Broader global coalition can solve Rohingya issue

                   By Sorwar Alam </p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - Bangladesh needs to form a broader international alliance to resolve the issue of roughly 1 million Rohingya refugees in the country, a rights activist and political dissident from Myanmar has said.

In an interview with Anadolu Agency on Global Genocide Day, Muang Zarni said four regional powers plus Israel either support or protect Myanmar’s genocide against the Rohingya Muslim minority group in the western Rakhine state.

"No genocide is ever committed by a single nation state. Whenever genocide is committed there has always been coalition of friends that either supports the criminal regime or that protects the regime,” he said.

Russia, China, India, Japan and Israel have both economic and military interests in Myanmar, according to Zarni, and this lends silent support to Myanmar at the international forums.

The genocide in Myanmar is committed "with the collaboration, complicity and support of" these states, he added, suggesting that a "counter alliance" against these states is crucial to resolve issues such as their safe repatriation.

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly children and women, fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community.

To solve the Rohingya issue “there has to be some form of intervention. I don’t mean the military intervention. There are different types of intervention,” he added.

He suggested the Bangladesh government to mobilize the international community by organizing a wider international conference in Dhaka to determine the future of the Rohingya.

Zarni went on to say that Dhaka should form an “alternative alliance” along with Latin and North American states, EU, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and other countries that oppose the Rohingya genocide at the UN Human Rights Council.

– Repatriation is no longer a solution

Zarni, who is a member of the board of advisors of Genocide Watch and a non-resident fellow at Genocide Documentation Center in Sleuk Rith Institute, Cambodia, suggested that talking to Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to resolve the Rohingya crisis “is utterly useless”.

“Suu Kyi is either unwilling or siding with the military or not accepting even the UN’s voting that this is a crime that her army is committing.

<p>“Relaxing a few rules is not going to solve [the issue] in a place where Rohingya are no longer accepted as part of Burma [former name of Myanmar].”</p>    <p>Underlining that Bangladesh is carrying a huge burden by accepting the refugees, Zarni noted that it was not Dhaka's duty to feed them.

“For Bangladesh to be able to keep one million Rohingya on its soil, ……the international community has to meet the humanitarian obligation by providing Bangladesh with 100 percent money to feed them, medical supply, technology, education, all kind of things.”

Bangladesh feels two-pronged pressure from the international community which expects the country to host the refugees with its limited resources.

Only 40 percent needs of the refugees in Bangladesh are met, said Zarni, who has lived in exile for more than 30 years.

He likened Rohingya repatriation to Myanmar to sending Holocaust survivors back to gas chambers at Auschwitz. “It is a suicide. [Because] the perpetrators are still in power.”

“You would be stupid to think that your old perpetrators are going to protect your children… You cannot trust a rapist, and go and live in the same house with the rapist. The killers are still around. You cannot go back.”

Bangladesh and Myanmar signed a Rohingya repatriation agreement last year that suggested that the repatriation has to be voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable. But the process had been postponed several times due to protests by the refugees.

"Because they just saw what happened to their mothers and fathers and children. A lot of them survived the rape. And they saw their own children kill while they are being raped. So, you cannot tell these people to go back. If they don’t want to go back and if Bangladesh forces them to go back then Bangladesh would become a bad guy. Because that is against the international humanitarian law. I think that Bangladesh is aware of it.”

– Massive prison

Citing recent reports of Rohingya fleeing Myanmar by boats, Zarni stated that persecution of Rohingya is still going on in Myanmar.

<p>Trying to give a glimpse of their life in Myanmar, he said: &quot;Rohingya villages are not villages anymore. They are designated as security grades by military and a villager has to pass four security check points to go to the next village.&quot;

"Women don’t have access to prenatal care. Rohingya are not allowed to move from one village to the other, to go to a clinic. The doctor-patient ratio is 1 to 186,000 for Rohingya while the national average is 1,000 or 2,000 patients per doctor."

“It is like a massive prison with a higher concentration of guards,” he added comparing the Rohingya area in Myanmar to Gaza in Palestine.

Zarni also spoke against Dhaka's plan to resettle 100,000 Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char, a recently emerged island in the Bay of Bengal.

“People start to express serious concern because they [the shelters] look more like a prison camp. The video documents coming, they are not normal village. And also, the island is two hours by [motor] boat from the nearest shore.

He stressed that Rohingya want to go back to Myanmar and live a peaceful and dignified life.

"Give them their lands and forests and rivers back. They know how to live. Poorly, but they don’t need to rely on anybody. They never relied on anybody,” he added.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

US-led coalition strikes kill dozens in eastern Syria

By Mohamed Misto, Adham Kako and Ashraf Musa

DEIR EZ-ZOR/IDLIB, Syria (AA) – U.S.-led coalition warplanes struck a building used as a prison by the Daesh terrorist group, killing scores of people, including dozens of civilians, local sources told Anadolu Agency on Thursday.

The coalition has continued to target the Hejjin district and surrounding towns and villages in Syria’s eastern Deir ez-Zor province, much of which still remains under Daesh control.

According to local sources in Deir ez-Zor, coalition fighter jets early Wednesday targeted a building near the town of Siife in which Daesh terrorists had been holding a number of prisoners.

The airstrikes reportedly killed dozens of people, most of whom were civilians being forcefully held by the terrorist group.

The coalition was cobbled together in 2014 after Daesh overran vast swathes of territory in both Iraq and Syria.

The U.S.-backed YPG/PKK terrorist group, meanwhile, continues to occupy the eastern and western outskirts of Deir ez-Zor, which is located east of the Euphrates River.

Despite the fact that the group receives active support from the U.S. and France, it appears unable to clear the province of Daesh terrorists.

Following an assault in which an estimated 6,000 of its members participated, the YPG/PKK terror group recently succeeded in capturing the town of Suse, but was forced to withdraw shortly afterward.

The U.S.-led coalition has continued to target Deir ez-zor’s towns of Hejjin, Siife and Suse, along with the villages of Bu Hassan and Bu Hatr, all of which remain under Daesh control.

Syrian regime forces, meanwhile, remain deployed in the province’s western regions.

While the YPG/PKK terrorists currently occupy some 28 percent of Syrian territory, Daesh is estimated to hold only three percent.

– Idlib

In a related development, a civilian was killed — and another three injured — in attacks by regime forces and allied militias in Syria’s northern Idlib province, the White Helmets civil defense agency said Saturday.

Regime forces and Iran-backed militias attacked residential buildings in the towns of Jarjanazin and Al-Tah in the province’s eastern countryside, according to an Anadolu Agency correspondent based in the area.

During the attacks, a civilian was reportedly killed and three others injured by regime artillery barrages.

At least 35 civilians in Idlib are estimated to have been killed — and scores more injured — in similar attacks by the regime and its allies since mid-September.

Following a Sept. 17 meeting in Sochi between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, the two sides agreed to set up a demilitarized zone — in which acts of aggression are expressly prohibited — in Idlib.

Under the terms of the deal, opposition groups in Idlib will remain in areas in which they are already present, while Russia and Turkey will carry out joint patrols in the area to prevent any resumption of fighting.

Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.

According to the UN, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict.

*Ali Murat Alhas contributed to this report from Ankara

UPDATE – US calls for ceasefire, peace talks in Yemen


By Kasim Ileri

WASHINGTON (AA) – U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis has called for a ceasefire in Yemen and the start of peace talks in the next 30 days.

“We want to see everybody around a peace table based on a ceasefire, based on a pullback from the border and then based on ceasing dropping of bombs,” Mattis said Tuesday during a speech at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, DC.

"We have got to move toward a peace effort here, and we can't say we are going to do it sometime in the future. We need to be doing this in the next 30 days,” he added.

Impoverished Yemen has remained wracked by violence since 2014, when Shia Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

-‘Time to end this conflict’

Following Mattis’ remarks, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement saying it was “time to end this conflict, replace conflict with compromise, and allow the Yemeni people to heal through peace and reconstruction”.

Pompeo called on all sides to support UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths in finding a peaceful solution.

“The time is now for the cessation of hostilities, including missile and UAV strikes from Houthi-controlled areas into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

“Subsequently, Coalition air strikes must cease in all populated areas in Yemen,” he said.

Pompeo said substantive consultations under the UN Special Envoy must begin in November in a third country to implement confidence-building measures to address the conflict’s underlying issues, the demilitarization of borders and the concentration of all large weapons under international observation.

“A cessation of hostilities and vigorous resumption of a political track will help ease the humanitarian crisis as well,” he added.

Luxembourg: Ruling coalition secures majority in polls

By Serife Cetin

BRUSSELS (AA) – The ruling coalition in Luxembourg has won 31 seats in the parliamentary elections to continue to remain in power for the next five years, local media reported on Monday.

The coalition included Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel’s Democratic Party, the Green Party and the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party that won 31 of total 60 seats.

Previously, the coalition parties held 32 seats in the outgoing parliament.

The Pirate Party has also won two seats, entering parliament for the first time, the Luxembourg Times reported.

With the population of 600,000 in Luxembourg, 257,000 citizens were eligible to vote.

In the Europe's second smallest country, a total of 200,000 people from neighboring countries — Belgium, France and Germany — enter and exit the country for business daily.

Iraq’s Sistani pulls support from al-Abadi, al-Maliki

BAGHDAD (AA) – Prominent Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani does not support either current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi or former PM Nouri al-Maliki to lead Iraq’s next government, according to a Monday statement carried by a website known to be close to al-Sistani.

According to the Iraqi constitution, the largest bloc in parliament has the right to select the next prime minister.

“Most of the public no longer believes that these individuals can improve the country’s situation and successfully wage the fight against corruption,” the statement read.

"A new personality — someone competent, fair and courageous — must be chosen instead,” it added.

Al-Sistani enjoys the respect of a large segment of the population, especially in Iraq’s Shia-majority central and southern provinces.

Formation of a new government has been stalled since May, when Iraq held a hard-fought parliamentary poll, the results of which were later subject to a recount.

Erdogan: People's Alliance to continue in parliament

By Meryem Goktas and Sibel Ugurlu

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey’s president said on Friday that the successful People’s Alliance from last month’s elections — a coalition of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) — will continue in the new parliament.

Speaking to AK Party provincial heads at party headquarters in Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We will continue the People’s Alliance in the parliament."

Erdogan thanked the Turkish people for the high turnout in the June 24 elections — over 86 percent — saying that this "frustrated" those who wanted to "drive Turkey into a corner."

– New Cabinet to be announced Monday

Erdogan also said initial steps for the transition to Turkey's new presidential system have been completed, including changes related to the Cabinet ministers, and the re-defined management of some institutions and general directors.

"On Monday, the first presidential decree will be issued soon after the swearing-in ceremony, and the reorganized presidential Cabinet will be announced that same evening," he said.

Erdogan added that for the first time the Cabinet will include figures unaffiliated to any party.

"We will speed up the work of the state and make it [more] effective by merging institutions that do similar work and eliminating institutions that have become dysfunctional," he added.

Addressing the upcoming local elections set for March 2019, Erdogan highlighted the importance of analyzing last month’s election outcome.

"There are local elections ahead of us, we have to look at June 24 and take the necessary steps," he said.

On Monday July 9, Erdogan — in his second term as president — will be sworn in for the first time under the new executive presidential system.

The swearing-in ceremony will be held at 4.00 p.m. local time (1300GMT) at parliament in the capital Ankara, sources said on condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to the media.

Later, a ceremony will be held at the presidential complex to mark the country’s transition to the presidential system of government.

The June 24 vote marked Turkey's transition to an executive presidential system of government, doing away with the prime minister's post, among other changes.

German coalition partners agree on migration compromise

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their coalition partner the Christian Socialist Union (CSU) on Monday reached a compromise on migration policy after weeks of tensions that threatened the future of the government.

Speaking to reporters in Berlin after final negotiations between the CDU and CSU, Merkel said they have agreed to set up “transit centers” at Germany’s border for asylum seekers who arrived in the country after entering the European Union (EU) from another member state.

“We will return them to the countries they arrived from and they were already registered, in agreement with these states,” Merkel said.

The chancellor underlined that while taking several measures at a national level, her government would also continue its efforts towards enhancing cooperation between EU member states to address the refugee crisis.

CSU leader and Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, who advocated an anti-immigrant agenda, had long insisted on stricter measures and on Sunday threatened to quit the government.

Earlier, Merkel opposed Seehofer’s proposals and argued that unilateral moves would have “a domino effect”, prompting other EU member states to push back refugees.

The CSU, which faces a regional election in Bavaria in October, has recently sharpened its criticism of Merkel’s open-door policy for refugees and argued that Germany should not wait for other EU member states and move forward with unilateral measures to stop irregular migration.

Germany has received more than a million refugees in the last three years, mostly from Syria and Iraq.

Merkel’s decision in 2015 to open doors for refugees fleeing conflicts and persecution was widely criticized by conservatives and exploited by far-right and populist parties.

Her CDU and its sister party CSU suffered heavy losses in the country's federal elections last year while the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party scored record gains and entered parliament for the first time.

Coalition to begin drawing up Iraq's next government

By Aref Youssef and Ali Jawad

BAGHDAD (AA) – A coalition of the three parliamentary blocs — led by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon bloc — will be responsible for drawing up Iraq’s next government, according to a Friday statement released by the coalition.

Along with Sairoon (which won 54 parliamentary seats in Iraq’s May 12 poll), the coalition includes Iyad Allawi’s National Coalition (22 seats) and Ammar al-Hakim’s National Wisdom Current (19 seats).

According to the statement, the coalition is committed to preserving Iraq’s national unity; implementing economic reforms; encouraging private-sector activity; and promoting investment and local development.

The statement also stresses the need to avoid the “politicization of the government, administrative and military sectors”.

It further calls for an independent judiciary; “balanced” foreign relations — both regional and international — based on principles of non-interference in other country’s affairs; and the swift repatriation of Iraq’s large displaced population.

One source within the coalition, who spoke to Anadolu Agency on condition of anonymity, said: “Legally, the coalition cannot take any steps [to form a new government] until Iraq’s Federal Court approves the results of the May 12 parliamentary election.”

Iraq’s Supreme Judicial Council on Thursday announced that newly-appointed electoral officials had begun the process of recounting votes following weeks of dispute over poll results and widespread allegations of electoral fraud.

On Wednesday, parliament voted in favor of conducting a manual recount of the poll results. Shortly afterward, a nine-judge panel was appointed to assume the responsibilities of Iraq’s official electoral commission.

Lawmakers first began calling for a vote recount late last month. Electoral commission officials had responded by warning of “potential civil unrest” if poll results were overturned.

Earlier this week, the government slapped a travel ban on top electoral commission officials pending further investigation into fraud allegations.

Al-Sadr, for his part, says parliament lacks the authority to overturn final election results.

UPDATE – Germany: Social Democrats approve coalition deal


By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – Germany’s Social Democrats (SPD) voted in favor of forming a coalition government with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives, according to results announced on Sunday.

The SPD said 66 percent of its members who took part in the binding postal ballot approved the coalition deal with Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc.

Some 239,604 members of the SPD voted “yes”, and 123,329 members voted “no” in the mini-referendum, party treasurer Dietmar Nietan told a news conference in Berlin.

The vote cleared the way for a "grand coalition" government between the SPD, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party Christian Social Union (CSU).

The leaders of the SPD and Merkel’s CDU/CSU bloc had reached a preliminary agreement on Feb. 7 to form another “grand coalition” government, after a 136-day post-election stalemate.

The party organs of the CDU and CSU had approved the coalition deal last month.

Merkel-led conservative-left coalition government is expected to take office following a vote at the German parliament on March 14.

It will be the third "grand coalition" between the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats since 2005 and will grant Merkel a fourth consecutive term as the chancellor.

Merkel's CDU/CSU alliance emerged as the largest bloc in the parliament following September’s federal election, but they failed to secure an absolute majority.

The SPD suffered its worst result in decades but remained the second-largest party in parliament.

German conservatives approve coalition deal with SPD

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats overwhelmingly approved a coalition deal with the Social Democrats at a special party congress on Monday.

Some 948 delegates of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) voted in favor of forming a “grand coalition” government with the Social Democrats, versus only 27 delegates against.

The vote strengthened Merkel’s position within the party, after senior party figures and the party’s youth wing accused the deal of giving too many concessions to the Social Democrats.

Merkel responded to these criticisms by arguing that the CDU had to assume responsibility for Germany, and make compromises to open the way for a stable coalition government in the wake of last September's election.

“We had a hard struggle, we had to make compromises, but we also achieved many points,” she stressed.

Merkel’s conservative bloc CDU/CSU and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) reached an agreement earlier this month to form a coalition government, after a 136-day post-election stalemate.

The Social Democrats are currently holding a mini-referendum on the coalition agreement with the CDU and its sister party the CSU.

A postal ballot of the SPD’s 460,000 members on the coalition deal began on Feb. 20 and will end on March 2.

The results will be announced on March 4, according to party officials.