Turkey rejects Greece accusation of Mediterranean violation

Turkey rejects Greece accusation of Mediterranean violation

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during an event in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, July 21, 2020. (Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool) more >

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Associated Press

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey on Wednesday rejected claims by Greece that its oil-and-gas research vessels were encroaching on Greek waters in the eastern Mediterranean and said it would continue to defend its legitimate rights and interests in the region.

A Foreign Ministry statement, however, also renewed a call by Ankara for dialogue to resolve the dispute between the two NATO allies.

Turkey announced plans Tuesday to dispatch search vessels into disputed waters in the Mediterranean, raising tensions between the neighbors and ignoring calls from European nations to avoid the action. Turkish authorities said the research vessel Oruc Reis and two support vessels would carry out operations through Aug. 2 in waters south of the Greek islands of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kastelorizo.

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State-run television in Greece said the country’s armed forces had been placed on a state of readiness.

An overnight statement by the Greek foreign ministry called the Turkish notification “illegal,” while authorities there issued a counter-notification declaring the Turkish navy’s notice for seismic survey in the area as “invalid.”

NATO allies Greece and Turkey are at odds over drilling rights in the region, with the European Union and the United States increasingly critical of Ankara’s plans to expand exploration and drilling operations in the coming weeks into areas Athens claims as its own.

Turkey has accused Greece of trying to exclude it from the benefits of oil and gas finds in the Aegean Sea and Eastern Mediterranean, arguing that sea boundaries for commercial exploitation should be divided between the Greek and Turkish mainland and not include the Greek islands on an equal basis.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry denounced what it called a “maximalist continental shelf claim,” insisting that they were “against international law, legal precedent and court decisions.”

The ministry statement added that the maritime area where Oruc Reis would conduct research was “within the limits of the continental shelf that our country has notified to the United Nations.” It said an exploration license was given to the Turkish state-run oil company, TPAO, in 2012.

Greece is pressing other EU member states to prepare “crippling sanctions″ against Turkey if it proceeds with the oil-and-gas exploration plans.

Cyprus: US military training won’t harm Russia, China ties

Cyprus: US military training won’t harm Russia, China ties

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By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

Associated Press

Friday, July 10, 2020

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Cyprus’ government said Friday that a U.S. decision to provide education and training to the island nation’s armed forces won’t hamper relations with either Russia or China.

Cypriot Defense Minister Charalambos Petrides said “there’s no question” of disrupting the country’s ties with Russia and that inclusion in the U.S. training program doesn’t mean “that we cut relations with other countries.”

Petrides’ remarks echoed President Nicos Anastasiades who hailed the U.S. decision but noted that Cyprus’ relations with Russia and China “will never be perturbed.”

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“A small country like Cyprus strives to build the best possible relations with all permanent Security Council member states,” Anastasiades said at a gas terminal groundbreaking ceremony Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday that the U.S. would for the first time provide military education and training funding to Cyprus following congressional approval.

“This is part of our efforts to enhance relationships with key regional partners to promote stability in the Eastern Mediterranean,” Pompeo said.

The announcement prompted criticism from the Turkish Foreign Ministry, whose spokesman Hamit Aksoy said the move would neither help efforts to reunify ethnically split Cyprus nor “ensure peace and stability in the eastern Mediterranean.”

Turkey cut diplomatic ties with Cyprus after the island nation was cleaved along ethnic lines in 1974 when Turkey invaded in the wake of a coup aiming at union with Greece. Only Turkey recognizes a Turkish Cypriot declaration of independence and deploys more than 35,000 troops in the breakaway north.

Cyprus is striving to bolster relations with the U.S., but not at the expense of its ties to Moscow or Beijing on whose support it often counts in the United Nations.

The centerpiece of improved Cyprus-U.S. ties is the Eastern Mediterranean Energy and Security Partnership Act that U.S. lawmakers approved last year.

Military training funding for Cyprus was included in the legislation which underscores U.S. support for a partnership between Greece, Cyprus and Israel based on recently discovered offshore gas deposits in the region.

The act would also lift a 33-year-old arms embargo on Cyprus on the condition that the island nation denies Russian warships access to its ports for “refueling and servicing,” according to the U.S. State Department.

Greece slams Turkey’s actions in Aegean, eastern Med

Greece slams Turkey’s actions in Aegean, eastern Med

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By ELENA BECATOROS

Associated Press

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece’s foreign minister accused Turkey on Wednesday of undermining stability and security in the eastern Mediterranean and causing problems with all of its neighbors, while also violating Greek airspace and territorial waters daily.

Nikos Dendias slammed Turkey’s actions in recent months in the Aegean Sea, which separates the two countries, saying Ankara must “abstain from its illegal gunboat diplomacy.” Dendias spoke during a visit to Greece’s northeastern border with Turkey, accompanied by European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.

NATO allies and neighbors Greece and Turkey have long had difficult relations, and the two countries have come to the brink of war three times since the 1970s. Divided over a series of issues, including territorial disputes in the Aegean, relations have become increasingly strained in recent months.

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Earlier this year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the borders with Europe were open to migrants living in Turkey who wanted to head into the European Union. Although Turkey also shares a border with EU member Bulgaria, it was only on the Greek land border crossing that tens of thousands of migrants gathered, demanding to be allowed to cross.

Dendias described the action as “the exploitation, on the part of Turkey, of the hopes of tens of thousands of civilians for a better life … misled through a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Turkish officials at the highest level.”

Dendias and Borrell toured the Kastanies border crossing in the Evros region where the migrants had gathered in late February.

“It’s very clear that we are determined to protect the external borders of the European Union and to strongly support Greece’s sovereignty,” Borrell said.

The EU foreign policy chief said his visit to Greece had been planned but had been pushed forward after recent incidents involving Turkey “in order order to show our solidarity and to show how much we share your concerns.”

Greece and Turkey are also in dispute over oil and gas exploratory drilling rights in the Mediterranean, with Greece, Cyprus and Egypt outraged at a Turkish agreement with the U.N.-recognized government in Libya laying claim to rights of a swathe of the Mediterranean that they say infringes on their sovereign rights.

Borrell said he and Dendias had discussed the deteriorating relations with Turkey and “about how we can stop the dynamics of escalation.”

Dendias said that after a brief respite while countries dealt with the coronavirus pandemic, “Turkey has once again declared that its land borders to Europe are open. At the same time, its coast guard escorts boats laden with migrants to the Greek islands. But it also persists in undermining security and stability, as well as peace, in the Eastern Mediterranean.”

The Greek minister accused Turkey of “continuously violating the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and our EU partner, the Republic of Cyprus. It is violating almost daily Greece’s national airspace and territorial waters, including overflights of inhabited areas here in Evros and the Aegean Sea by armed warplanes.”

He said that while Greece was “open to dialogue” to resolve differences with its neighbor, “we are not prepared to discuss under duress or help legitimize Turkey’s persistent violations of legality.”

Borrell stressed the importance of good relations for all involved.

“I think this is in our interests and the interests of the European Union, Turkey and Greece to try to solve the current difficulties and improve the current relations,” he said.

Israeli PM sets August target date to open skies to flight

Israeli PM sets August target date to open skies to flight

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, right, and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis give joint statements in Jerusalem, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. (Debbie Hill, UPI Pool via AP) more >

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Associated Press

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

JERUSALEM (AP) – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Greek counterpart Tuesday he hoped to open Israel’s skies as soon as August after a prolonged closure due to the coronavirus, and that Greece would be among the first destinations for Israeli tourists.

The visit by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis marked his first overseas post-corona trip and the first official state visit of any foreign leader to Israel since the pandemic broke out several months ago, signaling the close ties between the Mediterranean neighbors.

Greece is among the most popular tourist destinations for Israelis, and Netanyahu said that Aug. 1 would be the “target date” for resuming travel.

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Greece and Cyprus will be the first points of destination,” he said. “This is contingent to what happens in terms of the numbers of the epidemic whether we keep it under control. But, if we are satisfied with the numbers then what we would like to do is target Aug. 1 as the date of the opening of the skies.”

Israel generally weathered the pandemic well and began opening up last month. But it has seen a steady rise in cases since then, raising fears that restrictions may be reapplied. Overall, the country has recorded nearly 20,000 cases, of which more than 15,000 have recovered, and 300 deaths. Greece also fared better than many of its fellow European countries.

Israel and Greece have strong economic ties and have grown even closer in recent years following the discovery of natural gas in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. They are also aligned politically over their shared concerns about Turkey’s regional ambitions.

“I set out what I consider our view to be regarding Turkey’s aggressive behavior in the Eastern Mediterranean. We consider this activity to be a threat to regional peace and stability,” Mitsotakis said. noting a Turkish military exercise last week near Libya.

Europe’s borders reopen but long road for tourism to recover

Europe’s borders reopen but long road for tourism to recover

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People enjoy the warm weather on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, June 13, 2020. Spanish government has announced that the northwestern region of Galicia will move next week to what the government calls “the new normal,” when some rules, … more >

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By Geir Moulson

Associated Press

Monday, June 15, 2020

BERLIN (AP) — Borders opened up across Europe on Monday after three months of coronavirus closures that began chaotically in March. But many restrictions persist, it’s unclear how keen Europeans will be to travel this summer and the continent is still closed to Americans, Asians and other international tourists.

Border checks for most Europeans were dropped overnight in Germany, France and elsewhere, nearly two weeks after Italy opened its frontiers. The European Union’s 27 nations, as well as those in the Schengen passport-free travel area, which also includes a few non-EU nations such as Switzerland, aren’t expected to start opening to visitors from outside the continent until at least the beginning of next month, and possibly later.

Announcing Monday’s reopening of borders and Paris restaurants, French President Emmanuel Macron said it’s time “to turn the page of the first act of the crisis” and “rediscover our taste for freedom.”

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But he warned: “This doesn’t mean the virus has disappeared and we can totally let down our guard. … The summer of 2020 will be a summer unlike any other.”

That caution is widespread after more than 182,000 virus-linked deaths in Europe. The region has had more than 2 million of the world’s 7.9 million confirmed infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

“We have got the pandemic under control, (but) the reopening of our frontiers is a critical moment,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Sunday as he announced that his hard-hit country is moving forward its opening to European travelers by 10 days to June 21. “The threat is still real. The virus is still out there.”

Still, the need to get Europe’s tourism industry up and running again is also urgent for countries such as Spain and Greece as the economic fallout of the crisis multiplies. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis acknowledged that “a lot will depend on whether people feel comfortable to travel and whether we can project Greece as a safe destination.”

On Monday, Greece was welcoming the first international flights whose passengers didn’t face compulsory COVID-19 tests to Athens and Thessaloniki. Direct international flights to regional Greek airports, including those on its islands, will begin on July 1. Visitors will be subject to random virus testing.

In a trial run, Spain allowed thousands of Germans to fly to its Balearic Islands starting Monday – waiving its 14-day quarantine for the group. The idea is to test out best practices in the coronavirus era.

“This pilot program will help us learn a lot for what lies ahead in the coming months,” Sánchez said. “We want our country, which is already known as a world-class tourist destination, to be recognized as also a secure destination.”

Martin Hofman from Oberhausen, Germany, was delighted as he boarded the first flight from Duesseldorf to the Spanish island of Mallorca.

His holiday couldn’t be postponed “and to stay in Germany was not an option for us,” he said. “And, well, yes, we are totally happy that we can get out.”

Europe’s reopening isn’t a repeat of the chaotic free-for-all in March, when panicked, uncoordinated border closures caused traffic jams that stretched for miles.

Still, it’s a complicated, shifting patchwork of different rules, and not everyone is equally free to travel everywhere. Several countries are not opening up yet to everyone. Norway and Denmark, for example, are keeping their borders closed with Sweden, whose virus strategy avoided a lockdown but produced a relatively high per capita death rate. Some other nations also have travel restrictions for Swedes.

Cars queued up Monday morning at some crossings on the German border with Denmark, which is now letting in visitors from Germany but only if they have booked accommodations for at least six nights.

Britain, which left the EU in January but remains closely aligned with the bloc until the end of this year, only last week imposed a 14-day quarantine requirement for most arrivals, horrifying its tourism and aviation industries. As a result, France is asking people coming from Britain to self-quarantine for two weeks and several other nations are not letting British tourists in during the first wave of reopenings.

With flights only gradually picking up, nervousness about new outbreaks abroad, uncertainty about social distancing at tourist venues and millions facing record unemployment or pay cuts, many Europeans may choose simply to stay home or explore their own countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz are both planning to vacation in their homelands this year.

The Dutch government said its citizens can now visit 16 European nations, but urged caution.

“You can go abroad for your holiday again,” Foreign Minister Stef Blok said. “But it won’t be as carefree as before the corona crisis. The virus is still among us and the situation remains uncertain.”

Greece, Italy sign deal on demarcating maritime boundaries

Greece, Italy sign deal on demarcating maritime boundaries

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Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, right, and his Italian counterpart Luigi Di Maio asign an agreement following their meeting , in Athens, on Tuesday, June 9, 2020. Greece will lift all restrictions on Italian tourists entering the country gradually between … more >

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Associated Press

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece and Italy signed an agreement Tuesday demarcating their maritime boundaries, amid tension in the Mediterranean region over rights to natural resources.

The agreement signed at the foreign ministry during a visit to Athens by Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, tackled an issue that had been pending for 40 years, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement.

“Today is a good day for Greece, Italy, Europe and the entire Mediterranean,” Mitsotakis said, adding that the deal meets international law and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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It demarcates the exclusive economic zone – the maritime area in which a nation has the right of energy exploration and use of marine resources – between the two neighbors, as well as settling fishing rights, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said after signing the deal with Di Maio. “Today is a historic day,” he said.

Greece and Cyprus in particular have been locked in a tense diplomatic standoff with Turkey over drilling rights at sea. The issue is complicated by the lack of clear agreements delineating countries’ exclusive economic zones.

Last November, Turkey signed a maritime boundary agreement with Libya’s UN-backed government that was strongly opposed and considered illegal by Greece, Egypt and Cyprus.

“The demarcation of maritime zones is achieved in accordance with international law, with valid agreements,” Dendias said. “Not with unsubstantiated agreements such as the agreement between Turkey and (Libyan Prime Minister Fayez) Sarraj.”

Dendias said he spoke with Di Maio about “the escalation of Turkish violations against our country,” noting in particular a demand by a Turkish oil company “to drill on the Greek continental shelf.”

NATO allies Greece and Turkey have long-standing disputes, including over territorial rights in the Aegean Sea.

Greece calls Turkey’s oil-and-gas plan a ‘provocation’

Greece calls Turkey’s oil-and-gas plan a ‘provocation’

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Monday, June 1, 2020

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece said Monday that it is determined to oppose plans by Turkey to expand oil-and-gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea, in a deepening regional dispute over mineral rights.

Greece stands ready to deal with this provocation should Turkey decide to implement this decision,” Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in a statement.

Government officials said the Turkish ambassador in Athens had been summoned to the Foreign Ministry Monday to receive a formal complaint from the Greek government.

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Turkish authorities over the weekend published an outline of the exploration licensing procedure for state-run Turkish Petroleum in areas that Greece says would violate its sovereign rights.

The planned expansion follows a maritime boundary agreement signed last year between Turkey and Libya that is strongly opposed and considered illegal by Greece and regional allies Cyprus and Egypt.

NATO allies Greece and Turkey have longstanding disputes over airspace and maritime boundaries in the Aegean Sea as well as over mineral rights in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece clarifies policy, to allow tourists from all nations

Greece clarifies policy, to allow tourists from all nations

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In this Monday, May 25, 2020 photo, a doctor of the National Health Organization (EODY) carries the tests for coronavirus taken on local residents on the Aegean Sea island of Sikinos, Greece. Using dinghies, a GPS, and a portable refrigerator, … more >

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By DEMETRIS NELLAS

Associated Press

Saturday, May 30, 2020

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greek officials said Saturday that the country will not limit arriving airline passengers next month to people coming from 29 countries but that travelers who departed from places that aren’t on the initial list will be subject to mandatory testing for the coronavirus upon arrival and a quarantine period of one or two weeks.

The two-tiered policy, which revised information the Greek government issued Friday, will be applied during June 15-30, although officials left open the possibility of maintaining entry restrictions after the end of June.

High-ranking tourism ministry officials said the government needed to clarify the purpose of the 29-country list during the coronavirus pandemic, pointing to a statement posted on the Foreign Ministry’s website. The officials spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the issue was politically sensitive.

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According to the officials and the foreign ministry document, a limited number of international flights will continue only being allowed to land at Athens International Airport until June 15. Per European Union policy, every arriving passenger must be tested for the virus and stay overnight at a designated hotel.

Visitors who test negative are required to self-quarantine for 7 days, while the ones who test positive must spend 14 days under a supervised quarantine.

Greece is taking steps to welcome more visitors in time for the summer vacation season. Starting June 15, international flights also can land in Thessaloniki, the country’s second-largest city. Those from the 29 designated countries, the majority of them in Europe, will be subject to random tests.

Passengers from all other countries will have to continue getting tested, staying overnight at specific hotels, and quarantining for either seven or 14 days.

The 29 countries announced Friday are: Albania, Australia, Austria, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Estonia, Japan, Israel, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia, Lebanon, New Zealand, Lithuania, Malta, Montenegro, Norway, South Korea, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Finland.

The list was drawn up based on a document from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency of airports worldwide “located in affected areas with high risk of transmission of the COVID-19 infection.”

Starting July 1, all Greek airports that can handle international traffic will reopen to flights from abroad. At that time, random screening for the virus will apply to all arriving passengers unless public health considerations dictate stricter testing, a tourism ministry official said.

Additionally, international arrivals by sea will also be allowed as of July 1, also subject to random testing. Foreigners traveling by land also will be permitted to enter Greece from neighboring Albania, Bulgaria and North Macedonia – but not Turkey – and be subject to random testing.

“Greece at any stage retains the right to modify any of the above in light of changing circumstances,” the Foreign Ministry document states.

Greece imposed a lockdown early in its coronavirus outbreak, a move credited with limiting infections. The country had a total of 175 deaths and 2,915 confirmed cases as of Saturday. No cases have been detected on the vast majority of the Greek islands, which are popular vacation spots.

Tourism and related industries make up around 20% of the Greek economy, and the government has been anxious to ensure the tourist season is not lost this year. According to the Tourism Ministry, 350,000 jobs depend directly on tourism, as many as double that number indirectly.

At this point “we are at point zero” concerning relaunching tourism traffic lost during the pandemic, a tourism ministry official told the AP, adding that it will take at least two or three weeks to see if bookings start to pick up.

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Indians wearing masks travel in a ferry during the coronavirus pandemic in Kochi, Kerala state, India, Friday, May 29, 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is preparing a new set of guidelines to be issued this weekend, possibly extending the … more >

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By The Associated Press

Associated Press

Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

– Alaska to require COVID-19 testing for air travelers coming into the state.

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– New York governor signs bill granting death benefits to families of health workers and other public servants who have died from COVID-19.

– Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar gets a cleaning as country prepares to lift restrictions.

Italy on track to relax travel restrictions next week.

___

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy says travelers to Alaska will have to be tested for COVID-19 before boarding a plane to the state, or submit to a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.

Out-of-state travelers will need to show proof of testing within 72 hours of boarding and fill out paperwork. If either test results or paperwork are lost, travelers will be subjected to another test at the airport or quarantine for two weeks.

Dunleavy also extended the state’s 14-day quarantine rule until the new policy begins Friday.

Further policy changes are expected to be clarified Monday.

___

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill Saturday granting death benefits to the families of police officers, public health workers and other front-line workers who have died of the coronavirus.

The bill passed by state lawmakers provides an accidental death benefit that is more substantial than the regular death benefit that public workers’ families receive. Dozens of police officers, public health workers, transit workers and paramedics have died of COVID-19 in the months since New York became the epicenter of the pandemic in the United States.

Cuomo said 67 people died of COVID-19 in the state on Friday, the same number as Thursday and a steep drop from the height of New York’s outbreak in April, when more than 700 people were dying of the disease daily.

__

ISTANBUL – Disinfection teams swept Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar and the resumption of domestic flights was announced Saturday as Turkey prepared to lift many remaining coronavirus restrictions.

Teams scrubbed the floors of the 15th century bazaar, which has been closed since March 23, ahead of Monday’s return to business. The chair of the bazaar’s board of directors said shoppers would have their temperatures checked on entry and visitor numbers would be restricted.

The transport minister said the first air routes between Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, Antalya and Trabzon would restart Monday, with others following gradually.

On Saturday evening Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced 983 new cases of coronavirus over the previous 24 hours, taking Turkey’s total number of cases to 163,103. In a tweet, he said there had been 26 deaths from the virus over the same period, bringing the overall death toll to 4,515.

A weekend lockdown was reimposed in 15 provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara. A stay-at-home order for people aged 65 and older and minors also remained in place.

___

ROME – Italy added 111 new victims to the country’s official death toll from the new coronavirus and 416 new infections as it prepares to relax travel restrictions next week.

The increases bring the official death toll to 33,340 and are in line with recent daily tallies, suggesting the contagion is under control nearly four weeks after the country began gingerly loosening a strict lockdown in what has been the epicenter of the European pandemic.

On Friday, the Health Ministry said the crucial weeklong, region-by-region monitoring had shown no critical problems, giving the go-ahead for relaxation on travel starting Wednesday.

Some regional governors, however, are insisting on restrictions for visitors from hard-hit Lombardy, or for tourists to certify they are negative. The regional affairs minister has said such measures are unconstitutional since the Italian constitution prevents any region from inhibiting the free circulation of people.

___

ATHENS – No new deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the past 48 hours in Greece, and there have been just seven new infections since Friday afternoon, health authorities said Saturday.

The total number of confirmed infections is now 2,915, with 175 fatalities.

There are 14 patients on ventilators, while 106 have exited intensive care units.

Authorities have tested 178,316 people for the new coronavirus.

___

BUCHAREST, Romania – Romania’s prime minister has paid fines totaling about $600 for smoking indoors and holding a meeting in a government building where several Cabinet ministers and other participants did not follow social distancing rules.

In a photograph published in Romanian media, Prime Minister Ludovic Orban and others can be seen smoking with food and bottles of alcohol on a table. No one in the photo wore a mask or maintained the required spacing.

Orban told the Mediafax news agency that the picture was taken on May 25, his birthday. The foreign minister and economy minister of Romania were among those attending.

Romania has registered 19,133 confirmed coronavirus cases and 1,259 deaths.

___

SKOPJE, North Macedonia – North Macedonia has decided to extend a state of emergency for another two weeks because the coronavirus pandemic shows no sign of slowing down.

President Stevo Pendarovski announced the extension of on Saturday following a meeting of the National Security Council.

The country’s health authorities reported five new deaths and 35 infections in the previous 24 hours, days after the government allowed bars, cafes and restaurants to reopen.

The government does not plan to make the establishments close again.

North Macedonia had a total of 2,146 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday, including 131 deaths.

___

VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis is reciting a special prayer for the end of the coronavirus pandemic surrounded by a representative sampling of people on the front lines.

Francis held his biggest post-lockdown gathering by far on Saturday evening. He was joined in the Vatican Gardens by a doctor, a nurse, a hospital chaplain, a pharmacist, a journalist and a civil protection official.

A recovered COVID-19 patient, a person with a relative who died during Italy’s outbreak, and the parents of a baby born during the emergency also were among the pope’s more than 100 guests for the prayer at the grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

In March, the Vatican followed Italy in locking down and halting all public worship. Many in the crowd on Saturday wore protective masks; Francis didn’t.

The Marian prayer is celebrated each year at the end of the Catholic Church’s monthlong tribute to Mary in May. This year, the Vatican said the pope’s recitation of the Rosary was being done simultaneously at more than 40 Marian shrines around the world.

___

NEW DELHI – India is extending its ongoing lockdown in designated coronavirus containment zones until June 30 but will allow all economic activities to restart in a phased manner outside those areas as cases continue to rise in its major cities.

India’s Home Ministry said in a directive issued Saturday that a reopening phase set to start Monday is called Unlock 1.

The directive said religious sites and places of worship, hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services and shopping malls will be allowed to reopen outside all containment zones starting June 8.

Subways, schools and colleges will remain shuttered nationwide and only be allowed to reopen after further assessment of the situation in July, according to the directive.

India started easing lockdown restrictions earlier this month, allowing shops to reopen, manufacturing to resume, some trains and domestic flights to operate.

The country, which has a population of 1.3 billion, has reported 173,763 confirmed virus cases, including more than 4,970 deaths.

___

PARIS – The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has urged the United States to “reconsider” its decision to break ties with the World Health Organization.

In a joint statement Vice-President Josep Borrell, von der Leyen says “global cooperation and solidarity through multilateral efforts are the only effective and viable avenues to win this battle the world is facing.”

She says the American decision to part ways with the United Nations health agency during the coronavirus crisis will “weaken international results” in fighting future pandemics.

Von der Leyen adds the European Union has already provided additional WHO funding.

For the WHO, to lead an international response in health emergencies, “the participation and support of all is required and very much needed.”

___

ROME – Italy’s foreign minister is warning that the European Union will “collapse” if governments treat Italians like lepers over the coronavirus and “black list” Europe’s one-time virus epicenter during the summer tourism season.

Luigi Di Maio posted a blistering Facebook message Saturday after Greece excluded Italians – as well as nationals from Spain, Britain and other countries with high infection rates – from the list of foreign tourists it will welcome this summer.

Di Maio said competition for tourism is one thing, but he insisted that it be healthy and fair in demanding a European response to the reopening of EU borders after virus lockdowns. He warned: “If you act differently and dislocated, the EU spirit will be lost. And Europe will collapse.”

Di Maio praised French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian for making his first post-lockdown visit to Italy on Wednesday. Di Maio said he would be traveling to Germany, Slovenia and Greece in the upcoming week to make the case that Italy is ready to receive foreign tourists. Tourism and its related industries account for some 13% of Italy’s GDP.

___

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Students are returning to high schools in the Palestinian territories for the first time in two months for final exams.

The Education Ministry said Saturday that 78,400 12th-graders are taking the exams in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Schools have been closed since March as part of Palestinian efforts to contain the coronavirus.

In Gaza, police and paramedics took students’ temperatures as they entered, and the students sat spaced apart in classrooms.

The Palestinian Authority, which governs parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, has reported more than 380 confirmed cases of the virus, including two deaths.

Authorities have reported 61 cases and one death in Gaza, which has been under an Israeli and Egyptian blockade since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power in 2007. All the cases in Gaza have been detected inside quarantine facilities housing returnees from abroad.

___

MOSCOW – Russia has recorded nearly 9,000 new cases of the coronavirus, roughly consistent with the increases reported over the past two weeks.

The national coronavirus task force said Saturday that 4,555 Russians have died of COVID-19 and 396,575 infections have been confirmed overall.

The relatively low mortality rate compared with other countries has prompted skepticism domestically and abroad. In a bid to dispel suspicions that authorities are trying to lower the death toll for political reasons, Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova explained Friday that Russia’s count contains only those confirmed to have died of the infection, but she also gave figures for people who tested positive for the virus but died of other causes.

If all categories are counted as COVID-19 deaths, the nation’s total toll for April would stand at 2,713, or nearly 60% more than the previously announced number.

___

CAIRO – Egypt on Saturday ordered its people to wear face masks in public, when taking private transportation, and inside government offices as it eases the partial lockdown imposed during the weeklong Muslim holiday of Eid- el-Fitr.

Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said violators will be fined. He said the nationwide curfew will be 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for another two weeks.

Egypt, the Arab World’s most populous country, has seen a jump of daily reported infections in the past week, with a total of 879 deaths among 22,082 confirmed cases. The country of 100 million people has the highest announced deaths from COVID-19 in the Arab World.

___

BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel will not personally attend a meeting in the U.S. with the leaders of the world’s major economies if President Donald Trump goes ahead with it, unless the course of the coronavirus spread changes by then, her office said Saturday.

After canceling the Group of Seven summit, originally scheduled for June 10-12 at Camp David, Trump said a week ago that he was again considering hosting an in-person meeting of world leaders because it would be a “great sign to all” of things returning to normal during the pandemic.

Immediately after that announcement, Merkel suggested that she had not yet made up her mind on whether to attend in person or by video conference, but her office told the dpa news agency that she has now made a decision.

“As of today, given the overall pandemic situation, she cannot commit to participating in person,” Merkel’s office said.

___

NEW DELHI – India has registered another record single day jump of 7,964 coronavirus cases and 265 deaths, a day before the two-month-old lockdown across the country of 1.3 billion people is set to end.

The Health Ministry on Saturday put the total number of cases in India at 173,763 with 4,971 deaths. The total infections included 86,422 active cases and 82,369 recoveries.

More than 70% of coronavirus cases in India are concentrated in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, New Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in an open letter on one year of the government’s second term, asserted that India was traversing on the path to “victory” in its battle against the virus. He said India will set “an example in economic revival” and asked the countrymen to show a “firm resolve.”

Modi also acknowledged the “tremendous suffering” of migrant workers and laborers who were the worse hit after India imposed a nationwide coronavirus lockdown in late March, forcing millions of them to flee cities after losing their jobs and make grueling and dangerous trips back to their hometowns.

The federal government is expected to issue a new set of guidelines this weekend, possibly extending the lockdown in worst-hit areas.

India started easing lockdown restrictions earlier this month, allowing reopening of shops and manufacturing and resumption of some trains and domestic flights and vehicles’ movement.

Metro services, schools and colleges, hotels and restaurants are shuttered nationwide.

India has surpassed China both in terms of confirmed cases and deaths from the disease.

___

Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Turkey accuses five nations of forming ‘alliance of evil’

Turkey accuses five nations of forming ‘alliance of evil’

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, listens during a teleconference with his cabinet in Istanbul, Monday, May 11, 2020. Erdogan announced a new four-day curfew to stem infections, that includes the weekend and a public holiday on May 19. The country … more >

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By SUZAN FRASER

Associated Press

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey on Tuesday accused Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, France and the United Arab Emirates of seeking to form an “alliance of evil” after these countries issued a joint declaration denouncing Ankara’s policies in the eastern Mediterranean and Libya.

In a strongly-worded statement, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the five countries were pursuing “regional chaos and instability” in the eastern Mediterranean and sacrificing Libyans’ “hope for democracy for the reckless aggression of dictators.”

The foreign ministers of the five countries held a teleconference on Monday to discuss the situation in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey has been drilling for potential hydrocarbon deposits in an offshore area where Cyprus has exclusive economic rights, as well as the situation in Libya.

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Last year, Turkey signed a contested maritime border delineation deal as well as a military cooperation agreement with the internationally-recognized government in Tripoli.

Turkey says the deal grants its economic rights to a large swath of the east Mediterranean Sea and prevents any energy-related projects from moving forward without Ankara’s consent. Greece and Cyprus have protested the deal, saying it contravenes international law and infringes on their own rights in the area.

The five nations denounced what they said was Turkey’s sixth attempt in less than a year to “illegally conduct drilling operations in Cyprus’ maritime zones.”

Turkey doesn’t recognize ethnically divided Cyprus as a state and claims much of its exclusive economic zone as its own. It has dispatched warship-escorted vessels off Cyprus to drill for gas, insisting that it’s acting to protect its interests and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s natural resources.

Cyprus was split in 1974 when Turkey invaded after coup by supporters of union with Greece. A breakaway Turkish Cypriot state is recognized only by Turkey.

The five also protested the agreements signed with Libya’s U.N.-backed government as a violation of international law and the U.N. arms embargo in Libya.

”(The) Ministers strongly condemned Turkey’s military interference in Libya, and urged Turkey to fully respect the UN arms embargo, and to stop the influx of foreign fighters from Syria to Libya. These developments constitute a threat to the stability of Libya’s neighbors in Africa as well as in Europe,” the five nations declared.

In its response, the Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Greece and Cyprus of avoiding dialogue with Turkey and faulted Egypt for not protecting the rights and interests of its own people. It also charged the UAE of joining the others out of hostility against Turkey and blamed France for allegedly seeking to act as a “patron” to the alliance.

“We call on these countries to act in line with common sense, international laws and practices,” said Aksoy, the Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman. “Peace and stability in the region can be established with sincere and genuine dialogue, not through alliances of evil.”

__

Associated Press Writer Menelaos Hadjicostis in Nicosia, Cyprus contributed.

Greece says Turkish fighter jets buzzed Greek chopper

Greece says Turkish fighter jets buzzed Greek chopper

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By ELENA BECATOROS

Associated Press

Monday, May 4, 2020

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece’s government has condemned what it described as a provocative act by Turkey, whose fighter jets Athens says buzzed a helicopter carrying the Greek defense minister and the head of the armed forces who were visiting a Greek island.

Turkey, however, denied its jets had ever harassed the helicopter, saying they were simply on a routine flight.

Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Monday the incident on Sunday was another indication that “Turkey often exceeds the limits of both the rules of international law and of course the rules of good neighborliness.”

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NATO allies and neighbors Greece and Turkey have a long history of testy relations, and have come to the brink of war three times since the mid 1970s. They remain divided over a series of issues, including territorial claims in the Aegean Sea.

Tensions between the two increased recently, particularly after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in late February declared his borders open to migrants wishing to leave to Europe. Although Turkey also shares a border with European Union member Bulgaria, it was only at its border with Greece that tens of thousands of migrants appeared, demanding to cross. Weeks of often violent clashes with border guards ensued.

In Sunday’s incident, Greek fighter jets repelled the two Turkish jets, Greek officials said. Local media reported that Turkish jets continued to fly over the Greek island of Oinousses during a visit there by Defense Minister Nikos Panagiotopoulos and the chief of the National Defense General Staff, Gen. Konstantinos Floros.

“Such behavior by Turkey doesn’t help in defusing tension, which both sides should be seeking at this time,” Panagiotopoulos said Sunday. The Greek Foreign Ministry described the incident as “another unacceptable Turkish action” which confirms “the negative role Turkey is playing in the region, insisting on anachronistic perceptions of international relations.”

Turkey, for its part, accused Greece of trying to escalate tensions.

“Our warplanes carried out the task of recognition within the framework of routine activities in the Aegean,” Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said in a written statement.

“Trying to escalate tensions by dramatizing routine flights is of no benefit to this country,” Aksoy said. “Instead, these issues should be addressed during the confidence-building process that was initiated by the two countries’ defense ministries.”

___

Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.

Blur – Girls And Boys

Street’s like a jungle
So call the police
Following the herd
Down to Greece
On holiday
Love in the nineties
Is paranoid
On sunny beaches
Take your chances
Looking for

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

Avoiding all work
Because there’s none available
Like battery thinkers
Count your thoughts
On one-two-three-four-five fingers
Nothing is wasted
Only reproduced
You get nasty blisters
Du bist sehr schan
But we haven’t been introduced

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

Looking for girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys
Always should be someone you really love

Girls who are boys
Who like boys to be girls
Who do boys like they’re girls
Who do girls like they’re boys

Horrible Histories – Flame lyrics

[Verse 1]
Greeks:
In 776BC Olympics were begun
Greece was the only country, so naturally we won
Cheats built bronzes of God Zeus were we honest winners
The answer’s no we had more statues than you’ve had hot dinners
Our games meant truce was called in war a peace every 4 years
But wrestling was so violent that bouts could end in tears
No girls allowed to watch or run that might sound rude
But makes sense when I tell you we competed nude

[Chorus]
FLAME
It’s gonna burn forever
Love for Olympic heroes
FLAME
We’d like one next however
Sadly it’s Emperor Nero
Hey watch it you two, alright

[Verse 2]
Emperor Nero:
I went from Rome to Greece so I could play them at their games
In 67AD you know I won Olympic fame
Told them to include a contest based on poetry
Not much good for sportsmen no, but brilliant for me
Crashed my racing chariot but still awarded gold
Hey my Olympics my rules
To argue would be bold
I won every medal that was up for grabs
The crowd loved it well they had to or I would have had them stabbed, OK?

[Chorus]
Greeks:
FLAME

Nero:
Olympic champion that’s me
My games were emperors own round

Greeks:
FLAME

Nero:
Think I was bad in 393
Christian Rome had them banned

[Hook]
all:
It’s over, it’s over, it’s over, it’s over, it’s over, it’s over

Nero:

SHAME

[Verse 3]
Baron de Coubertin:
WAIT not so fast

I’m Baron de Coubertin, a famous French historian
I read of the Olympic Games thought I should try restoring them
They’d be just like the old days I said but did propose
That unlike Greeks Victorians should do them wearing clothes
In 1896 we launched the games in dear old Greece
Hoped it would make men more morale as well as less obese
We built a stadium so we could start to play
Games of the modern Olympics which we still have today

[Chorus]
All:
FLAME

Baron de Coubertin:
I’m on my personal glory
But no-one remembers my name

All:
FLAME

Baron de Coubertin:
So here to finish our story
A man who has gold plated fame

[Verse 4]
Jesse Owens:
I’m Jesse Owens fastest man in 1936
I took home 4 gold medals yeah, but that’s just the basics
What you should know about the fact I was victorious
Is, it made Herr Hitler mad ha it made him furious
Hitler said Berlin should be the games Germanic base
So he could show the world Aryans were the master race
I won in 4 events he had to back pedal
His evil theory destroyed with every medal

[Chorus]
All:
FLAME
It’s gonna burn forever
Olympics are never in doubt
FLAME
A fire of sporting endeavour
You realise it’s actually gone out
Olympic, Olympic
FLAME