France: At least 8,400 arrested in Yellow Vest protests

             By Yusuf Ozcan</p>    <p>PARIS (AA) - French interior minister said that some 8,400 people were arrested since the beginning of Yellow Vest protests three months ago, according to local media on Thursday. </p>    <p>French daily Le Figaro quoted Christophe Castaner as saying that around 1,300 police officers, firefighters and gendarmes were injured since the beginning of the protests on Nov. 17 last year. </p>    <p>On Tuesday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said that 1,796 people were remanded in custody while 1,422 others are still waiting for trial since the beginning of the protests. </p>    <p>Since Nov. 17, thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests -- dubbed the Yellow Vests -- have gathered in major French cities, including Paris, to protest President Emmanuel Macron's controversial fuel tax hikes and deteriorating economic situation.</p>    <p>Demonstrators held protests blocking roads as well as entrances and exits to gas stations and factories across the country.</p>    <p>Under pressure, Macron announced a rise in the minimum wage and scuttled the tax hikes.</p>  <p>Since then, however, the protests have grown into a broader movement aimed at tackling income inequality and are calling for giving citizens a stronger voice in government decision-making.</p>    <p>At least 10 people died, around 6,000 others were detained and over 2,000 others were injured in the protests.

The protests started in France but spilled over to other European countries, including Sweden and the Netherlands.

UPDATE – France should face crimes in Africa: Turkish spokesman

            ADDS MORE REMARKS FROM AK PARTY SPOKESMAN</p>  <p>By Sibel Ugurlu</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - French authorities should face the human rights violations and murders they were involved in from Cameroon to Algeria, Turkey's ruling party spokesman said Monday.</p>  <p>“Facing history is essential for France,” Omer Celik told reporters following a central executive committee meeting of his ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party.</p>  <p>“What France should judicially face, from Cameroon to Algeria, are the acts of human rights violations and killings by the French authorities.</p>  <p>&quot;What is tragic is [French President Emmanuel Macron's] talks about facing history. Facing history must be a term that should be used in another meaning for France,&quot; he said.</p>  <p>&quot;While the crimes committed by the French authorities are obvious, hiding behind a term like ‘facing history’ is a result of a lobby support approach of Macron, who is in political turmoil,” he said, referring to Macron's tweet about the 1915 Armenian events.</p>  <p>Recalling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call in 2005 to open the archives on both sides and let scientists conduct the necessary research, Celik said the studies were prevented by the decisions taken by Armenia’s Constitutional Court back then.</p>  <p>He also warned that Turkey would not just condemn the move, but it will also have effects on bilateral relations.</p>  <p>He said Macron, cornered by months of protests by the Yellow Vest movement, is trying to rescue himself through baseless allegations instead of producing “shrewd policies” to tackle the issue.</p>  <p>Last week, Macron announced April 24 as a day to commemorate the so-called Armenian genocide.</p>  <p>Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as &quot;genocide&quot; but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.</p>  <p>Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to tackle the issue.</p>  <p>- Safe zone in northern Syria</p>  <p>On a safe zone in northern Syria, Celik said: &quot;It is not possible to say that fruitful talks with U.S. President Donald Trump were disseminated to the grassroots.&quot;</p>  <p>He said Turkey's concerns about its security were not matters of negotiation which could be extended over time.</p>  <p>Noting that the Turkish Armed Forces has the capacity to realize any kind of operation for the country’s safety, he added: “The right thing here is putting an end to these places being a safe haven for the terrorists.”</p>  <p>The safe zone issue was first brought to the global stage when Erdogan visited the U.S. nearly six years ago in May 2013. </p>  <p>In a surprising move last December, Trump announced he was withdrawing all American forces from Syria. He made the decision during a phone call with Erdogan in which the two leaders agreed on the need for more effective coordination over the civil war-torn country.</p>  <p>- Chinese policy on Uighur Turks</p>  <p>On the issue of Chinese authorities’ systematic assimilation policy towards Uighur Turks, Celik said Turkey respects China's integrity and security, &quot;but holding more than 1 million Uighur Turks in concentration camps and prisons is unlawful.&quot;</p>  <p>Stating that the policy carried out by the country was open to assimilation in many ways, Celik noted that many opinion leaders, artists and intellectuals of East Turkestan were missing.</p>  <p>“If a transparent approach is adopted on this issue, it will create an opportunity to defuse tensions and allow everyone to understand what is happening,” he said.</p>  <p>China’s Xinjiang region is home to around 10 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused China’s authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.</p>  <p>China stepped up its restrictions on the region in the past two years, banning men from growing beards and women from wearing veils and introducing what many experts see as the world’s most extensive electronic surveillance program, according to The Wall Street Journal.</p>  <p>As many as 1 million Muslims in Xinjiang have been incarcerated in an expanding network of “political re-education” camps, according to U.S. officials and UN experts.

Turkish lawyers slam French move on Armenian events

By Can Erozden

ANKARA (AA) – The Turkish Bar Association on Monday slammed the French president's announcement to mark a day to commemorate the so-called Armenian genocide.

"Marking April 24 as a national day to commemorate the so-called Armenian genocide is putting the blame of a crime on a whole nation," the association said in a statement.

In a tweet last week, Emmanuel Macron announced April 24 as a day to commemorate the so-called Armenian genocide.

Explaining the historic context of the events of 1915, the statement said the Ottoman Empire and France were in different camps during World War I.

During the clashes between the Ottoman and invading Russian armies in the eastern front, Armenian gangs collaborated with Russia for ethnic cleansing of civilians, it added.

The statement went on to say that both Ottoman and Armenian sides suffered casualties during the relocation from eastern Anatolia, which aimed to block support to Armenian gangs.

Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as "genocide" but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.

Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to tackle the issue.

Turkey slams French move on 1915 Armenian events

            By Emre Aytekin</p>  <p> ANKARA (AA)  - Turkish foreign ministry spokesman Wednesday said Ankara could not be lectured by France which is notorious for atrocities committed during the colonial period in Africa.</p>  <p>Hami Aksoy's remarks came after French President Emmanuel Macron’s declaration of April 24 as a national day marking the so-called Armenian genocide.</p>  <p>&quot;We have no lessons to take from the arrogant French politicians who are ignorant [of basic history], which we know for the atrocities it committed in Anatolia while using the Armenians during the Independence War period, massacres in Algeria and the genocide in Rwanda,&quot; Aksoy said, responding to a question in the Foreign Ministry building.</p>  <p>Aksoy went on to say that Ankara repeatedly told French officials, especially Macron, that the 1915 incidents should be discussed in the light of judicial, historical and academic angles; however, Macron ignored historical facts and decisions by the European Court of Human Rights and the French Constitutional Court.</p>  <p>He added that the main motive of Macron was to appeal to the Armenian voters in a bid to fulfill the promise he had previously made.</p>  <p>Emphasizing that an objective approach was essential to understand the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in which more than 500,000 Muslims were killed by the Armenian rioters, Aksoy said that the Turkish offer to establish a joint historical commission to shed light on the incident was still applicable.</p>  <p>Turkey's position is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.</p>  <p>Ankara does not accept the alleged genocide, but acknowledges that there were casualties on both sides during the events of World War I.</p>  <p>Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as &quot;genocide&quot; but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.</p>  <p>Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to tackle the issue.

Turkey's main opposition condemns France move on 1915 events

             By Baris Gundogan</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - The leader of Turkey's main opposition party on Wednesday strongly condemned French move to declare April 24 as a national day marking the so-called Armenian genocide.</p>    <p>“Tertiary countries cannot erase the traces of this tragedy and heal the wounds with groundless and unnecessary decisions,” Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chair of the Republican People's Party (CHP), said in a written statement. </p>  <p>Kilicdaroglu’s remarks came as a blast at French President Emmanuel Macron over his plan to commemorate so-called Armenian genocide on April 24.</p>    <p>The main opposition leader said 1915 events are “traumatic” for Turkish and Armenian people, leaving “deep wounds” in collective memories of the two communities.</p>    <p>Speaking of painful events of the past does not help reconstructing a bridge between the Turkey and Armenia, Kilicdaroglu said.</p>    <p>“Action should be taken to rule out disintegration between Turkey and Armenia, new generations should see the future in a peaceful way, not in conflicts,” Kilicdaroglu noted.

Macron announced in early hours of Wednesday on Twitter that “In the coming weeks, France will make April 24 a day for commemoration of the [so-called] Armenian genocide.”

Turkey's position is that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Anatolia in 1915 took place when some sided with invading Russians and revolted against Ottoman forces. A subsequent relocation of Armenians resulted in numerous casualties.

Ankara does not accept the alleged genocide, but acknowledges that there were casualties on both sides during the events of World War I.

Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as "genocide" but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy for both sides.

Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of a joint commission of historians from Turkey and Armenia plus international experts to tackle the issue.

Turkey has also decried Western hypocrisy in alleging a genocide while ignoring their own dark history, including France's colonialist record in Algeria.

INFOGRAPHICS – Yellow Vest protests in Paris spread to other cities

                    By Yusuf Ozcan</p>    <p>PARIS (AA) - The Yellow Vest protests in the French capital Paris, which have been continuing since mid-November, have spread to southern and western parts of the country.</p>    <p>The protests are regarded as the greatest crisis since President Emmanuel Macron has assumed his office; although he organized negotiation meetings in various parts of the country, the protests continue shaking the country.</p>    <p>In a bid to attract countrywide attention, the Yellow Vests first focused on capital Paris in the early days of the protests.</p>    <p>While political parties or unions generally chose Republique, Nation or Bastille squares for demonstrations, Yellow Vests preferred the Champs-Elysees.</p>    <p>The protests, which attracted significant attention until mid-December, turned violent. Some protestors clashed with the police forces, damaged public institutions, plundered shops and set cars on fire. The security forces' response to the protestors was harsh.</p>    <p>However, in recent weeks, the protests began to draw large participation not in Paris but also in Toulouse, Bordeaux, Rouen, Nantes and Evreux -- southern and western cities.</p>    <p>The French officials believe that the main reason of these widespread protests is that some of the pioneer figures of Yellow Vests movement -- Maxime Nicolle, Priscillia Ludosky and Eric Drouet -- join protests in different cities every week.</p>    <p>Last week, more than 5,000 people were present at the protests in Bordeaux, where tension was high between Yellow Vests and police forces. Maxime Nicolle and 49 others were arrested. </p>    <p>On the other hand, the protests in Paris, attended by 4,000 people, were less intense.</p>    <p>The same day, the demonstration in Toulouse drew thousands of protestors, and the event turned violent.</p>    <p>The protestors, who pelted stones, on the police force were responded with pepper spray; meanwhile, some protestors damaged bank buildings. Two protesters were arrested following the clashes.</p>    <p>Furthermore, Evreux district of Eure city -- home to some 50,000 people -- also saw violence after the protestors and security forces clashed, culminating in the arrest of two.</p>    <p>In Toulouse, the protests of Jan. 19 were attended by 10,000 people, 60 of them were arrested. In Paris, 7,000 people hit the streets, from where 20 were arrested.</p>    <p>The demonstrations in Toulouse, Rouen, Caen, Rennes and Lyon cities made it to the headlines with acts of violence.</p>    <p>Compared to the demonstrations in capital Paris, the protests of Jan. 12 in Nimes, Nantes, Rouen and especially Toulouse and Bordeaux cities had witnessed much more violence.</p>    <p>In Bordeaux, at least 41 people were arrested following the clashes; some 7,000 people attended the demonstration. Toulouse was yet another place that saw acts of violence. The police forces used pepper spray in both cities.</p>    <p>The protests in Nantes left seven people arrested.</p>    <p>On Jan. 5, more than 4,500 people attended the protests in Bordeaux while some 3,500 people took part in Paris. Toulouse protests attracted 2,000 people, while there were some 1,700 protesters in Rouen.</p>    <p>There were clashes between the police and protestors in Paris; however, the tension was slightly higher in the other cities. The clashes in Rouen city led to the arrest of four people.</p>    <p>In Nantes, police forces used pepper spray in response to the occasional tensions. The protestors set surrounding places on fire and at least one person was wounded. The protestors in Bordeaux burnt many cars.</p>    <p>The demonstrations held during Christmas and New Year’s holiday were calmer throughout the country. The participation ratio was lower and no act of violence was recorded.</p>  <p> </p>  <p><br></p>  <p>- Economic assistance to companies</p>    <p><br>

Southern and western cities of Bordeaux, Dijon, Saint-Etienne, Nantes, Rennes and Toulouse are among the most financially affected cities due to Yellow Vest protests.

It has been stated that the shopkeepers suffered serious monetary loses due to the ongoing protests.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Economy, the French government would provide €36 million ($41 million) to 4,577 companies who sought assistance due to loses.

– Protests

Since Nov. 17, thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests — dubbed the Yellow Vests — have gathered in major French cities, including Paris, to protest Macron's controversial fuel tax hikes and deteriorating economic situation.

Demonstrators held protests blocking roads, as well as the entrances and exits to gas stations and factories across the country.

Under pressure, Macron announced a rise in the minimum wage and scuttled the tax hike.

Since then, however, the protests have grown into a broader movement aimed at tackling income inequality and are calling for giving citizens a stronger voice in government decision-making.

At least 10 people have died, around 6,000 others have been detained and over 2,000 others have been injured in the protests.

EU states call for fresh polls in Venezuela

                                  By Sibel Ugurlu</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - Several EU member states have called on Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro to announce fresh elections within next eight days to ease the current political crisis in the south American country.</p>    <p>European heavyweights -- including the U.K., Germany, France and Spain -- have taken a similar stance against Venezuela's elected president, saying they would recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as the acting president if elections are not announced. </p>    <p>“We do not seek to put or remove governments, we want democracy and free elections in ‪#Venezuela. In any case, if in eight days there is no call for fair, free, transparent and democratic elections, Spain will recognize ‪@jguaido as president of Venezuela,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a statement on Saturday.</p>    <p>Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron said they would recognize Guaido as the acting president of Venezuela “to implement the political process”, if fresh elections are not announced.</p>    <p>“We work together with our European allies,” he noted.</p>    <p>British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and German government spokesman Steffen Seibert shared similar views on the current political crisis in the south American nation.</p>    <p>Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when President Maduro was sworn in for a second term following a vote boycott by the opposition.</p>    <p>On Wednesday, Guaido, the leader of Venezuela’s opposition-led National Assembly, declared himself acting president.</p>    <p>U.S. President Donald Trump recognized Guaido as president of the country.</p>    <p>Maduro quickly shot back, cutting off diplomatic relations with Washington and giving U.S. diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.</p>  <p>He has repeatedly lashed out at the U.S., saying Washington is waging an economic war against him and his government amid a sweeping sanctions campaign.</p>    <p>Brazil and the Organization of American States recognized Guaido as Venezuela's leader prior to his formal announcement. Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay have followed suit while Bolivia and Mexico continue to recognize Maduro.</p>    <p>Several South American countries, Russia and Turkey have also expressed solidarity with Maduro.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>*Hasan Esen contributed to this story from France.</p>  <p> 

French court dismisses complaints against minister

            By Yusuf Ozcan</p>  <p>PARIS (AA) – France’s Court of Cassation on Friday dismissed 500 complaints against the country’s interior minister for hindering the right to protest.</p>  <p>Public prosecutor Francois Molins announced his decision not to prosecute Christophe Castaner for his remarks that participants in the Yellow Vest protests were complicit with those who had resorted to violence.</p>  <p>Several other complaints were filed against Castaner relating to eye injuries caused by pepper spray used by security forces against the protestors.</p>  <p>The Yellow Vest protests, which started in reaction to fuel tax hikes and evolved into a protest against President Emmanuel Macron, have continued despite the government’s call for them to halt.</p>  <p>Since Nov. 17, thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests -- dubbed the Yellow Vests -- have gathered in major French cities, including Paris, to protest Macron's controversial fuel tax hikes and the country’s deteriorating economic situation.</p>  <p>Demonstrators held protests blocking roads as well as the entrances and exits to gas stations and factories across the country.</p>  <p>Under pressure, Macron announced a rise in the minimum wage and scuttled the tax hikes.</p>  <p>Since then, however, the protests have grown into a broader movement aimed at tackling income inequality and are calling for giving citizens a stronger voice in government decision-making.</p>  <p>At least 10 people have died, around 6,000 have been detained and over 2,000 others have been injured in the protests.

France backs Venezuelan opposition leader

By Yusuf Ozcan

PARIS (AA) – The French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated Friday the country’s support for Venezuela’s self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido.

“We support the National Assembly of Venezuela and its president which is elected by people,” Le Drian said at a news conference.

“We strongly urge [President] Nicolas Maduro to avoid oppression and violence against peaceful demonstrators.”

His comments came a day after French President Emmanuel Macron also supported voiced support for Guaido.

"After the illegitimate election of Nicolas Maduro in May 2018, Europe has supported the re-establishment of democracy,” Macron said in a tweet. “I praise the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are marching for their liberty."

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan. 10 when Maduro was sworn in for a second presidential term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Maduro slammed a decision by U.S. President Donald Trump to support Guaido and said his country was cutting off diplomatic relations with the U.S., giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

Brazil and the Organization of American States recognized Guaido as Venezuela's leader prior to his formal announcement of taking over the post. Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay have followed suit while Bolivia and Mexico continue to recognize Maduro.

Maduro has repeatedly lashed out at the U.S., saying Washington is waging an economic war against him and his government amid a sweeping sanctions campaign.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced support for Maduro.

France recognizes self-proclaimed Venezuelan president

By Yusuf Ozcan

PARIS (AA) – French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday backed Juan Guaido, the self-proclaimed acting president of Venezuela.

In a tweet, Macron said: "After the illegitimate election of Nicolas Maduro in May 2018, Europe has supported the re-establishment of democracy. I praise the courage of the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are marching for their liberty."

His statement comes amid a government crisis in Caracas where the leader of the National Assembly, Guaido, on Wednesday declared himself the acting president of Venezuela, a move immediately recognized by the U.S.

Venezuela has been rocked by protests since Jan.10 when Nicolas Maduro was sworn in for a second presidential term following a vote boycotted by the opposition.

Maduro has slammed the decision of Trump and said his country was cutting off diplomatic relations with the U.S., giving American diplomats 72 hours to leave the country.

Brazil and the Organization of American States had recognized Guaido as Venezuela's leader prior to his formal announcement. Argentina, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama and Paraguay have followed suit while Bolivia and Mexico continue to recognize Maduro.

Maduro has repeatedly lashed out at the U.S., saying Washington is waging an economic war against him and his government amid a sweeping sanctions campaign.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced support for Maduro.