EU lawmakers OK virus pass, boosting summer travel hopes

EU lawmakers OK virus pass, boosting summer travel hopes

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People sunbathe on the beach in Barcelona, Spain, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. Spain is jumpstarting its summer tourism season by welcoming vaccinated visitors from most countries as well as European visitors who can prove they are not infected with coronavirus. … more >

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By Lorne Cook

Associated Press

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

BRUSSELS (AP) — European Union lawmakers on Wednesday endorsed a new travel certificate that will allow people to move between European countries without having to quarantine or undergo extra coronavirus tests, paving the way for the pass to start in time for summer.

The widely awaited certificate is aimed at saving Europe’s travel industry and prime tourist sites from another disastrous vacation season. Key travel destinations like Greece have led the drive to have the certificate, which will have both paper and digital forms, rapidly introduced.

Several EU countries have already begun using the system, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece and Poland.

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Right now, traveling in the EU‘s 27 nations is a trial for tourists and airlines alike. Countries have various COVID-19 traffic-light systems, where those in green are considered safe and those in red to be avoided. But each nation is applying different rules and standards, making travel confusing for all.

The new regulations governing the vaccine certificates were adopted in two votes at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Rules for EU citizens were passed 546 to 93, with 51 abstentions. Those for people from outside the bloc passed 553 to 91, with 46 abstentions.

The vote must still be rubber-stamped by EU nations, but that’s likely a formality.

It means that beginning July 1 for 12 months, all EU countries must recognize the vaccine certificate. They will be issued free and certify that a person has either been fully vaccinated against the virus, has recently tested negative or has recovered from the disease.

The rules will not be heavily enforced for 6 weeks to allow countries to prepare.

The passes will be issued by individual nations, not from a centralized European system. They will contain a QR code with advanced security features. Personal data will not be shared with other countries.

Spanish Socialist lawmaker Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar, who chaperoned the votes through parliament, said “EU states are encouraged to refrain from imposing further restrictions, unless strictly necessary and proportionate.”

People coming from outside the EU, the overwhelming majority of whom should be vaccinated to enter, will be able to get a certificate if they can convince authorities in the EU country they enter that they qualify for one.

In post-pandemic Europe, migrants will face digital fortress

In post-pandemic Europe, migrants will face digital fortress

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A police officer works inside the operation center at the village of Nea Vyssa near the Greek-Turkish border, in Greece, Friday, May 21, 2021. An automated hi-tech surveillance network being built on the Greek-Turkish border aiming at detecting migrants early … more >

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By Derek Gatopoulos and Costas Kantouris

Associated Press

Monday, May 31, 2021

PEPLO, Greece (AP) — As the world begins to travel again, Europe is sending migrants a loud message: Stay away!

Greek border police are firing bursts of deafening noise from an armored truck over the frontier into Turkey. Mounted on the vehicle, the long-range acoustic device, or “sound cannon,” is the size of a small TV set but can match the volume of a jet engine.

It’s part of a vast array of physical and experimental new digital barriers being installed and tested during the quiet months of the coronavirus pandemic at the 200-kilometer (125-mile) Greek border with Turkey to stop people entering the European Union illegally.

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A new steel wall, similar to recent construction on the U.S.-Mexico border, blocks commonly-used crossing points along the Evros River that separates the two countries.

Nearby observation towers are being fitted with long-range cameras, night vision, and multiple sensors. The data will be sent to control centers to flag suspicious movement using artificial intelligence analysis.

“We will have a clear ‘pre-border’ picture of what’s happening,” Police Maj. Dimonsthenis Kamargios, head of the region’s border guard authority, told the Associated Press.

The EU has poured 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) into security tech research following the refugee crisis in 2015-16, when more than 1 million people – many escaping wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – fled to Greece and on to other EU countries.

The automated surveillance network being built on the Greek-Turkish border is aimed at detecting migrants early and deterring them from crossing, with river and land patrols using searchlights and long-range acoustic devices.

Key elements of the network will be launched by the end of the year, Kamargios said. “Our task is to prevent migrants from entering the country illegally. We need modern equipment and tools to do that.”

Researchers at universities around Europe, working with private firms, have developed futuristic surveillance and verification technology, and tested more than a dozen projects at Greek borders.

AI-powered lie detectors and virtual border-guard interview bots have been piloted, as well as efforts to integrate satellite data with footage from drones on land, air, sea and underwater. Palm scanners record the unique vein pattern in a person’s hand to use as a biometric identifier, and the makers of live camera reconstruction technology promise to erase foliage virtually, exposing people hiding near border areas.

Testing has also been conducted in Hungary, Latvia and elsewhere along the eastern EU perimeter.

The more aggressive migration strategy has been advanced by European policymakers over the past five years, funding deals with Mediterranean countries outside the bloc to hold migrants back and transforming the EU border protection agency, Frontex, from a coordination mechanism to a full-fledged multinational security force.

But regional migration deals have left the EU exposed to political pressure from neighbors.

Earlier this month, several thousand migrants crossed from Morocco into the Spanish enclave of Ceuta in a single day, prompting Spain to deploy the army. A similar crisis unfolded on the Greek-Turkish border and lasted three weeks last year.

Greece is pressing the EU to let Frontex patrol outside its territorial waters to stop migrants reaching Lesbos and other Greek islands, the most common route in Europe for illegal crossing in recent years.

Armed with new tech tools, European law enforcement authorities are leaning further outside borders.

Not all the surveillance programs being tested will be included in the new detection system, but human rights groups say the emerging technology will make it even harder for refugees fleeing wars and extreme hardship to find safety.

Patrick Breyer, a European lawmaker from Germany, has taken an EU research authority to court, demanding that details of the AI-powered lie detection program be made public.

“What we are seeing at the borders, and in treating foreign nationals generally, is that it’s often a testing field for technologies that are later used on Europeans as well. And that’s why everybody should care, in their own self-interest,” Breyer of the German Pirates Party told the AP.

He urged authorities to allow broad oversight of border surveillance methods to review ethical concerns and prevent the sale of the technology through private partners to authoritarian regimes outside the EU.

Ella Jakubowska, of the digital rights group EDRi, argued that EU officials were adopting “techno-solutionism” to sideline moral considerations in dealing with the complex issue of migration.

“It is deeply troubling that, time and again, EU funds are poured into expensive technologies which are used in ways that criminalize, experiment with and dehumanize people on the move,” she said.

Migration flows have slowed in many parts of Europe during the pandemic, interrupting an increase recorded over years. In Greece, for example, the number of arrivals dropped from nearly 75,000 in 2019 to 15,700 in 2020, a 78% decrease.

But the pressure is sure to return. Between 2000 and 2020, the world’s migrant population rose by more than 80% to reach 272 million, according to United Nations data, fast outpacing international population growth.

At the Greek border village of Poros, the breakfast discussion at a cafe was about the recent crisis on the Spanish-Moroccan border.

Many of the houses in the area are abandoned and in a gradual state of collapse, and life is adjusting to that reality.

Cows use the steel wall as a barrier for the wind and rest nearby.

Panagiotis Kyrgiannis, a Poros resident, says the wall and other preventive measures have brought migrant crossings to a dead stop.

“We are used to seeing them cross over and come through the village in groups of 80 or a 100,” he said. “We were not afraid. … They don’t want to settle here. All of this that’s happening around us is not about us.”

___

Associated Press writer Kelvin Chan in London contributed to this report.

Egypt, Turkey officials meet for talks to reset frayed ties

Egypt, Turkey officials meet for talks to reset frayed ties

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Turkish Foreign Ministry Deputy Sedat Onal, seated right, meets with Hamdi Sanad Loza, Egyptian deputy foreign minister along with their delegations, at the foreign ministry in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, May 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty) more >

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By SAMY MAGDY

Associated Press

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

CAIRO (AP) – Egyptian and Turkish officials met Wednesday for talks aiming to reset ties between the two regional powers after years of enmity.

The two-day “political consultations” in Cairo are chaired by Hamdi Loza, Egypt’s deputy foreign minister, and his Turkish counterpart Sedat Onal.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, which announced the meetings in a statement late Tuesday, described the talks as “exploratory discussions” that would focus on “the necessary steps that may lead towards the normalization of relations between the two countries, bilaterally and in the regional context.”

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The English-language version of Egypt’s state-run Ahram daily quoted an unnamed Egyptian official as saying the talks came after a year of direct and indirect communications to avert a confrontation between the two U.S. allies in Libya, where they back opposing side in the conflict.

Egypt and Turkey have been at loggerheads since the Egyptian military’s 2013 ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, who hailed from the Muslim Brotherhood group, supported by Turkey. Egypt has designated the group a terrorist organization.

Recently, top Turkish officials signaled a warming of ties with Egypt, a shift from their previous, sharply critical approach to Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on March 12 that the two countries have had “intelligence, diplomatic and economic” contacts, adding that he hoped for “strong” ties between the two nations.

Turkish Trade Minister Mehmet Mus said earlier this week that Ankara also wants to boost economic and trade ties with Cairo, which remains Turkey’s biggest African trade partner, with a $4.86-billion-vlue in trade last year.

A week after Erdogan’s remarks, his government asked three Istanbul-based Egyptian TV channels linked to the Brotherhood to soften their critical political coverage of the Egyptian government, according to editors at the stations. The TV channels promptly stopped broadcasting some political programs.

Egypt welcomed the move, calling it a “good initiative from the Turkish side that establishes a favorable atmosphere to discuss issues of dispute between the two nations.”

Egyptian officials say Turkey must take substantial steps toward “genuine” talks to mend ties, including withdrawing hundreds of Turkish troops and thousands of Syrian mercenaries brought to Libya by Turkey, and also hand over Islamists wanted by Egypt on terror-related charges.

Claudia Gazzini, a Libya expert at the International Crisis Group, said a possible Egypt-Turkey rapprochement would help stabilize Libya, which has recently become a theater of rivalry between regional and world powers.

“There is not doubt that if these two regional rivals find a way to work together, improve bilateral ties and commercial ties and de-escalate what was a very confrontational relation over the past years, this will reflect in pushing forward political stability in Libya,” she said.

The two nations back opposing sides in Libya. Egypt, Greece and some other European countries were angered by a 2019 Turkish deal with Libyan officials that aimed to boost Turkish maritime rights and influence in the eastern Mediterranean.

Egypt and Greece responded by signing a separate deal to delineate their maritime boundaries, a deal which Ankara rejected.

Low expectations dog UN bid to relaunch Cyprus peace talks

Low expectations dog UN bid to relaunch Cyprus peace talks

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An abandoned Turkish military guard post, at top background in the north Turkish occupied area, and a blocked road with barrels in the Greek Cypriot south, in the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Monday, April 26, 2021. U.N. chief Antonio Guterres … more >

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By JAMEY KEATEN and MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

Associated Press

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

GENEVA (AP) – U.N. secretary-general Antonio Guterres is “realistic” about the chances of resuming formal talks to reunify ethnically split Cyprus, a U.N. spokesman said on Tuesday, amid low expectations that a fresh bid to reinvigorate dormant negotiations will lead to a breakthrough.

Stephane Dujarric made the comments to reporters ahead of the start of an informal meeting Guterres is hosting in the Swiss city, which brings together the leaders of the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities as well as the foreign ministers of Greece, Turkey and Britain – a former colonial ruler in Cyprus.

The aim of the three-day talks is to scope out chances of resuming formal peace negotiations that have been stalled since the last attempt, at another Swiss resort in 2017, ended in failure.

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Dujarric appeared to play down expectations of the “informal” meetings and said no press conferences were immediately planned.

“(The) secretary general is realistic. This is an issue that he knows well,” Dujarric said. “He has participated in discussions before. So, he is realistic.”

The U.N. spokesman had previously urged Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities to bring “creativity” to the informal talks. But the mood is dour because the two sides no longer seem to share the same vision of how a final peace deal should take shape.

Over 47 years of talks, the ultimate goal endorsed by the U.N. Security Council had been to reunify a breakaway Turkish Cypriot north and an internationally recognized Greek Cypriot south as a federation – two zones running their own affairs with a federal government overseeing the core elements of national governance such as foreign policy and defense.

The island was split along ethnic lines in 1974 when a coup aimed at union with Greece triggered a Turkish invasion.

But now Turkey, and the new Turkish Cypriot leadership that espouses even tighter bonds with Ankara, have changed the rules, dismissing further talks about a federation-based accord as a “waste of time” because nearly five decades of negotiations on that model have gone nowhere.

They’re proposing instead essentially a two-state model that Greek Cypriots say they’d never accept because it would legitimize the country’s partition forever.

Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades said as he departed for Geneva on Monday that federation is the only way toward peace.

“I wish that the other side attends with the same will, the same outlook because any deviation won’t be only against the Greek Cypriots, but the Turkish Cypriots as well,” Anastasiades said.

Speaking after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara on Monday, Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar repeated that any peace deal must be agreed upon between two separate states and that the U.N. should embrace this.

Turkey, as a guarantor country, the motherland and the largest and most powerful nation in the region, is only 40 miles from Cyprus. With its rights that stem from history … Turkey stands by the side of the Turkish Cypriots,” Tatar said.

___

Hadjicostis reported from Nicosia, Cyprus.

Greece, France to sign $2.8 billion fighter jet deal

Greece, France to sign $2.8 billion fighter jet deal

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French Defense Minister Florence Parly, right, and his Greek counterpart Nikos Panagiotopoulos speak during their meeting in Athens, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021. Greece is due to sign a 2.3 billion euro ($2.8 billion) deal with France Monday to purchase 18 … more >

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By DEREK GATOPOULOS

Associated Press

Monday, January 25, 2021

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece signed a 2.3 billion-euro ($2.8 billion) deal with France on Monday to purchase 18 Rafale fighter jets, as tensions remain high with neighbor Turkey.

Florence Parly, the French defense minister, signed the agreement in Athens to deliver 12 used and six new aircraft built by Dassault Aviation over two years, starting in July.

France has sided with Greece in a dispute over boundaries in the Aegean Sea and eastern Mediterranean that has brought NATO members Greece and Turkey to the brink of war several times in recent decades.

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Tension spiked again last summer when a Turkish exploration mission in disputed waters triggered a dangerous military build-up.

Greece and Turkey have agreed to restart talks aimed at resolving the dispute peacefully. Senior diplomats from the two countries met in Istanbul Monday to resume the process that had been interrupted for nearly five years.

But Athens says it will continue a multibillion-euro program to upgrade its military following years of cuts due to the country’s financial crisis.

France and the United States are in competition to provide the Greek navy with new frigates, while Greece‘s government recently approved plans to cooperate with Israeli defense electronics firm Elbit Systems to create a new military flight academy in southern Greece.

“The upgrade in the capabilities of the Hellenic Air Force by means of both the acquisition of new fighter aircraft and the new state-of-the-art training center is critical for Greece to present a credible deterrence,” Michael Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, told The Associated Press.

“It also provides Athens an enhanced ability to exercise more strategic autonomy when EU and NATO frameworks are deemed inadequate, making Greece more of a player in its own right.”

Starting in May, mandatory national service in the Greek Armed Forces will be increased from nine to 12 months to boost the number of people serving in uniform. While in Athens, Parly will also holding talks with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis.

___

Turkey rejects EU decision to widen sanctions

Turkey rejects EU decision to widen sanctions

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Associated Press

Friday, December 11, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – Turkey on Friday called on the European Union to act as an ‘honest mediator’ in its dispute with EU members Greece and Cyprus over the exploration of gas reserves in the Mediterranean, after European leaders approved expanding sanctions against Ankara.

The leaders said early Friday that Turkey – which is a candidate to join although its membership talks are blocked – has “engaged in unilateral actions and provocations and escalated its rhetoric against the EU.” This was despite the fact that they had offered trade and other incentives to Turkey to halt its activities during their last summit in October, they said.

The leaders tasked EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell with drawing up a report on the state of EUTurkey political, economic and trade relations and to suggest how to proceed, including on widening sanctions. Borrrell was asked to submit the report to the leaders by the time they hold a summit in March.

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Turkey’s Foreign Ministry slammed the EU decision, saying Ankara rejects the 27-member group’s “biased and unlawful attitude.”

A ministry statement said the decision to expand sanctions against Turkey was approved out of solidarity with Greece and Cyprus. The two countries’ alleged misuse of the solidarity and veto rights had thrust EUTurkey ties into a “vicious circle,” it said.

“The situation is harming the joint interests of Turkey and the EU as well as our region’s peace, security and stability,” the ministry said. “The EU should take up the role of an honest mediator, it must act in a principled, strategic and sensible manner.”

Tensions between NATO allies Turkey and Greece escalated over the summer with a military build-up after Turkey sent its seismic survey vessel Oruc Reis, escorted by navy frigates, into disputed waters. The move prompted Greece to also send its warships, and both countries conducted military exercises to assert their claims.

Late last month, Oruc Reis returned to port, as it had done before October’s EU meeting. However, another research ship, the Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa, remains off Cyprus’ southwestern coast.

Turkey says it is standing up for its energy rights, as well as those of breakaway Turkish Cypriots, while Athens and Nicosia call Turkey’s actions an illegal incursion into areas where they have exclusive offshore exploitation rights.

The 27 EU countries are split over how best to handle Turkey. France and Cyprus have pushed for tougher measures like economic sanctions, but other countries are concerned about further undermining the country’s already ravaged economy and destabilizing the region.

Last year, the EU set up a system for imposing travel bans and asset freezes on people, companies or organizations linked to contested drilling activities. Two Turkish Petroleum Corporation officials are already on the list, and the leaders say those sanctions should be broadened.

The EU decision comes as Turkey is also faced with the prospect of U.S. sanctions over its purchase of a Russian air defense system which has already resulted in the NATO-member country being kicked out of the U.S. F-35 stealth fighter program.

Greek FM: Turkey’s moves to ease tensions ‘unconvincing’

Greek FM: Turkey’s moves to ease tensions ‘unconvincing’

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Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias talks to the media during a press conference after a meeting with his Cyprus counterpart Nicos Christodoulides at the foreign ministry house in divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Dec. 4, 2020. Dendias and Christodoulides were meeting … more >

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By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

Associated Press

Friday, December 4, 2020

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Turkey’s recent moves to de-escalate a clash with Greece and Cyprus over east Mediterranean energy reserves are “unconvincing” and European Union leaders need to take action that will prompt Ankara to heed international law, Greece’s foreign minister said on Friday.

Nikos Dendias said Turkey opted not to seize an opportunity that European Union leaders offered it in October to ease tensions in the region so that the 27-member bloc could start reshaping its fraught relations with Ankara.

Turkey last week ordered the research vessel Oruc Reis back to port after completing what it said was seismic research in east Mediterranean waters. The warship-escorted vessel’s activities in waters where Greece asserts jurisdiction prompted a military build-up between the two neighbors and nominal NATO allies.

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Greece countered by also sending its warships, and both countries conducted military exercises to assert their claims. NATO stepped in to prevent a potential armed conflict.

But Dendias said the ship’s return to port wasn’t enough.

Turkey’s belated moves in recent days to supposedly de-escalate tensions are not convincing.” Dendias said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart, Nikos Christodoulides. “That’s why we have jointly asked all other European Union member states to live up to their responsibilities.”

“These decisions are significant not only as a clear message to Turkey, but also to prove the European Union’s credibility.”

Dendias and Christodoulides also said Turkey continued prospecting for hydrocarbons in waters where Cyprus claims exclusive rights in violation of international law, while continuing to “provoke” with its partial opening of an abandoned Greek Cypriot suburb in the breakaway Turkish Cypriot north of war-divided Cyprus.

Ankara says Greece and Cyprus’ Greek Cypriot-led government are flouting the energy rights of Turkey and breakaway Turkish Cypriots by setting maritime boundaries according to their own interests and attempting to exclude Turkey from potential oil and gas reserves.

Christodoulides said the EU must be “conscientious, resolute and credible” in its actions and must pursue a leading role on issues that relate to its member states’ sovereign rights.

“It’s clear that the ball is in Turkey’s court and any decisions depend on Turkey’s attitude which (EU) leaders will evaluate and make decisions accordingly, as they agreed in October,” he said.

Turkish research ship in port after Mediterranean survey

Turkish research ship in port after Mediterranean survey

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FILE – In this Sept. 27, 2020 file photo, Turkey’s research vessel Oruc Reis is anchored off the coast of Antalya on the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey. In a tweet Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, Turkey’s energy ministry said the Oruc … more >

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By ZEYNEP BILGINSOY

Associated Press

Monday, November 30, 2020

ISTANBUL (AP) – The Turkish research vessel at the heart of a Mediterranean Sea energy dispute between Turkey and Greece is back in port in an apparent bid to ease tensions ahead of a European Union summit where potential sanctions against Ankara will be discussed.

In a tweet Monday, Turkey’s energy ministry said the Oruc Reis had returned to port in Antalya after completing seismic research in the Demre field. Ship tracker MarineTraffic showed the survey ship had docked.

Tensions between the two neighbors and nominal NATO allies escalated over the summer with a military build-up after Turkey sent the survey ship, escorted by navy frigates, into disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

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The move prompted Greece to also send its warships, and both countries conducted military exercises to assert their claims. NATO intervened, organizing technical talks between the two countries’ militaries to prevent a potential armed conflict. NATO foreign ministers are scheduled to meet Dec 1-2.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he was still concerned with the situation and was working to reduce tensions by keeping lines of communication open, cancelling military drills and other measures.

“When the ship Oruc Reis is in port, as it is from today as far as I have been informed, that helps to reduce tensions and makes it easier to make progress also on deconfliction,” Stoltenberg told a news conference.

Ankara says Greece and the Greek Cypriot-led government on war-divided Cyprus are impinging on the energy rights of Turkey and breakaway Turkish Cypriots by setting maritime boundaries according to their own interests and attempting to exclude Turkey from potential oil and gas reserves.

Turkey says maritime boundaries for hydrocarbon resources should be calculated from the mainland. Greece invokes international law to say the continental shelves of its islands dotting the Mediterranean should be included within its energy zone.

The Cypriot government also accuses Turkey of unlawfully carrying out drilling and exploratory work in waters where it claims exclusive economic rights.

The competing claims have led to a diplomatic crisis and aggressive rhetoric. EU-members Greece and Cyprus, along with France, have called for sanctions on Turkey.

The Oruc Reis was pulled back to port in September for maintenance and resupply. Turkish officials said it was withdrawn from Greek-claimed waters to give diplomacy a chance. It was redeployed in October after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Athens of failing to fulfill promises.

Turkey’s defense minister Hulusi Akar on Monday again accused Greece of “stubbornly avoiding dialogue and looking for solutions elsewhere.”

EU leaders are meeting for a summit on Dec. 10-11 and are expected to discuss the dispute and possible sanctions.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel hailed the return of the Oruc Reis to port as a “good sign,” but noted that Turkey was still carrying out drilling activities off Cyprus.

She said Turkey has engaged in activities of “a very aggressive character, or I would say provocative character” in the Mediterranean Sea. But she also said Turkey deserves “great respect” and support for hosting large numbers of Syrian refugees.

Separately, Greece, Egypt, Cyprus are conducting sea and air military drills in waters off Alexandria, Egypt, through Sunday. The Medusa exercise has been a component of the three countries’ cooperation pact since 2017, and is joined this year by France and the United Arab Emirates.

Greece and Cyprus have signed separate maritime border agreements with Egypt and all three countries have condemned Turkey’s actions in the Mediterranean. They dismiss a similar deal that Ankara signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government as “legally invalid.”

___

Menelaos Hadjicostis contributed from Nicosia, Cyprus and Geir Moulson from Berlin.

Police fire tear gas to break up banned gatherings in Greece

Police fire tear gas to break up banned gatherings in Greece

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Police stand guard outside the Athens Polytechnic in the Greek capital on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020. The government has banned an annual rally to mark the anniversary of Nov. 17, 1973 uprising by Polytechnic students against the military dictatorship that … more >

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By ELENA BECATOROS

Associated Press

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Police detained several dozen people and fired tear gas in Athens Tuesday as hundreds of protesters defied a ban on gatherings of more than three people to mark the anniversary of the crushing of a 1973 student uprising against the military junta then ruling Greece.

Nov. 17, the day the uprising was quashed, is marked each year with wreath-laying ceremonies at the Athens Polytechnic commemorating those who died there, followed by marches to the U.S. Embassy. The United States had backed the dictatorship that ruled Greece for seven years from 1967.

But the government banned this year’s events, citing public health concerns as the country struggles to contain a resurgence of the coronavirus that is straining hospitals and leading to record numbers of deaths. A nationwide lockdown has been imposed until the end of the month, but authorities tightened restrictions during the Polytechnic anniversary, banning gatherings of four or more people from Nov. 15-18.

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Thousands of police were deployed in Athens and the northern city of Thessaloniki to prevent marches. The annual Polytechnic marches often turn violent, with protesters clashing with riot police.

Left-wing opposition parties decried the ban as unconstitutional, although the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, ruled otherwise.

Three left-wing parties, including main opposition party Syriza, defied the ban, as did other groups.

A Communist Party-backed union held an initial brief gathering outside the U.S. Embassy Tuesday morning, with about 250 people wearing masks and marching in formation, maintaining distance from one another.

But a later, larger gathering by about 1,500 people in central Athens dissolved after police detained several people and eventually used tear gas and a water cannon.

In a statement, the Civil Protection Ministry said police had repeatedly requested the protesters disperse, to no avail.

“Those who, through their actions, show disregard for what is happening around them, are displaying antisocial behavior and contempt for those fighting for their lives in the hospitals,” the statement said.

Authorities said about 100 people in total were detained across Athens.

Police were also detaining protesters defying the ban in the northern city of Thessaloniki. Penalties range from 300 euros for individuals attending a gathering that violates the ban, to 3,000 euros for organizers and 5,000 euros for organizations who arrange the events.

A small group of people also threw firebombs at a police station in Thessaloniki, causing no injuries or damage.

Former prime minister Alexis Tsipras, who heads the main opposition Syriza party, posted a photo of himself attending a socially distanced gathering for the Polytechnic Tuesday.

“With responsibility and observance of health protection measures, this year we again honored the dead and the struggles of our people for democracy, independence, and justice,” he said in a post on social media.

“We broke the senseless ban,” he said. “Democracy and historical memory cannot be quarantined.”

Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis laid a wreath at the Athens Polytechnic amid tight security.

“Every important anniversary gains new meaning through the conditions in which it is celebrated,” Mitsotakis said, adding that current priorities were protecting public health and showing solidarity with young people affected by the financial crisis.

Greece is under lockdown until Nov. 30 as authorities struggle to contain a coronavirus resurgence that has seen infections spike across the country. On Sunday, Greece recorded its largest coronavirus death toll in a single day: 71.

The European Union nation of 11 million people now has nearly 79,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,200 deaths, while its intensive care units are quickly reaching capacity.

___

Costas Kantouris in Thessaloniki, Greece, and Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.

___

Follow AP’s coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/coronavirus-pandemic and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Turkey pulls 2 girls out of rubble three days after quake

Turkey pulls 2 girls out of rubble three days after quake

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In this photo of IHA news agency, provided by the government rescue agency AFAD’s rescue teams, rescue workers, who were trying to reach survivors in the rubble of a collapsed building, carry 14-year-old Idil Sirin who have been extricated from … more >

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By Mehmet Guzel and Suzan Fraser

Associated Press

Monday, November 2, 2020

IZMIR, Turkey (AP) — In what one rescue worker called “a miracle,” extraction teams brought two girls out alive Monday from the wreckage of their collapsed apartment buildings in the Turkish city of Izmir, three days after a strong earthquake hit Turkey and Greece.

Onlookers applauded in joy and wept with relief as ambulances carrying the girls rushed to hospitals immediately after their rescues.

The overall death toll in Friday’s quake reached 85 on Monday after teams found more bodies overnight amid toppled buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city.

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Close to 1,000 people were injured, mostly in Turkey, by the quake that was centered in the Aegean Sea northeast of the Greek island of Samos. It killed two teenagers on Samos and injured at least 19 other people on the island.

There was some debate over the quake’s magnitude. The U.S. Geological Survey rated it 7.0, while Istanbul’s Kandilli Institute put it at 6.9 and Turkey’s emergency management agency said it measured 6.6.

Rescue workers clapped in unison Monday as 14-year-old Idil Sirin was removed from the rubble, after being trapped for 58 hours. Her 8-year-old sister, Ipek, did not survive, NTV television reported.

Seven hours later, rescuers working on another toppled building extricated 3-year-old Elif Perincek, whose mother and two sisters had been rescued two days earlier. The child spent 65 hours in the wreckage of her apartment and became the 106th person to be rescued alive, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Muammer Celik of the Istanbul fire department’s search-and-rescue team told NTV television that he thought Elif was dead when he reached her inside the wreckage.

“There was dust on her face, her face was white,” he said. “When I cleaned the dust from her face, she opened her eyes. I was astonished.”

Celik said: “it was a miracle, it was a true miracle.”

The girl would not let go of his hand throughout the rescue operation, Celik said, adding: “I am now her big brother.”

The girl was pictured holding Celik’s thumb while being carried on a stretcher into a tent where she was treated before being taken to the hospital. Rescuers were seen shedding tears of joy and hugging each other.

Rescue workers scrambling to find more survivors used listening devices to detect more signs of life.

“Can anyone hear me?” a team leader shouted, asking possible survivors to bang against surfaces three times if they could.

Officials said 220 quake survivors were still being treated in hospitals and four of them were in serious condition.

The quake triggered a small tsunami that hit Samos and the Seferihisar district of Izmir, drowning one elderly woman. The tremors were felt across western Turkey, including in Istanbul as well as in the Greek capital of Athens. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.

Turkey has a mix of older buildings and cheap or illegal construction, which can lead to serious damage and deaths when earthquakes hit. Regulations have been tightened in light of earthquakes to strengthen or demolish older buildings and urban renewal is underway in Turkish cities, but it is not happening fast enough.

Turkey sits on top of fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed some 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece as well.

___

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

Death toll reaches 39 in quake that hit Turkey, Greek island

Death toll reaches 39 in quake that hit Turkey, Greek island

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Members of rescue services search in the debris of a collapsed building for survivors in Izmir, Turkey, early Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. A strong earthquake struck Friday in the Aegean Sea between the Turkish coast and the Greek island of … more >

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By MEHMET GUZEL and SUZAN FRASER and ZEYNEP BILGINSOY

Associated Press

Saturday, October 31, 2020

IZMIR, Turkey (AP) – Three young children and their mother were rescued alive from the rubble of a collapsed building in western Turkey on Saturday, some 23 hours after a powerful earthquake in the Aegean Sea killed at least 39 people and injured more than 800 others. One of the children died soon after being rescued, while a fourth child was still trapped.

The Friday afternoon quake that struck Turkey’s Aegean coast and north of the Greek island of Samos registered a magnitude that Turkish authorities put at 6.6 while other seismology institutes said it measured 6.9. It toppled buildings in Izmir, Turkey’s third-largest city, and triggered a small tsunami in the Seferihisar district and on the Greek island. Hundreds of aftershocks followed.

At least 37 people were killed in Izmir, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said from a crisis coordination center before visiting the wrecked sites. Among them was an elderly woman who drowned in the tsunami.

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But rescue teams on Saturday made contact with 38-year old Seher Perincek and her four children – ages 3, 7 and 10-year-old twins – inside a fallen building in Izmir and cleared a corridor to bring them out.

One by one, the mother and three of her children were removed from the rubble as rescuers applauded or hugged. The survivors, including 10-year-old Elzem Perincek, were moved into ambulances on stretchers.

“I’m fine; I was rescued because only one of my feet was pinned. That foot really hurt,” she said.

The health minister as well as rescue worker Ahmet Yavuz told HaberTurk television hours later that one of the children had died after being rescued. They were still trying to reach the other child, Yavuz said.

More than 5,500 rescuers from different agencies and cities worked together to reach survivors, at times hushing the crowds to listen into the rubble with sensitive headphones and crawling through the cracks. A 65-year-old man was saved 26 hours after the quake. Rescue work continued in nine buildings.

Earlier Saturday, search-and-rescue teams lifted teenager Inci Okan out of the rubble of a devastated eight-floor apartment building. Her dog, Fistik, or Pistachio, was also rescued, Turkish media reported.

A video showed a female rescuer trying to calm down the 16-year-old girl under the rubble as she inserted a catheter. “I’m so scared,” the girl cried. “Can you hold my hand?”

“We are going to get out of here soon,” the rescuer, Edanur Dogan, said. “Your mother is waiting outside for you.”

Two other women, aged 53 and 35, were brought out from the rubble of another toppled two-story building earlier on Saturday.

Some 103 people have been rescued since the earthquake, Erdogan said. It was unclear how many more people were trapped under buildings that were leveled.

Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said 885 people were injured in Izmir and three other provinces. The health minister said eight people were being treated in intensive care, with three of them in critical condition.

Two teenagers were killed on Samos after being struck by a collapsing wall. At least 19 people were injured on the island, with two, including a 14-year-old, being airlifted to Athens and seven hospitalized on the island, health authorities said.

The small tsunami that hit the Turkish coast also affected Samos, with seawater flooding streets in the main harbor town of Vathi.

The earthquake, which the Istanbul-based Kandilli Institute said had a magnitude of 6.9, was centered in the Aegean northeast of Samos. AFAD said it measured 6.6. and hit at a depth of some 16 kilometers (10 miles).

It was felt across the eastern Greek islands and as far as Athens and in Bulgaria. In Turkey, it shook the regions of Aegean and Marmara, including Istanbul.

Turkey is crossed by fault lines and is prone to earthquakes. In 1999, two powerful quakes killed some 18,000 people in northwestern Turkey. Earthquakes are frequent in Greece as well.

Authorities warned residents in Izmir not to return to damaged buildings, saying they could collapse in strong aftershocks. Many people spent the night out in the streets, too frightened to return to their homes, even if they sustained no damage.

The country has suffered from lightly regulated and shoddy construction which can lead to serious damage and deaths from earthquakes. Referring to the structure where the teenager and her dog were rescued, architect Nihat Sen told Turkish broadcaster NTV: “All material used on the eight-story building was faulty. The ground was bad, the material was bad.”

Turkey’s president said the government would aid victims who lost their homes with temporary housing and rent, while starting construction of new buildings.

In a show of solidarity rare in recent months of tense bilateral relations, Greek and Turkish government officials issued mutual messages of solidarity, and the leaders of Greece and Turkey held a telephone conversation.

“I thank President Erdogan for his positive response to my call,” the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Saturday before traveling to Samos, where he visited the families of the teenagers who were killed.

Relations between Turkey and Greece have been particularly tense, with warships from both facing off in the eastern Mediterranean in a dispute over maritime boundaries and energy exploration rights. The ongoing tension has led to fears of open conflict between the two neighbors and nominal NATO allies.

The quake occurred as Turkey was already struggling with an economic downturn and the coronavirus pandemic. So far, more than 10,000 people with the virus have died in Turkey. The health minister said authorities were distributing masks and disinfectant to protect against COVID-19.

___

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey and Bilginsoy reported from Istanbul. Ayse Wieting contributed from Istanbul and Demetris Nellas from Athens.

Turkey slams joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

Turkey slams joint declaration by Cyprus, Greece and Egypt

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Turkish drilling ship Kanuni is seen docked for maintenance before heading to the Black Sea for drilling operations, at the port of Haydarpasa in Istanbul, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Oct. 17, the discovery of … more >

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Associated Press

Thursday, October 22, 2020

ISTANBUL (AP) – Turkey’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday slammed a joint statement by Greece, Cyprus and Egypt that condemns Turkish energy exploration in the eastern Mediterranean and numerous “provocations” that they maintain are threatening regional peace.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement that it “fully rejected the declaration containing baseless accusations and allegations.”

During a trilateral regional summit Wednesday in Nicosia, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis urged Ankara to end its “aggressive” actions.

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The joint statement also asked Turkey to accept Cyprus’ invitation to enter negotiations for an agreement on maritime delimitations. Greece and Cyprus have signed maritime border agreements with Egypt while dismissing a similar deal that Ankara signed with Libya’s Tripoli-based government as “legally invalid.”.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry said the declaration attacked Ankara rather than supporting peace and stability in the region. It repeated Turkey’s position that cooperation could only take place with the inclusion of Turkish Cypriots in governing and sharing the resources of the ethnically divided island nation.

“We will continue with determination to protect our rights and the rights of Turkish Cypriots in the eastern Mediterranean,” the ministry statement said.

The trilateral summit took place amid high tensions between nominal NATO allies Greece and Turkey over maritime borders and energy rights.

In late summer, Turkey dispatched a research vessel escorted by warships to conduct seismic research in a part of the Mediterranean Sea that Greece claims as its territory, which prompted the Greek government to deploy its own warships.

Turkey pulled the research ship back to shore for several weeks for maintenance and to allow time for diplomacy but redeployed the Oruc Reis on a new energy exploration mission. A maritime announcement by Turkey says the Oruc Reis and two other ships would continue working in the area until Oct. 27.

Turkey also has had ships prospecting for oil and gas reserves in waters that Cyprus claims as its exclusive economic zone.

Leftist versus hardliner in Turkish Cypriot leadership vote

Leftist versus hardliner in Turkish Cypriot leadership vote

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FILE – In this Monday, April 4, 2016 file photo, Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci is seen at his office in front of the portrait of the Turkish Republic founder Kemal Ataturk, during an interview for the Associated Press in … more >

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By MENELAOS HADJICOSTIS

Associated Press

Saturday, October 17, 2020

NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) – Turkish Cypriots vote on Sunday in a leadership runoff that could decide whether they retain more control over their own affairs or steer even closer to an increasingly domineering Turkey.

Veteran incumbent Mustafa Akinci, 72, backs the long-held federal framework for a deal with rival Greek Cypriots to reunify ethnically divided Cyprus. He’s also a champion of Turkish Cypriots who oppose Turkey’s complete domination of their affairs.

His hardline challenger Ersin Tatar, 60, advocates fully aligning Turkish Cypriot with Turkish policies, such as pursuing a two-state deal instead of a federation.

Here’s a look at what’s at stake:

THE PEACE PUZZLE

A 1974 Turkish invasion triggered by a coup aimed at union with Greece split the eastern Mediterranean island along ethnic lines. Nine years later, Turkish Cypriots in the northern third declared independence, but are only recognized by Turkey, which maintains a strong military footprint there.

Since then, the agreed-upon arrangement that would restore Turkish Cypriots to the international fold is a federation of two separately administered zones. But nearly half a century of U.N.-mediated talks to cobble a deal together have stumbled on several core issues.

Those include a demand for Turkey to retain military intervention rights and a permanent troop presence. The majority Greek Cypriots also oppose a Turkish Cypriot demand for equal say at all levels of federal government.

Akinci says that despite the difficulties federation is the only path to peace. But Tatar mirrors Turkey’s view that both sides must look at new options, including a two-state deal.

The winner’s first test will be a planned meeting under U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, bringing together the two sides with ‘guarantors’ Greece, Turkey and Britain to scope out the chances of resuming peace talks.

But the final say on key issues such as intervention rights rests with Ankara, on which Turkish Cypriots are economically and militarily dependent.

THE ENERGY QUESTION

Turkey, Greece and Cyprus are heavily at odds over potential offshore gas and oil reserves. With much military muscle flexing, Turkey has laid claim to areas of the sea where Greece and Cyprus’ internationally recognized Greek-Cypriot government say they have exclusive economic rights.

Ankara says it’s got every right to look for energy reserves there and that it’s also defending Turkish Cypriots’ rights. The standoff has ratcheted up military tensions between Greece and Turkey.

A Cyprus peace deal would go a long way towards easing those tensions and enabling maritime border deals that would unlock the eastern Mediterranean’s huge potential as a possible gas exporter to energy-hungry Europe and beyond.

Akinci says peace talks should include negotiations on sharing any future gas proceeds. Tatar takes that a step further by insisting an energy deal should come first. Greek Cypriots say Turkish Cypriots’ share to a potential gas bounty is already guaranteed.

TURKEY’S HAND

Last week’s first round of voting took place under the cloud of Turkey’s alleged meddling to rally support around Tatar.

In a move that also served notice over who’s pulling the strings in the north, Turkey opened to the public a beach in an uninhabited Famagusta suburb that’s remained off-limits and under Turkish military control since its Greek Cypriot residents fled the 1974 invasion.

Many Turkish Cypriots interpreted the move as Ankara trying to boost support for Tatar, while Greek Cypriots were angry at what they saw as a prelude to the Turkish Cypriots taking over the whole suburb in contravention of U.N. resolutions.

Akinci charged that the beach opening showed an unprecedented level of Turkish interference in an election and argued that it would pit Turkish Cypriots against U.N. decisions.

THE NUMBERS:

In the first round, Ersin Tatar came out on top with 32.35%, and Akinci secured 29.84%. The center-left CTP party of third-place finisher Tufan Erhurman who garnered 21.68%. has thrown its support behind Akinci. But the race could go either way.

Akinci may have CTP backing, but Tatar is courting a significant pool of voters – especially in rural areas – who may not have voted in the first round. Turnout will be a key factor. The first round saw an all-time low voter participation of 55% from a 200,000-strong electorate, and some analysts say a higher turnout might favor Tatar.

France warns Turkey of EU sanctions over ‘provocations’

France warns Turkey of EU sanctions over ‘provocations’

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By SUZAN FRASER and FRANK JORDANS

Associated Press

Thursday, October 15, 2020

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) – France warned Turkey on Thursday that it could face European Union sanctions for its “provocations,” after Ankara redeployed its search vessel on a new energy exploration mission in the eastern Mediterranean.

Speaking in Paris after a meeting of the French-German-Polish ‘Weimar Triangle,’ French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated the EU stance that unless Turkey shows “respect for the integrity of Greece and Cyprus” then the December European Council will consider initiating sanctions.

“We are forced to note that there are permanent acts of provocation on the part of Turkey which are not bearable, and therefore we really wish that Turkey clarifies its positions and returns to a spirit of dialogue,” he said.

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Turkey redeployed its search vessel, Oruc Reis, near the Greek island of Kastellorizo, reigniting tensions between Greece and Turkey over sea boundaries and energy drilling rights, and putting the future of the planned resumption of talks between Athens and Ankara to resolve disputes into doubt. Those talks were last held in 2016.

Those tensions had flared up over the summer, triggering fears of a confrontation between the two historic rivals and NATO allies.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he understood Greece’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue due to Turkey’s decision to again dispatch its ship.

Given Berlin’s efforts to mediate between the parties “the behavior by Turkey to conduct another provocation, resulting in the already agreed process of dialogue not taking place, is more than annoying, including for us in our role as intermediary,” Maas said.

Maas said he continues to believe the conflict can be solved through dialogue and not with naval ships, and stressed Germany’s hope that there might be progress next week.

“And if there isn’t, then the European Union will have to face the question of how to deal with this and what consequences this will have,” Maas said.

Commenting on his arrival for a EU summit in Brussels, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said he would inform his colleagues “about Turkey’s new provocations against Greece and against Cyprus.”

“Unfortunately Turkey appears to remain constant in its provocative and aggressive behavior,” he said. “The European Union must also show the same consistency regarding the implementation of decisions it has taken, in order for this behavior, if it continues, to have the corresponding consequences.”

Both Turkey and Greece have this week accused each other of engaging in “provocations,” including plans to hold military drills in the Aegean Sea later this month to coincide with the other country’s national public holiday. Turkey also drew international criticism this week for its decision to open the beachfront of the fenced-off suburb of Varosha in divided Cyprus’ breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

Varosha remained off-limits and in Turkish military control after its Greek Cypriot residents fled before advancing troops in 1974 when Turkey invaded and sliced the island along ethnic lines following a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Earlier on Thursday, Turkey denied accusations by Greece that Ankara refused an overflight permit to a plane carrying Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias, forcing the aircraft to remain in the air for 20 minutes.

Greek state broadcaster ERT reported that the plane carrying Dendias back from a visit to Baghdad the previous day was kept circling over Mosul for 20 minutes because Turkish authorities weren’t granting it permission to fly through Turkish airspace back to Greece.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry denied any deliberate move to hold up the plane before entering the Turkish airspace, insisting the plane hadn’t provided the required flight plan.

According to the Turkish ministry, the plane that took Dendias to Iraq broke down there, and the Greek government then allocated a second plane, which took off without the required flight plan.

“When the aforementioned aircraft arrived at our airspace, the plan was urgently requested from the Iraqi authorities, and after the plan was received, the flight was carried out safely,” the ministry said.

Asked about the incident during a regular briefing, the Greek government spokesman, Stelios Petsas, said Athens had lodged a complaint over the incident.

“It is one more provocation, in the continued provocations by the Turkish side,” Petsas said. “But I would like to remain on the fact that various explanations were given, also from the Turkish side, and we hope that this phenomenon and this incident is never repeated in the future.”

___

Frank Jordans reported from Berlin. Elena Becatoros in Athens contributed.

Turkey says Greece failed to fulfill promises, vows response

Turkey says Greece failed to fulfill promises, vows response

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FILE – In this Sunday, Sept. 13, 2020 file photo, Turkey’s research vessel, Oruc Reis anchored off the coast of Antalya on the Mediterranean, Turkey. Greece accused neighbor Turkey of undermining efforts to ease a crisis over drilling rights in … more >

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By SUZAN FRASER

Associated Press

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

ANKAR, Turkey (AP) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday accused Greece and Cyprus of failing to fulfill “promises” made during negotiations within the European Union and NATO and said his country would continue to give them “the response they deserve.”

Erdogan’s comments came days after Ankara redeployed its search vessel, Oruc Reis, for a new energy exploration mission in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean, reigniting tensions with Greece and Cyprus over sea boundaries and exploration rights. Turkish media reports said two navy frigates are shadowing the search vessel.

Those tensions had flared up over the summer, prompting a military buildup, bellicose rhetoric and fears of a confrontation between the two NATO members and historic regional rivals.

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“Our Oruc Reis has returned to its duty in the Mediterranean,” Erdogan told legislators of his ruling party in a speech in parliament. “We will continue to give the response they deserve on the field, to Greece and the Greek Cypriot administration who have not kept their promises during talks within the EU and NATO platforms.”

He didn’t spell out what the promises were but Turkish officials have been accusing Greek officials of engaging in a series of “provocations” despite efforts to revive the so-called exploratory talks between the neighbors that were aimed at resolving disputes and were last held in 2016.

Greece’s government said, meanwhile, that it wouldn’t take part in planned exploratory talks with Turkey as long as the survey mission was in progress.

“It is impossible to hold talks about a (maritime region) when a survey in that region is underway,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas told private Skai television.

Heiko Maas, the foreign minister of Germany, which has been mediating between Athens and Ankara in a bid to east the tensions, criticized Turkey on Tuesday for taking “unilateral steps” in the eastern Mediterranean which he said were undercutting efforts to deescalate tensions. The U.S. State Department issued a statement deploring Turkey’s move.

Ankara says the Oruc Reis was redeployed following provocative acts by Athens, including a decision to hold military drills in the Aegean Sea on Turkey’s main national holiday.

During his speech, Erdogan also rebuffed international criticism over Turkey’s move to open the beachfront of Cyprus’ fenced-off suburb of Varosha in divided Cyprus’ breakaway Turkish Cypriot north.

“The fenced-off Varosha region belongs to the Turks of northern Cyprus. This should be known as such,” he said.

Varosha remained off-limits and in Turkish military control after its Greek Cypriot residents fled before advancing troops in 1974 when Turkey invaded and sliced the island along ethnic lines after a coup by supporters of union with Greece.

Separately, Erdogan declared that he would on Saturday announce details of the discovery a new natural gas reserve off the Black Sea coast. In August, Turkey announced the discovery of 320 billion cubic meters of gas, which the country said would help ease the country’s dependence on imports.

___

Associated Press writer Derek Gatopoulos in Athens contributed to this report.

Greece calls new Turkish survey mission a threat to region

Greece calls new Turkish survey mission a threat to region

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By DEREK GATOPOULOS and SUZAN FRASER

Associated Press

Monday, October 12, 2020

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – Greece accused neighbor Turkey of undermining efforts to ease a crisis over drilling rights in the eastern Mediterranean on Monday, after Turkey announced its survey vessel would be dispatched for a new research mission in disputed waters.

The move threatened to reignite a spat over sea boundaries in an area between Greek islands, Cyprus and Turkey’s southern coast which had flared up over the summer, prompting a military build-up and fears of a confrontation between the two NATO members.

The state-run Anadolu Agency said the Turkish search vessel, Oruc Reis, left the port of Antalya on Monday, to resume its survey of hydrocarbon resources in the eastern Mediterranean. A international maritime safety advisory, or Navtex, issued late on Sunday said the exploration would last until Oct. 22.

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Greece’s Foreign Ministry on Monday called the decision a “major escalation and a direct threat to peace and security in the region.”

Ankara and Athens had earlier this month agreed, under NATO’s auspices, to set up a system to avoid potential military conflicts and accidents, including a hotline.

The two countries had also agreed to resume so called “exploratory talks” aimed at building confidence and resolving disputes which were last held in 2016.

The Turkish vessel’s return comes a day after Turkey’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement accusing Greece of “insincerity” for what it said was Athens’ continued actions to raise tension while declaring itself to be ready for a dialogue. Among other things, the Turkish Foreign Ministry accused Greece of declaring military exercises in the Aegean Sea to coincide with Turkey’s Oct. 29 national day celebrations. Turkey retaliated by declaring exercises on Oct. 28, the statement said.

Turkey had pulled the Orus Reis to shore last month for maintenance and resupply last month, saying the move would give “diplomacy a chance.”

Turkey faces the threat of sanctions from the European Union, which has sided in the dispute with member states Greece and Cyprus.

__

Suzan Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey.

Egypt’s president signs strategic maritime deal with Greece

Egypt’s president signs strategic maritime deal with Greece

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Associated Press

Saturday, October 10, 2020

CAIRO (AP) – Egypt’s president Saturday ratified a maritime deal setting its Mediterranean Sea boundary with Greece and demarcating an exclusive economic zone for oil and gas drilling rights, the state-run news agency reported, in a move that has angered Turkey.

The bilateral agreement is widely seen as a response to a rival deal between Turkey and Libya’s Tripoli-based government that spiked tensions in the East Mediterranean region, along with Turkey’s disputed oil and gas exploration in the seawaters.

The MENA news agency said that the deal, signed by President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, was published by the official gazette on Saturday.

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The ratification came over two months after the Egyptian and Greek foreign ministers signed the deal in Cairo.

The EgyptGreece deal establishes “partial demarcation of the sea boundaries between the two countries, and that the remaining demarcation would be achieved through consultations.”

Egyptian Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Al had in August called the deal with Greece “very significant.”

The Ankara-Tripoli maritime deal was dismissed by the governments of Egypt, Cyprus and Greece as infringing on their economic rights in the gas-rich Mediterranean Sea.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the EgyptGreece agreement “worthless,” vowing to keep his disputed pact with the Tripoli government in place.

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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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.

The Latest: Greece not limiting tourists, will do testing

The Latest: Alaska to require virus tests for air travelers

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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.

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– 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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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