Daily Archives: February 25, 2018

Interview of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Amanatidis, on ERT’s ‘Epta’, with journalist Valia Petouri

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ioannis Amanatidis, discussed Greek-Turkish relations, the results of yesterday’s Summit Meeting, the Novartis case, and the course of the negotiations with fYROM on ERT’s ‘Epta’, with journalist Valia Petouri.

Mr. Amanatidis called yesterday’s Summit a positive development for Greece and Cyprus, underscoring that Turkey will think very carefully from here on in before proceeding to actions that violate international law, the International Law of the Sea and treaties, and before ignoring the fact that the borders of Greece and Cyprus are essentially the borders of Europe.

The Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs noted that this was the message sent not only by Prime Minister Tsipras, but by all of the institutional leaders present at the Summit Meeting: Mr. Juncker; Mr. Tusk; the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union, Bulgarian Prime Minister Borisov; the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Ms. Mogherini; and Ms. Merkel.

We had a positive development for Greece and Cyprus at the Summit Meeting, which sent the message, and we will move ahead to the next step if necessary, Mr. Amanatidis stressed, pointing to a resounding European message of solidarity with Greece and Cyprus.

Regarding Turkish President Erdogan’s stance, the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs argued that there is a policy on the part of Turkey, which is unstable; that is, which can easily go from one side to the other. This points to the internal tensions and problems Turkey itself has. Mr. Amanatidis made it clear that Turkey has every interest in listening to the message that was sent.

Asked to comment on the recent incidents in the Cypriot EEZ, Mr. Amanatidis highlighted that Prime Minister Tsipras himself and the EU have drawn the line, stressing that Europe will not change its energy policy. Europe is seeking alternative energy supply sources for Central Europe, and the Cypriot EEZ is among these alternative energy supply sources.

Asked about the Novartis case, he said that as a Greek MP and as a Greek, I think the biggest scandal would be the Novartis case not to come before Parliament. The biggest scandal would be to conceal this from the Greek people, who suffered while this scandal was playing out. To me, that would be the biggest scandal, Mr. Amanatidis said.

He also noted that some people believe they can use even this scandal � which they know to be a scandal � to mount opposition to the government. The opposition’s internal conflicts exposed them to the Greek people. This is sad for the main opposition party.

Mr. Amanatidis reiterated Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Kotzias’ intention to visit fYROM in early March to the Greek side’s views. There is a draft agreement, which the fYROM leadership has been made aware of, and which is comprehensive and covers all of the pending issues, Mr Amanatidis said. He also clarified that the draft is based on the stance that we have stated: a compound name for all uses (erga omnes), elimination of all traces of irredentism, constitutional amendments that must be made in our neighbouring country, and the development of confidence-building measures and all conditions that will produce a viable and mutually acceptable solution. And of course we have to deem that the agreement reached is in the national interest, he concluded.

Source: Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Hellenic Republic

Mauritania Issues Birth Certificates for Malian Refugee Children

The U.N. refugee agency reports the Mauritanian Government is issuing birth certificates to thousands of Malian refugee children who were born in Mbera camp, conferring important legal protections upon them.

Refugee children who lack a birth certificate more often than not are considered as stateless. They have no identity. Legally, they do not exist and are stripped of basic rights.

The U.N. refugee agency welcomes the decision by the Mauritanian authorities to issue birth certificates for some 7,600 Malian children born in Mbera, a sprawling refugee camp along the Malian border in southeastern Mauritania.

UNHCR spokeswoman, Cecile Pouilly, called the Mauritanian Government’s certification of these births a ground-breaking development for refugee protection in the country.

“They have also set up a system allowing for all newborns in the camp to be directly registered from now on. This is good news because it will help us fight against early and forced marriages and it is also important if at one point people are able to repatriate on a voluntary basis, of course, and when security allows,” she said.

Since birth certificates provide proof of age, Pouilly said this can be crucial in identifying cases of early and forced marriages. This, she notes also will allow aid agencies to assist children at risk.

Around 52,000 Malian refugees live in Mbera camp. It was established in 2012 when widespread insecurity in northern Mali prompted thousands of people to seek refuge in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mauritania. Aid agencies agree persistent violence in northern Mali is likely to discourage large scale returns any time soon.

In the meantime, the UNHCR and partners continue to provide life-saving assistance in Mbera camp. But, Pouilly indicated this is fast becoming a mission impossible. She said her agency has had absolutely no response to its $20 million appeal for humanitarian operations in Mauritania this year.

Source: Voice of America

Cameroon Deploys More Troops to Fight Armed Separatists

Cameroon has deployed more troops to it’s English speaking regions after another wave of attacks on public buildings and the kidnapping of military and government officials by suspected armed separatists. Moki Edwin Kindzeka reports from Yaounde.

A Cameroon military band plays as hundreds of their colleagues are deployed to the troubled English speaking regions of the central African state. Defense Minister Joseph Beti Assomo says they should be very professional in executing their duties.

He says although many soldiers have been killed, the military remains determined to fight and defeat armed separatists who are bent on destroying Cameroon. He says the troops are out to ensure security, public order and the respect of state institutions.

Assomo did not give the total number of government troops in the English speaking regions, but local media says there are thousands.

Assomo says the troops were deployed following repeated attacks on government officials, public buildings and schools by suspected armed separatists fighting for what they call the independence of the English from the French speaking regions of Cameroon.

Cameroon’s government says at least 30 soldiers have been killed since armed attacks began in November. Several government officials and soldiers have been kidnapped and their whereabouts are not known.

Traditional ruler Nangea Mbile, from the southwestern town of Mundemba, says the population is awaiting the arrival of the troops.

“The southwest has suffered so much,” said Mbile. “It is on our land that we have the greatest victims. I expect that they will do all they can to make sure [those kidnapped are] found alive.”

Mbile however says the military should not illegally search homes and indiscriminately arrest people suspected of belonging to the resistance group as has been the case.

Cameroon President Paul Biya declared war on the separatists last November.

The unrest began when English-speaking teachers and lawyers in the Northwest and Southwest regions, frustrated with having to work in French, took to the streets calling for reforms and greater autonomy. It degenerated with separatists calls for independence.

On October 1, the secessionists groups declared the independence of Ambazonia saying Julius Ayuk Tabe, who was in exile in Nigeria, was their president. Armed conflicts erupted, prompting a military crackdown.

Ayuk Tabe and forty seven other separatist leaders were arrested January 5 in Nigeria and have not been seen since.

The separatists have announced on social media they will continue fighting until their leaders are released and they gain independence.

In a February 10 address, Biya said calm had returned to the English speaking regions, even though the conflict continued.

The UNHCR reports that tens of thousands of English speaking Cameroonians have crossed into Nigeria and their humanitarian needs are increasing.

Source: Voice of America

Nigeria Confirms 110 Girls Missing After Boko Haram Attack

The Nigerian government confirmed Sunday 110 girls are missing after a Boko Haram attack in a northeastern town, after days of silence from officials.

The Information Ministry says the girls from the Government Science and Technical College in Dapchi, Yobe State, are unaccounted for after suspected Boko Haram militants invaded their school on Monday.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Sunday additional aircraft are being deployed, along with troops previously dispatched, to search for the missing girls.

Heavily armed fighters in trucks stormed the town of Dapchi late Monday, reportedly specifically asking for the girls’ school.

Authorities initially denied any girls had been kidnapped, suggesting instead they were hiding in the bush after the attack.

Boko Haram, which loosely translates as “Western education is forbidden,” pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in 2015 and has launched a number of attacks on schools. The militia horrified the world when it abducted 276 girls from a boarding school in Chibok almost four years ago.

Source: Voice of America

Somali PM demands Intensified Security

Somalia’s Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire has ordered police and intelligence agents to immediately intensify security “a hundred percent” in the capital of Mogadishu after attacks by Al-Shabab killed nearly 40 people on Friday.

Friday’s attacks were the first by Al-Shabab in the capital since October when a truck bomb killed more than 500, and an attack on a hotel two weeks later claimed the lives of at another 30 people.

“Security is the utmost priority,” Khaire said. “We will not tolerate the killing of our people. We will not be demoralized by one or two explosions. It’s important you end insecurity in Mogadishu.”

Internal fighting

Last year, the government formed the Mogadishu Security and Stabilization Forces, who were instructed to raid homes suspected of being hiding places for militants and to erect checkpoints without warning.

But the effort had several setbacks, including the deadly truck bombing and the firing of two security chiefs in the aftermath of the bombing. There were also incidents where security forces working with the stabilization force clashed after mistaking each other for Al-Shabab.

Khaire warned the security forces to avoid such mistakes. “You must avoid every step that could lead to internal fights between yourselves,” he said. “We do not have any more time for an enemy among us who is dressed to take the lives of Somali people. You must be watchful every night.”

Incident under investigation

In another setback, African Union Mission in Somalia peacekeepers were involved in a shooting that led to the death of at least one Somali soldier Friday evening. Six other people were wounded, including two soldiers and a senior legal adviser to the Somali justice ministry.

The shooting happened after an AU military convoy approached a checkpoint near the airport that was manned by Somali troops. But Somali forces on orders to check all vehicles entering the airport stopped the convoy, according to an incident report. An argument ensued, and shooting erupted.

Dahir Amin Jesow, a member of the Somali parliamentary committee on security and internal affairs, discussed the issue on Sunday. He told VOA Somali that AMISOM troops fired on Somali forces. He said the Somali forces were expected to stop vehicles approaching the airport, including AMISOM, because of the security lockdown.

“We suspect that Al-Shabab is capable of obtaining vehicles similar to AMISOM’s, which they may have seized during attacks on peacekeepers, like the attack in El-Adde,” Jesow said. “Therefore, it was a matter of caution by the Somali troops to stop them since the convoy was headed for the airport.”

AMISOM officials could not be reached for comment. In a press release, Ambassador Francisco Caetano Madeira, head of AMISOM, confirmed that the peacekeepers were involved in an incident at the checkpoint. He said the troops involved in the incident were transporting civilians injured in the Al-Shabab attack to an AMISOM hospital.

Madeira said the incident was now under investigation by the Somali government and AMISOM.

Hearts and minds

Officials say Somali troops and AU forces will have to improve security in Mogadishu if they are to earn the support of the public who doubt the two groups can stop Al-Shabab attacks.

Khaire echoed the need to win public support and has urged the soldiers to show compassion.

“When you enter their homes, be courteous,” he said. “When you speak to them in the streets, show good conduct and discipline. Don’t be kind to the enemy, but be compassionate to the people.”

The new commander of the police, Gen. Bashir Abdi Mohamed, told Khaire that new operations started effective Sunday night. He said operations will be carried out every night.

Source: Voice of America