Belgium urges calm after clashes between Turks, Kurds

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A protester holds a Kurdish flag during a rally gathering the Kurdish community, following the Mar. 24 riots in Heusden-Zolder, in Brussels on Mar. 25, 2024. (AFP)
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Protesters surrounded by tear gas take part in a rally gathering the Kurdish community, following the Mar. 24 riots in Heusden-Zolder, in Brussels on Mar. 25, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 27 March 2024
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Belgium urges calm after clashes between Turks, Kurds

  • “We are asking everyone to calm down, stop the provocations and continue living together (in harmony) as we have done for decades in our country,” De Croo said
  • There have been a series of clashes between Turks and Kurds in eastern Belgium including riots

BRUSSELS: Belgium’s Prime Minister Alexander De Croo called for calm on Wednesday after escalating tensions between Turkish and Kurdish groups in the country just days before local elections in Türkiye.
“We are asking everyone to calm down, stop the provocations and continue living together (in harmony) as we have done for decades in our country,” De Croo said.
“Let’s stop... these demonstrations of support for organizations classified as terrorist,” he told reporters, referring to the Kurdish PKK group.
There have been a series of clashes between Turks and Kurds in eastern Belgium including riots on Sunday, with subsequent tit-for-tat claims.
The Turkish foreign ministry blamed outlawed “PKK militants” from Leuven for Sunday’s clashes in Limburg. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is proscribed as a terrorist organization by Ankara and its Western allies including Belgium.
But NavBel, the council representing Kurdish groups in Belgium, said a Syrian Kurdish family suffered a “brutal attack” by Turkiye’s Grey Wolves, an ultra-nationalist organization.
Then in an incident believed to be an anti-Turk attack, a cafe in Vise, near Liege, was targeted overnight between Monday and Tuesday by individuals armed with baseball bats that left several people hurt.
The public prosecutor’s offices in Limburg and Liege confirmed to AFP they were investigating the violent incidents but would not provide more information.
Tensions rose again after a protest on Monday in front of the European Parliament in Brussels by Kurdish groups in response to the riots at the weekend.
The demonstration descended into violence and the police used water cannon to disperse around 200 protesters, who had held images of jailed Kurdish PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan.
Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan spoke to his Belgian counterpart Hadja Lahbib on Sunday night after the clashes, his ministry said this week.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke to one of those injured, a 16-year-old boy of Turkish origin, by telephone in a video shared by the presidency on Tuesday evening.
De Croo said Belgium was “following this closely because there are other key moments in the coming days,” referring to local elections in Türkiye on March 31.


Hamburg police fire shots at axe-wielding person at Euro 2024 fan parade

Updated 1 sec ago
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Hamburg police fire shots at axe-wielding person at Euro 2024 fan parade

  • Major police operation is now underway and the attacker is currently receiving medical care for injuries
FRANKFURT: German police fired shots at a person who threatened officers with a pickaxe and an incendiary device on the sidelines of a Euro 2024 soccer fan parade in central Hamburg on Sunday, according to a police post on social media platform X.
A major police operation is now underway and the attacker is currently receiving medical care for injuries, the post added.
The incident occurred in the St. Pauli district of the city as Poland and the Netherlands prepare to play against each other in Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion at 3 p.m. (1300 GMT).
Fan marches are scheduled ahead of the games, and a parade for Dutch supporters was held at 12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT), around the time of the incident.
Germany is hosting the month-long tournament that began on Friday night.

Ukraine peace summit says ‘dialogue between all parties’ needed to end war

Updated 7 min 32 sec ago
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Ukraine peace summit says ‘dialogue between all parties’ needed to end war

  • More than 90 countries had gathered in the Swiss resort of Burgenstock for the summit
  • Moscow was not invited and has rejected the summit as ‘absurd’ and pointless

BURGENSTOCK, Switzerland: Dozens of countries said Sunday that Ukraine’s “territorial integrity” should be respected in any peace deal to end the war, as they said “dialogue between all parties” would be necessary for a lasting settlement.
In a final communique issued at the end of a major two-day diplomatic summit in Switzerland, the vast majority of countries also backed a call for the full exchange of captured soldiers and return of deported Ukrainian children.
But not all attendees backed the document, with India, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates among those not included in a list of supporting states displayed on screens at the summit.
“We believe that reaching peace requires the involvement of and dialogue between all parties,” the document stated.
It added: “We reaffirm our commitment to ... the principles of sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity of all states, including Ukraine, within their internationally recognized borders.”
More than 90 countries had gathered in the Swiss resort of Burgenstock for the summit, dedicated to discussing Kyiv’s proposals for a route out of the conflict.
Moscow was not invited and has rejected the summit as “absurd” and pointless.
Kyiv had worked hard to secure attendance from countries that maintain warm relations with Russia.
The final document also called for all prisoners of war to be released in a “complete exchange” and for all Ukrainian children who had been “deported and unlawfully displaced” to be returned to Ukraine.
Kyiv accuses Russia of abducting almost 20,000 children from parts of the east and south of the country that its forces took control of.
Working groups at the summit also addressed the issues of global food security and nuclear safety.
“Food security must not be weaponized in any way,” the declaration stated, adding that access to ports in the Black and Azov Seas was “critical” for global food supply.
And the countries also called for Ukraine to have “full sovereign control” over the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant.
Located in the south of Ukraine, the facility is Europe’s largest nuclear energy site and has been controlled by Russian forces since early in the war.


On Bhasan Char, Rohingya refugees observe Eid without family festivities

Updated 4 min 42 sec ago
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On Bhasan Char, Rohingya refugees observe Eid without family festivities

  • More than 35,000 Rohingya have been relocated to Bhasan Char since end of 2020
  • It is illegal for refugees to leave the remote Bangladeshi island

DHAKA: Sebon Bahar’s fondest memories of Eid Al-Adha are the hug she would share with her mother to celebrate the occasion, an experience that has grown distant now that she is living on a remote Bangladeshi island.

For the last three years, the Islamic holiday that is synonymous with family gatherings has not felt the same for Bahar following her move to Bhasan Char.

“My Eid celebrations remain incomplete without this precious hug with my mother … Here on this island, I miss this most during Eid as my mom is living at Cox’s Bazar,” she told Arab News on Sunday.

“Without my family members, especially my mother … I feel like it’s not a special day … I haven’t seen my relatives who live in Cox’s Bazar for over three years.” 

Bahar is among more than 35,000 Rohingya who since the end of 2020 have been moved to Bhasan Char as authorities seek to ease pressure on the congested camps at Cox’s Bazar, which is home to more than 1 million refugees who fled violence and persecution in Myanmar.

Located in the Bay of Bengal, the island settlement is several hours by boat away from the mainland.

The fourth Eid Al-Adha on Bhasan Char has not eased the feeling of isolation for its residents, many of whom are missing their extended family even more during the Feast of Sacrifice as leaving the facility is illegal for refugees on the island.

On Eid, Bahar said she makes calls to relatives in an attempt to “feel the special day,” trying to replicate the time she was still living in Cox’s Bazar, when the holiday meant friends and families visiting each other and gossiping over shared food.

While the 30-year-old is grateful for the improved parts of her life in Bhasan Char, where there is more safety, access to fresh seafood and good housing, refugees still struggle with a lack of access to quality education, high cost of goods and also inability to leave the island.

“There is no hope in this island life, and also Cox’s Bazar camp life. I am living life with only one hope nowadays, that one day I will be able to return to Myanmar with citizenship rights,” Bahar said.

Eid celebrations are not the same for Mohammed Abdul Jalil either, as he celebrates his third such holiday on the island.

“Eid celebrations without relatives and family members here at Bhasan Char are boring to me,” Jalil told Arab News.

“Yes, we are in touch with each other through mobile phones, but having chit-chat sitting face to face can’t be compared with two to three minutes of mobile phone conversation. Visiting each other is the most special thing we usually practice as part of Eid.”

He is hoping that the day comes soon when he can return to Myanmar.

“On this island, I just want to reside until our dignified repatriation to our motherland with full rights. As a refugee on this island, I have no other dream or expectations,” Jalil said.

In spite of the hardships and uncertainties, many refugees try their best to make a festive occasion such as Eid as special as possible.

“My Eid celebrations center around the joy of my children, and I always try to do my best to make the day special for my children,” Monira Begum said.

Like Bahar and Jalil, Eid for Begum was also about spending time and sharing food with her extended family — an experience she has not been able to have for the last four years in Bhasan Char.

As she prepares for Eid Al-Adha, which will be observed on Monday in Bangladesh, Begum plans to make traditional snacks for her family.

“I have powdered rice grain to make our traditional snacks, sweet sticky rice cake. I bought some clothes for my children, cosmetics for my daughters, though I am unable to offer a sacrificial animal … This is how I am going to celebrate Eid this year,” Begum said.


Kremlin says Kyiv should ‘reflect’ on troop withdrawal

Updated 16 June 2024
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Kremlin says Kyiv should ‘reflect’ on troop withdrawal

  • Kremlin: The current dynamic of the situation at the front shows us clearly that it’s continuing to worsen for the Ukrainians

MOSCOW: Ukraine should “reflect” on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s call to withdraw its troops from the east and south of the country to open peace talks as its military situation is worsening, the Kremlin said Sunday.
“The current dynamic of the situation at the front shows us clearly that it’s continuing to worsen for the Ukrainians,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, as Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and world leaders met in Switzerland to discuss how to end the conflict.
“It’s probable that a politician who puts the interests of his country above his own and those of his masters would reflect on such a proposal,” Peskov said.
Zelensky and other leaders have rejected Putin’s demand that Ukraine pull its troops out of the east and south of the country and drop its bid for NATO membership, in order for Moscow to halt its offensive.
Peskov said it was not an “ultimatum” but “a peace initiative that takes into account the realities on the ground.”
Zelensky has pledged to make peace proposals once they have the backing of the international community at the talks in Burgenstock, Switzerland, to which Putin was not invited.


Daesh linked-hostage takers at Russian detention center killed, guards freed

Updated 16 June 2024
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Daesh linked-hostage takers at Russian detention center killed, guards freed

  • Daesh members who are due to appear in court on terrorism charges are among the hostage takers

MOSCOW: Russian special forces freed two guards and killed several men linked to Daesh who had taken them hostage at a detention center in the southern city of Rostov on Sunday, the prison service said.

Intense automatic gunfire could be heard in footage published on Russian Telegram channels.

“The criminals were eliminated,” Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service said in a statement, which said a “special operation” had taken place to free the hostages.

“The employees who were being held hostage were released. They are uninjured,” the prison service said.

The hostage takers, who included some already convicted of terrorism offenses, had knocked out the bars of a window in their cell and entered a guard room where they took at least two prison officers hostage, Russian media said.

State media said that some of the men were accused of affiliation with the Daesh militant group, which claimed responsibility for a deadly attack on a Moscow concert hall in March.

Before special forces stormed the detention center, one of the hostage takers was shown by the 112 Telegram channel brandishing a knife beside one of the bound guards.

The hostage taker wore a headband with the flag used by the Daesh that bears an Arabic inscription.