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NATO says Greece and Turkey agree to de-escalation talks, but Athens denies a deal

Issued on: 04/09/2020 – 00:35

NATOs chief said Thursday that alliance members Greece and Turkey ha..

Issued on:

NATOs chief said Thursday that alliance members Greece and Turkey have agreed to start “technical talks” to reduce the risks of military “incidents and accidents” in the eastern Mediterranean, where the two are locked in a tense standoff over offshore energy rights.

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But Athens quickly denied any such agreement, saying neighboring Turkey must first withdraw its ships from the area where it is carrying out gas and oil prospecting. Ankara, on the other hand, said it backs NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenbergs initiative for military and technical talks and called on Greece to do the same.

Relations between the historic regional rivals have hit their worst point in 46 years — when their militaries briefly fought in Cyprus — after Ankara sent a research vessel, escorted by warships, in July into waters claimed by Greece and Cyprus. Turkey says it has every right to prospect there.

Greece placed its armed forces on alert and sent its own warships to the area, between the islands of Crete and Cyprus and Turkeys southern coast, while simulated dogfights between Greek and Turkish fighter pilots have multiplied over the Aegean Sea and the eastern Mediterranean.

Stoltenberg announced the possible diplomatic opening on NATOs website Thursday, the same day Turkey announced that Russia plans live-fire naval exercises this month in the eastern Mediterranean.

“Following my discussions with Greek and Turkish leaders, the two Allies have agreed to enter into technical talks at NATO to establish mechanisms for military de-confliction, to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Stoltenberg said.

He added that “Greece and Turkey are valued Allies, and NATO is an important platform for consultations on all issues that affect our shared security.”

A Greek official told The Associated Press that talk of “alleged technical talks” at NATO “does not correspond with reality.”

“De-escalation would only be achieved with the immediate withdrawal of all Turkish ships from the Greek continental shelf,” he said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to comment on the record.

A Turkish Foreign Ministry statement said Turkey was ready for a dialogue to resolve disputes.

“We would like to take this opportunity to remind that our country is ready for a dialogue with Greece, without preconditions, in order to find permanent solutions that are just and fair to all issues between us within the framework of international law,” the statement read.

Germany has already launched a diplomatic effort for Ankara and Athens to engage in talks. Both insist they want to talk, but each on its own terms.

It is rare for members of NATO to require “de-confliction mechanisms” to avoid collisions or exchanges of fire. While often at loggerheads, the alliance has often urged Russia to continue to use military dialogue to avoid “incidents and accidents”, mostly between war planes or ships.

Still, its not the first time that Turkey has appeared close to a confrontation with one of its allies.

>> Troubled waters: Greek-Turkish escalations in the Mediterranean

On June 10, the French frigate Courbet was illuminated by the targeting radar of a Turkish warship that was escorting a Tanzanian-flagged cargo vessel. The French navy, acting on NATO intelligence, suspected the cargo ship was violating the arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish officials said a NATO probe into the incident was “inconclusive”. NATO has not made its findings public.

Earlier, Turkey announced the Russian naval exercises in a navigational notice that said they would take place Sept. 8-22 and Sept. 17-25 in areas where the Turkish energy exploration is being carried out. Greek and Turkish armed forces held their own exercises in the same area last month.

There was no immediate comment from Moscow on the exercises, which Turkey announced after the United States said it was partially lifting a 33-year-old arms embargo against ethnically divided Cyprus.

Its unclear why NATO-member Turkey announced such drills on Russias behalf, but the two countries have in recent years significantly strengthened their military, political and economic ties. They are coordinating closely on their militarRead More – Source

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Covid: Thousands protest in France against proposed new vaccine pass

A new draft law would in effect ban unvaccinated people from public life.

Demonstrators in the capital, Paris, held placards emblazoned with phrases like “no to vaccine passes”.

Interior Ministry officials said 34 people were arrested and some 10 police officers were injured after the protests turned violent in some places.

The bill, which passed its first reading in the lower house of France’s parliament on Thursday, would remove the option of showing a negative Covid-19 test to gain access to a host of public venues.

Instead, people would have to be fully vaccinated to visit a range of spaces, including bars and restaurants.

The government says it expects the new rules to come into force on 15 January, although the opposition-dominated Senate could delay the process.

But demonstrators on Saturday accused the government of trampling on their freedoms and treating citizens unequally.

Others targeted their anger at the president, Emmanuel Macron, over comments he made earlier this week in relation to unvaccinated citizens, telling Le Parisian newspaper that he wanted to “piss them off”.

One protester, hospital administrator Virginie Houget, told the Reuters news agency that Mr Macron’s remarks were “the last straw”.

And in Paris, where some 18,000 people marched against the new law, demonstrators responded to his coarse language by chanting: “We’ll piss you off”.

TV images showed altercations between protesters and police turning violent in some places. In Montpellier officers used teargas during clashes with the demonstrators.

Turnout for the protests was estimated to be about four times higher than the last major demonstrations on 18 December, when some 25,500 people marched across the country.

But despite the vocal protests, opposition to the new measures is not widespread and recent polling suggests the vast majority of people back the vaccine pass.

France is one of the most highly vaccinated countries in Europe, with more than 90% of over-12s eligible for the shot fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, new coronavirus infections are rising rapidly across France as the new Omicron variant takes hold.

The country recorded more than 300,000 new cases for the second time in a week on Friday and admissions to intensive care wards are rising steadily, putting healthcare systems under strain.

Some hospitals have reported that some 85% of ICU patients are not vaccinated against Covid-19.

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Covid-19: ‘There is no choice between lives and livelihoods,’ OECD chief Gurría says

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of t..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:26

As European countries move into their second Covid-19 lockdowns of the year, the head of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development backs measures seen by many as tough. Ángel Gurría tells FRANCE 24: "If you win the battle against the virus first, you will have less economic consequences." He adds that "there is no choice between lives and livelihoods; it's a false dilemma".

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Mexican economist Ángel Gurría has been Secretary-General of the OECD since 2006 – throughout the global financial crash and subsequent recovery.

With hopes now high for viable vaccines against Covid-19, he's telling world leaders that the solutions to health and economic crises must carry the elements of our solutions to the environmental crisis too: "The single most important inter-generational responsibility is with the planet. That means the recovery, where we are going to make investments that have an impact for the next 30, 40 years, must absolutely have the sustainability of the planet in mind".

On the recently announced Pfizer vaccine, Gurría says: "It is a game changer […] The possibility of a vaccine being close is of enormous consequence. We still have to wait for it to be finalised, approved and distributed in sufficient amounts that it can get everywhere, so we are calculating that we are going to spend most of 2021 still living with the virus. But it changes expectations; the whole mood has improved considerably since the announcement."

On the refusal of Donald Trump, leader of the OECD's biggest single funder, to concede defeat in the US presidential election, Gurría sounds an upbeat note: "I believe that we will have an orderly transition of power in the United States come 20th January 2021. I believe in the institutions in the United States, I believe that the political forces in the United States will eventually align."

Finally, as talks drag on over a new Brexit deal on the future relationship between the EU and the United Kingdom, Gurría says he still expects a deal to be struck: "I believe that the common interest will lead to a deal […] The impact in Europe is going to be limited to the trade with the UK. The impact in the UK is going to be very serious, not only because of the flows of trade and flows of investment, but also because the overall business mood will be affected. So I am still counting on a deal."

Produced by Mathilde Bénézet

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Attacks in France and Austria: Europe’s response to extremism

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24
This Friday..

Issued on: 13/11/2020 – 17:40Modified: 13/11/2020 – 17:42

TALKING EUROPE
TALKING EUROPE © FRANCE 24

This Friday marks the fifth anniversary of the Paris terror attacks, in which 130 people were killed. The last few weeks have seen more bloodshed, with attacks in the Paris region, in Nice and in the Austrian capital Vienna. European leaders are looking for solutions: ways to stop hate being preached, broadcast and acted upon, while defending individual freedoms of speech and of conscience. In our debate we ask two leading members of the European Parliament, from France and from Austria, what they believe should be done.

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Produced by Yi Song and Perrine Desplats

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Our guests

  • Andreas SCHIEDER, Austrian MEP, Socialists & Democrats
  • Nathalie LOISEAU, French MEP, Renew Europe

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