-ever diplomatic crises.
“The Security Council’s failure to act decisively in defense of international peace and security is inexcusable,” said US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The embargo on conventional arms is due to expire on October 18 under the terms of a resolution that blessed the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Since Trump pulled out of the JCPOA and slapped unilateral sanctions on Iran under a campaign of “maximum pressure,” Tehran has since taken small but escalating steps away from compliance with the nuclear accord as it presses for sanctions relief.
European allies of the United States — who, along with Russia and China, signed the deal with Iran — have voiced support for extending the 13-year-long conventional arms embargo, saying an expiry threatens stability in the Middle East.
However, their priority is to preserve the JCPOA.
The US text, seen by AFP, effectively called for an indefinite extension of the embargo on Iran, which diplomats said would threaten the nuclear agreement.
Iran says it has the right to self-defense and that a continuation of the ban would mean an end to the nuclear deal.
Pompeo announced that members had failed to back the proposal around 30 minutes before Indonesia, the current president of the Security Council, announced that the official results included two votes against and 11 abstentions.
Russia and China opposed the resolution.
“The result shows again that unilateralism enjoys no support, and bullying will fail,” China’s UN mission tweeted.
Ambassador Gunter Sautter of Germany, which abstained, said “more consultations are needed” to find a solution that is acceptable to all council members.
During a call between Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron, the leaders “discussed the urgent need for UN action to extend the arms embargo on Iran.”
Hours earlier, Russian President Vladimir Putin called on China, France, Russia, Britain, the US, Germany and Iran to convene an emergency video summit to avoid an escalation of tensions in the Gulf.
Washington has threatened to try to force a return of UN sanctions if it is not extended by using a controversial technique called “snapback.”
Pompeo has offered the contested argument that the US remains a “participant” in the nuclear accord as it was listed in the 2015 resolution — and therefore can force a return to sanctions if it sees Iran as being in violation of its terms.
European allies have been skeptical on whether Washington can force sanctions and warn that the attempt may delegitimize the Security Council.
Nevertheless, the US is expected to deliver the snapback letter next week, AFP understands.
Analysts suspect that Washington purposefully put forward a hard-line draft that it knew Council members would not be able to accept.
“The fact is that everybody at the UN believes this (resolution) is just a prelude to a US effort to trigger snapback and sink the Iranian nuclear deal,” Richard Gowan, a UN expert at the International Crisis Group, told AFP.