France's Macron meets Iraqi PM Al-Mahdi in Paris

                By Yusuf Ozcan</p>    <p>PARIS (AA) - French President Emmanuel Macron met with Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi on Friday at the Elysee Palace in Paris.</p>    <p>&quot;Counterterrorism is one of the priority issues of France. This war has not finished yet,&quot; Macron said at a joint press conference with Al-Mahdi.</p>    <p>He highlighted that France will continue to support Iraq to rebuild.</p>    <p>&quot;France and Iraq combatted together against Daesh,&quot; he said, adding the terror group has not been completely eliminated.</p>    <p>For his part, Abd Al-Mahdi said that the cooperation on counterterrorism should not only continue between Iraq and France, but also between all countries.</p>    <p>Political situation in Iraq has improved with the improvement of the security situation in the country, he added.</p>  <p><br></p>      <p>*Writing by Burak Bir

Da Vinci remembered 500 years after death

                             By Senhan Bolelli</p>  <p>MADRID (AA) - Leonardo da Vinci is being commemorated Thursday on the 500th anniversary of his death.</p>  <p>Born in Italy’s Anchiano village April 15, 1452, one of the leading figures of the Renaissance is mostly known as a painter but da Vinci made contributions in astronomy, mathematics, sculpting, philosophy, architecture, engineering and science.</p>  <p>After spending most of his career in Italy, Da Vinci moved to Amboise, France, at 64 by invitation of French King Francis I, and spent his last years there at the Clos Luce Castle.</p>  <p>His three most famous works in Amboise -- Mona Lisa, Virgin of the Rocks, Virgin Mary and Child Jesus with Mother Saint, are exhibited in the Louvre in Paris.
  • Presidents of Italy and France meets for Da Vinci

The leaders of Italy and France will make an appearance in France.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella and French President Emmanuel Macron will visit da Vinci's tomb at Clos Luce Castle on Thursday. Italian architect Renzo Piano and French astronaut Thomas Pesquet will also speak at the ceremony.

– Da Vinci’s leading works of art

Known as the most successful work of art, he painted the Mona Lisa in 1503. The emotion of the female face in the picture which is formed by using pyramid and geometric shapes is still a matter of debate.

The Last Supper, a painting Da Vinci made between 1495 and 1498 at the request of Lodovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan, expresses the last supper of Christ before his crucifixion. The world-famous fresco in the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church in Milan has been the subject of discussion in the Christian world for many years due to Jesus' portrayal of having dinner and drinking wine with his apostles.

His Annunciation is a Bible-inspired painting, which includes the angel Gabriel kneeling in front of the Virgin Mary and heralding a story. The table is on display at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Da Vinci also had works in anatomy and examined human cadavers. In his work, Vitruvius Man, he highlighted the proportions of the naked male figure. Estimated to be painted in 1492, it is displayed at the Academy Gallery in Venice.

Da Vinci died May 2, 1519.

*Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontur

UPDATE 2 – Every election is exam, opportunity: Turkish president

              UPDATES WITH MORE REMARKS OF PRESIDENT ERDOGAN</p>  <p>By Gozde Bayar</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that Turkey's ruling party had succeeded in local elections held last month.</p>  <p>“Every election is an exam, struggle and an opportunity for assessment. We substantially succeeded in the March 31 local elections,” said Erdogan, addressing a gathering of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party in capital Ankara.</p>  <p>He noted that the AK Party got 44.4% of the votes which is the second highest rate of their party in terms of local elections to date.</p>  <p>He called the mayoral elections of Istanbul questionable, adding: “All doubts must be eliminated so that the people feel relieved.”</p>  <p>He also referred to the documents which showed that there was a very serious organized set up in Istanbul polls.</p>  <p>Recalling the opposition party's concerns over objections to Istanbul poll results, Erdogan termed the situation “tragicomic” as the party has the right to challenge the results according to the electoral law.</p>  <p>Millions of Turkish voters cast their votes nationwide on March 31 in local elections to choose mayors, city council members, and other officials for the next five years.</p>  <p>Ekrem Imamoglu, of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), took oath as mayor of Istanbul earlier this month, amid AK Party's agitation over voting irregularities.</p>  <p>Erdogan refuted rumors that the AK Party had given up hope on the Istanbul results, stating that the party will continue its legal struggle.</p>  <p><br>
  • Armenian issue

Reiterating that his party and coalition partners had paved the way to reach a common ground in Turkey, he invited all Turkish citizens, who had not sold their hearts and minds to external powers and terrorists, to join their alliance.

He insisted that there is no polarization in Turkey with the exception of one entity which supports terrorist organization.

Speaking about the events of 1915, he said the Armenian relocation was neither a genocide, nor a great disaster, which took place under troublesome conditions a century ago.

“Millions of Armenians would not be living across Europe, U.S., North Africa, Caucasus, if allegations against us were true,” Erdogan added.

Noting that parliaments of the countries are not suitable places to seek truth, he said historians and scientists should check the archives.

He also criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for declaring April 24 as a day to mark the so-called Armenian genocide.

Erdogan named several communities which were exposed to “real genocide” including millions of Muslims in Palestine, Myanmar and Bosnia, and Jews in Europe.

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

Turkey objects to the presentation of the incidents as "genocide" but describes the 1915 events as a tragedy in which both sides suffered casualties.

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

– Iraq, Syria, Russia

Erdogan said the legitimacy of Turkish measures taken against terror threats in Iraq and Syria is indisputable.

Speaking about recent differences with the U.S., he said: “We will continue taking steps to clear terror swamps in Syria and procure S-400 and similar security entrenchments.”

Following protracted efforts to purchase an air defense system from the U.S. with no success, Ankara decided in 2017 to purchase the Russian S-400 system.

U.S. officials have objected to the deal, claiming that the S-400 would be incompatible with NATO systems and expose U.S. F-35 fighter jets — which Turkey also has a deal to buy — to possible Russian subterfuge.

'Political Islam' seeks secession from France: Macron

            By Yusuf Ozcan</p>  <p>PARIS (AA) – French President Emmanuel Macron vowed Thursday to resist ‘political Islam’, which he said is a threat and seeks succession from the republic.</p>  <p>Macron made the remarks during a press conference at the Elysee Palace to unveil his policy response to the Yellow Vest protests following a three-month-long national debate.</p>  <p>&quot;Political Islam wants to secede from our republic,&quot; he said, asking the government to be “intractable” against it.</p>  <p> “We are talking about people who, in the name of a religion, pursue a political project,” he said.</p>  <p>He said the control of funds from abroad to some organizations should also be strengthened.</p>  <p>Macron also noted that France’s 1905 law on secularism has been effective and should continue to be implemented.</p>  <p>“We must not hide ourselves when we talk about secularism. We do not really talk about secularism. We talk about the communitarianism that has settled in certain neighborhoods of the republic,” he said, referring to Muslim communities in France.</p>  <p>Since last November, thousands of protesters wearing bright yellow vests -- dubbed the Yellow Vests -- have gathered in major French cities to protest Macron's controversial fuel tax hikes and the deteriorating economic situation.</p>  <p>Under pressure, Macron announced a rise in the minimum wage and scuttled the tax hikes.</p>  <p>The protests grew 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 11 people died in the protests, around 8,400 were detained and over 2,000 were injured, and subsequently nearly 1,800 got prison sentences.</p>  <p>*Writing by Jeyhun Aliyev</p>  <p> 

Yellow vest protestors hit French streets for 23rd week

            By Yusuf Ozcan </p>  <p>PARIS (AA) - Yellow Vest protestors on Saturday once again took to the streets across France, for the 23rd consecutive week, to protest the policies of President Emmanuel Macron. </p>  <p>More than 20,000 protestors gathered at Bataillon du Pacifique Square and marched towards Republique Square in Paris. </p>    <p>Brief brawls erupted between the protestors and the police. Some protestors threw bottles and stones on the security forces and some others set cars on fire, in return of which the police fired tear gas and water cannons.</p>  <p>According to Paris Police Department, 227 people were arrested in Paris.</p>  <p>French interior ministry said that 27,900 people participated in Saturday's protests across the country while 60,000 police forces were deployed in the French capital to deal with the protests.</p>  <p>In addition to Paris, protests were held in Bordeaux, Marseille and Montpellier.</p>  <p>Yellow Vest protests began in November 2018 as a reaction to rising fuel costs, which later turned into deadly anti-government riots.</p>  <p>The protests have left 11 people dead and more than 2,000 injured, according to the French government.</p>  <p>Some 8,400 people have been arrested since the beginning of Yellow Vest protests and about 2,000 were remanded in custody. 

*Writing by Sibel Morrow

Syrian Turkmens slam Macron meeting YPG/PKK terrorists

              By Adham Kako </p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - The Syrian Turkmen Assembly (STA) on Saturday denounced the meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and a delegation of the so-called SDF, led by the Syrian branch of the PKK terror group.</p>  <p>&quot;Macron's receiving of a delegation of SDF has once again showed that the West, led by the U.S., Israel and France, is the supporter of PYD/YPG/SDF terror groups in the international arena,&quot; STS said in a statement.</p>  <p>Recalling the ongoing crimes of terror group YPG/PKK against the civilians in areas under their control, STA strongly condemned Macron for his support to &quot;the separatist terror group.&quot;</p>  <p>French president on Friday hosted a delegation of the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is closely affiliated with the YPG/PKK terrorist group.</p>  <p>In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children. </p>  <p>The PYD/YPG is its Syrian branch, which also works under the label of the SDF.

Turkey condemns Macron’s meeting with PYD/YPG terrorists

             <p>By Beyza Binnur Donmez</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkey on Friday condemned the meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and a delegation of the so-called SDF, led by Syrian branch of the PKK terror group.</p>    <p>&quot;We condemn that French President Emmanuel Macron received a so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) delegation, led by the PYD/YPG -- the Syrian branch of PKK terror group,” Hami Aksoy, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.</p>    <p>&quot;This attempt to give artificial legitimacy to the extensions of terrorist group is a rather wrong step which is incompatible with the alliance relations,&quot; Aksoy added.</p>    <p>He underlined that it is important to hinder any agenda targeting the political unity and territorial integrity of Syria.</p>    <p>Aksoy also reiterated that Turkey will not hesitate to take necessary precautions to ensure its national security.</p>    <p>In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK -- listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and the EU -- has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women and children.</p>    <p>The U.S., which considers the PKK a terrorist organization, changed the YPG’s name to the SDF in July 2017 in order to dissociate it with the PKK. </p><br>

France’s Macron invites pope after Notre Dame fire

                   By Yusuf Ozcan <br>  

PARIS (AA) – French President Emmanuel Macron invited Pope Francis to visit his country during a telephone call Thursday after one of the country’s landmarks was damaged by fire this week.

Macron said the pope accepted and would come when he has the time.

The French leader made the remarks while receiving firemen whom he thanked and praised at the Elysee Palace who worked during the Notre Dame cathedral fire.

“Thank you for the risk you took. You have become a good example to the France and all world,” he said.

The Vatican describes Notre Dame as "the symbol of Christianity in France.”

Notre Dame was severely damaged by a major fire Monday before being extinguished after an eight-and-a-half hour effort by 500 firemen.

The inferno engulfed the popular landmark, destroying the iconic spire and the roof, and caused heavy damage to the interior.

Firefighters were able to put out the blaze and prevent the whole structure from being destroyed. French authorities have ruled out arson and any terror-related motives as the cause of the fire.

So far, about €688 million ($766 million) has been donated to rebuild the cathedral.

  • Writing by Busra Nur Bilgic

Trump condoles with Pope on Notre Dame fire

             By Michael Hernandez </p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - President Donald Trump expressed the U.S.'s solace Wednesday to Pope Francis for a fire that ravaged a major portion of France's iconic Notre Dame Cathedral.</p>  <p>&quot;Just had a wonderful conversation with @Pontifex Francis offering condolences from the People of the United States for the horrible and destructive fire at Notre Dame Cathedral,&quot; Trump wrote on Twitter. </p>  <p>&quot;I offered the help of our great experts on renovation and construction as I did in my conversation yesterday with President @EmmanuelMacron of France,&quot; he added. </p>  <p>Trump spoke Tuesday by telephone with Macron and offered his condolences to the French leader one day after an inferno engulfed the Catholic landmark, destroying its iconic spire and part of its roof, and causing heavy damage to its interior.</p>  <p>Macron instructed authorities to rebuild the architectural marvel within five years.</p>  <p>Addressing his nation, Macron said Notre Dame's burning was shocking for France and the world.</p>  <p>&quot;The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never ends and there will always be challenges we need to overcome,&quot; he said. </p>  <p>Notre Dame was completed in 1345, and is regarded as one of the foremost Christian houses of worship. </p>  <p>Every year almost 13 million people visit the cathedral, and its historical treasures including the iconic sculpture of Virgin Mary cradling Jesus' body, as well as its giant rose windows, and medieval furniture.</p>  <p>The cathedral -- described as the symbol of Christianity in France by the Vatican -- hosts the Paris Archbishopric. 

Notre Dame Cathedral to be rebuilt in 5 years: Macron

              By Yusuf Ozcan</p>    <p>PARIS (AA) - French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday said he has instructed authorities to rebuild the world-famous French cathedral, Notre Dame, in the next five years.</p>    <p>Notre Dame was severely damaged by a major fire on Monday before being extinguished with eight-and-a-half hours' efforts of roughly 500 French firemen.</p>    <p>Macron, in his address to the nation, said the burning of the symbolic cathedral was shocking both for French people and the world.</p>    <p>&quot;The fire at Notre Dame reminds us that our history never ends and there will always be challenges we need to overcome,&quot; he said. </p>  <p>&quot;We are going to build the cathedral of Notre Dame more beautiful than ever. But this must be done within five years,&quot; he added.</p>        <p>The inferno engulfed the popular landmark, destroying the iconic spire and the roof, and causing heavy damage to the interior of the structure.</p>    <p>Firefighters were able to put out the blaze and prevent the whole structure from being destroyed. French authorities have ruled out arson and any terror-related motives as the cause of the fire.</p>    <p>So far, about €688 million ($766 million) has been donated to rebuild the cathedral.

*Writing Ali Murat Alhas