Morocco reimposes Tangiers lockdown after virus spike

A Moroccan man confined at home in the southern port city of Safi, stands at the entrance of his house on June 9, 2020, during a total lockdown ordered by the authorities following the discovery of several new cases of COVID-19 coronavirus at a fish canning factory there. (AFP)
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Updated 13 July 2020

Morocco reimposes Tangiers lockdown after virus spike

RABAT: Morocco on Monday announced a return to lockdown measures in the northern port city of Tangiers to smother a new outbreak of the novel coronavirus, weeks after easing nationwide restrictions.
The city of about a million inhabitants was locked down from Monday at noon local time, with public transport suspended, cafes and public spaces closed and movement restricted.
Residents are only allowed to leave their homes “in cases of extreme necessity,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement, adding that “exceptional authorization from local authorities” would be required for movement within or beyond the city.
Authorities decided to reimpose the measures to “prevent the spread of the virus” after “new infection clusters” appeared, it said.
The northern city, within sight of the Spanish coast on a clear day, has a vast port and is a key economic hub linking Africa with Europe and beyond.
Morocco had imposed strict nationwide lockdown measures after recording its first COVID-19 cases in March.
It began easing them in June and has since reopened cafes and restaurants, allowing domestic visitors to restart its vital tourism sector.
Its borders remain closed until further notice, except to Moroccans and residents abroad, who will be able to return from Tuesday onwards.
But despite masks being mandatory in public, new localized outbreaks of the disease have forced the shutdown of several cities.
An outbreak at a fish canning factory prompted authorities to lock down Safi, a town of 300,000 on the Atlantic coast, in early July.
The kingdom, with a population of 34 million, has recorded over 15,000 infections including 253 deaths.


European Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Turkey 

Updated 27 November 2020

European Parliament resolution urges sanctions on Turkey 

  • MEPs found that Turkey’s decision to partially reopen Varosha weakened prospects of a solution to the conflict
  • Ankara’s move has been criticized by the US, Greece as well as Greek Cypriots

ANKARA: The European Parliament has called for sanctions on Turkey following President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s controversial visit to Northern Cyprus on Nov. 15.
Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), agreeing on a resolution in support of Cyprus, urged EU leaders to “take action and impose tough sanctions in response to Turkey’s illegal actions.”
The parliament’s non-binding resolution on Nov. 26 emphasized that Turkey’s gas exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean were illegal. EU leaders are due to meet in Brussels between Dec. 10-11.
MEPs also found that Turkey’s decision to partially reopen the fenced-off suburb of Varosha, in the city of Famagusta, weakened prospects of a far-reaching solution to the decades-long Cypriot conflict.
The Turkish army fenced off Varosha in 1974 after its military intervention, while Greek Cypriots who fled from the resort town could not return to their homes.
“MEPs call on Turkey to transfer Varosha to its lawful inhabitants under the temporary administration of the UN (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 550 (1984) and to refrain from any actions that alter the demographic balance on the island through a policy of illegal settlement,” the resolution said.
Ankara’s move has been criticized by the US, Greece as well as Greek Cypriots.
The resolution was denounced by Turkey’s Foreign Ministry, which criticized the European Parliament for “being prejudiced and disconnected from the realities” on Cyprus. 
During the EU summit some sanctions, on sectors such as shipping, energy and banking, are expected to be adopted, depending on Germany’s mediation efforts as the current holder of the EU’s six-month presidency.
Laura Batalla Adam, a political analyst and the secretary general of the EU-Turkey Forum, said that even if EU leaders were divided, the possibility of sanctions remained on the table.
“The decision to reopen Varosha just adds to an already extremely tense situation between Turkey and the EU,” she told Arab News. “The next days are going to be decisive as to what kind of sanctions could be imposed, depending on Ankara’s moves in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
According to Batalla Adam, a moratorium on drilling activities until the two sides can enter into negotiations to settle their dispute would be a way to ease tensions and start working on a more positive agenda.
Turkey will continue its seismic studies near Greek islands in the eastern Mediterranean until Nov. 29 with its Oruc Reis research vessel.
Ankara pulled the vessel back in September to allow more room for diplomacy and negotiations with Greece, but sent it back to the disputed area, provoking a harsh reaction from EU members Cyprus, Greece, Germany and France.