EU voices concern over escalation in northwestern Syria

By Dilara Hamit

ANKARA (AA) – The recent military escalation in northwestern Syria in an "unacceptable violation of international law", EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Wednesday.

"The recent military escalation in Northwester Syria, with air attacks and artillery shelling targeting schools and hospitals, including with the use of barrel bombs, is an unacceptable violation of international law," Mogherini said in a statement.

Mogherini said more than 150,000 civilians have been newly displaced and many have died, adding: "As always, women and children are disproportionately affected by this escalation."

She said EU supports the call for justice that comes from Syrians, adding: "We will never stop insisting on accountability for the perpetrators. We will keep on working to bring relief to the Syrian people."

At least 108 civilians have been killed in Idlib since April 26, as the Syrian regime and its military allies intensified their bombardment, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR).

Last September, Turkey and Russia agreed to turn Syria’s northern Idlib province into a de-escalation zone in which acts of aggression would be expressly prohibited.

60% of new cars run on petrol in EU in 1Q19

                              By Ebru Sengul<br>

ANKARA (AA) – Nearly 60% of all new passenger cars registered across the EU run on petrol, while less than one third are fuelled by diesel in the first quarter of 2019, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) on Wednesday.

All alternatively-powered cars combined accounted for 8.5% of the EU market, the ACEA said, with electrically-chargeable vehicles (ECV) accounting for 2.5% of all cars sold in the region during the first quarter of this year.

"With the exception of Germany, demand for petrol cars increased in the five largest EU car markets, with Italy posting the highest percentage gain (+21.6 %). As a result, petrol’s market share increased from 55.5% to 59.3% in the first quarter of 2019," the association explained.

Diesel car registrations were contracted in most EU member states except Germany, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The share of diesel cars in the market fell by almost 6 points compared to the same quarter one year ago, to now account for 32.2% of the market.

– Electric car registrations up by 40%

Meanwhile in the first quarter of 2019, demand for alternatively-powered cars in the EU increased by 25.9%, according to the ACEA.

"Growth was driven by the electrically-chargeable vehicle segment, up 40.0 % with 99,174 units registered. Within this segment, battery electric vehicle (BEV) sales grew substantially (+84.4%), while registrations of plug-in hybrids remained practically flat," the statement read.

The association added that hybrid electric vehicles also performed well (+33.3%), totaling 184,808 units sold during the first three months of the year.

By contrast, registrations of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and natural gas vehicles (NGV) cars declined by 7.2% in the first quarter, mainly due to a sharp drop in demand for cars in this segment.

"Alternatively-powered vehicle registrations significantly increased in all major EU markets. Demand for alternatively-powered vehicles saw the highest percentage gains in Germany (+62.9%) – mainly due to a doubling of sales in the hybrid segment – as well as in Spain (+48.9%)," the ACEA concluded.

ACEA represents the 15 major Europe-based car, van, truck and bus makers including the BMW Group, CNH Industrial, DAF Trucks, Daimler, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford of Europe, Honda Motor Europe, Hyundai Motor Europe, Jaguar Land Rover, PSA Group, Renault Group, Toyota Motor Europe, Volkswagen Group, Volvo Cars, and the Volvo Group.

INFOGRAPHIC- A Primer on Europe’s Parliamentary Elections

            By Gozde Bayar, Serife Cetin and Yusuf Hatip</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – Europe’s parliamentary elections will take place May 23-26, giving all adult citizens of the European Union the opportunity to choose who will represent them.</p>  <p>Around 374 million EU citizens are eligible to vote, making the elections the biggest democratic contest outside India.</p>  <p>The first European Parliament (EP) elections took place in 1979 and the turnout was 62%. However, it decreased to 42% in 2014.</p>  <p><br></p>  <p>1) What are the European Parliament elections?</p>  <p>Every five years, EU citizens choose the members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who will represent them in the EP, the directly elected institution which defends their interests in the EU decision-making process.</p>  <p>The EP election is based on the national laws of the member states. The voting age is 16 in Austria and Malta and 18 in the other 26 member states.</p>  <p>In Belgium, Greece, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus, participation in elections is compulsory according to their national laws.</p>  <p><br>

2) What does the EP actually do?

The EP is the legislative arm of the EU, and MEPs can shape and decide on new legislation, vote on new trade agreements, approve the EU budget and scrutinize EU institutions and how citizens’ tax money is spent as well as launch investigations into specific issues.

One week per month, an EP plenary session is held in the French city of Strasbourg.

However, the EP secretariat is based in the Kirchberg quarter of Luxembourg city in southern Luxembourg.

Around 8,000 people serve for the EP and political groups.

3) Which political groups run in the elections?

There are currently eight political groups in the EP, spanning far-right to radical left.

The MEPs sit in political groups based on their political affiliation. The groups consist of parties from different countries which share a similar ideology.

The largest group is the European People’s Party (EPP), which won 221 seats in the last election.

Each group nominates a lead candidate who will represent them in the EP.

Manfred Weber is the lead candidate for the EPP. Frans Timmermans is the lead candidate for the center-left Party of European Socialists. Frans Timmermans is vice-president of the European Commission.

Jan Zahradil is the lead candidate for the conservative Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe.

Guy Verhofstadt is the lead candidate for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe. Verhofstadt was prime minister of Belgium from 1999 to 2008.

Other groups are the European United Left/Nordic Green Left, European Greens/European Free Alliance, Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy and Europe of Nations and Freedom.

4) How are the allocation of seats determined?

The allocation of seats is based on European treaties. It takes into account the size of the population of each country, with smaller countries getting more seats than strict proportionality would imply. Currently, the number of MEPs ranges from six for Malta, Luxembourg and Cyprus to 96 for Germany.

There are currently 751 seats at the EP. After Brexit, the size of the EP will be reduced to 705 with the departure of the 73 British members. Of the 73 seats vacated by the U.K. leaving the EU, 27 seats will be re-allocated to better reflect the principle of degressive proportionality.

A candidate party must get 5% of the votes in the elections held in its country in order to send representatives to the EP. This kind of proportional representation enables both larger and smaller political parties to have the chance to be represented in the EP.

The MEPs receive approximately €12,000 (nearly $13,450) per month.

5) How does the EP affect the election of the EU Commission president?

In 2014, the candidate of the largest group was elected as EU Commission president. It is expected that a similar process will be implemented in this election. This process is called “Spitzenkandidat”.

The German term traditionally refers to the lead candidate of a party. It means that the largest group is advantageous in determining the commission president.

EU, Russia should counter US peace plan: Palestine

            By Umar Farooq</p>  <p>WASHINGTON (AA) - The European Union (EU) and Russia should take action to save a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if the U.S. peace plan does not lead to two independent nations, Palestine’s ambassador to the UN said Tuesday.</p>  <p>Riyad Mansour said he told EU officials that support for a two-state solution is appreciated, but it is “not sufficient -- they have to act on it&quot;.</p>  <p>Last month, U.S. President Donald Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said Washington's Middle East peace plan, billed 'the Deal of the Century', would be revealed after the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.</p>  <p>While Kushner provided no details as to what the plan entails, he said &quot;there will be tough compromises for both sides&quot; and that past efforts have not worked, referencing the two-state solution, a long-held framework for a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.</p>  <p>Foreign ministers of the Arab League have rejected the U.S. plan, saying that without giving the legal rights of the Palestinians, these kinds of plans will never bring comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East.</p>  <p>Mansour said if the U.S. plan does not end with two independent nations -- Palestine and Israel -- then the EU should take action against it to save the two-state framework.</p>  <p>The European Union could call for an international conference on the basis of the global consensus supporting a two-state solution “to see how we can open ways to move forward&quot;, Mansour told reporters at the UN. </p>  <p>He also said that European countries – particularly France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Belgium and Luxembourg -- could offer their support by recognizing the state of Palestine.</p>  <p>In the runup to Washington’s peace plan, U.S. President Donald Trump has moved to isolate Palestinians.</p>  <p>Last year, the U.S. cut all its funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which provides critical aid to Palestinian refugees. It also unilaterally recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and closed the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s Washington office, which served as the de-facto Palestinian embassy in the U.S.</p>  <p>Mansour said Russia could also host an international conference in Moscow, since it is on the UN Security Council and Palestinians are already in talks with Moscow.</p>  <p> 

Iran accuses US of trying to start war

            By Elena Teslova</p>  <p>MOSCOW (AA) - Some officials in the U.S. administration want to start a war with Iran, but it would be suicide, Iran’s foreign minister said Tuesday.</p>  <p>&quot;Apparently, those who launched the U.S.-Iraq war in 2003 are aspiring to unleash another war, and this time with Iran. This will mean that they are committing suicide,&quot; Mohammad Javad Zarif told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti prior to his visit to Moscow.</p>  <p>He said Tehran does not want a war with any country, but if the U.S. organizes armed clashes with Iran, the country will defend its national interests &quot;with all its strength&quot;.</p>  <p>Asked if Tehran will continue to adhere to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, Zarif said &quot;Iran's patience has its limits&quot;.</p>  <p>He said if the European Union fails to help Iran withstand U.S. sanctions, the country could review the agreement.</p>  <p>One of the important issues right now is the establishment of the Special Trade and Finance Instrument (STFI) between Iran and Europe, called SATMA in Persian – a company registered by Tehran in a bid to speed up trade exchanges between Iran and Europe. </p>  <p>The European special payment channel the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) will permit financial transactions that bypass U.S. sanctions, Zarif said, adding a mechanism similar to INSTEX can be implemented with other countries, including Russia and Turkey.</p>  <p>According to Zarif, Iran is able to sell its oil despite the current sanctions.</p>  <p>&quot;Iran will be able to overcome American sanctions. Many countries have declared their readiness to trade with Iran. Iran and the EU are on the threshold of an agreement that, despite the return of unilateral U.S. sanctions, will make it possible to sell Iranian oil and receive income from it,&quot; he added.

Turkey’s refugee commitment ‘a lesson’ for Europe

                                 By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal</p>    <p>LONDON (AA) - Turkey’s strategy in dealing with the Syrian refugee crisis is an example for Europe, head of a London-based think tank said on Thursday.</p>    <p>Philippa Stroud, chief executive officer (CEO) of Legatum Institute, praised Turkey’s approach toward Syrian refugees in an article in The Times.</p>    <p>“I have just returned from the Turkey-Syria border to witness the international community’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, spearheaded by the International Organization for Migration (IoM),” Stroud said.</p>    <p>Underlining that the civil war in Syria has “claimed approximately 400,000 lives, with many millions of people displaced during and after the fighting,” Stroud wrote that “over half of the 20 million population require humanitarian aid, including 5 million who are acutely in need.”</p>    <p>“An astonishing 5.7 million Syrians have fled their country to neighbouring nations, mostly to Turkey which is demonstrating extraordinary hospitality to about 3.5 million Syrian refugees, even building permanent homes for them,” she said.</p>    <p>Stroud said that the IoM team had two roles. </p>    <p>“First, to ensure that the 3.5 million refugees who have made it across the border into Turkey over the last 7 years are provided for and properly integrated,” she wrote.</p>    <p>Comparing Turkey’s efforts with the U.K.’s, she said “the UK is only committed to taking 0.6 per cent of this total, yet consider the controversy around this tiny number and you can begin to appreciate the challenge of integrating millions of people.”</p>    <p>Stroud said the second role of the IoM was “to care for and provide emergency help to those who are internally displaced within Syria.”</p>    <p>“This is the more pressing of the challenges, with over 6 million displaced people within Syria, and the key concern is for Idlib and the potential further displacement of another million refugees in the event of renewed bombing,” she added.</p>  <p> </p>    <p>- Huge resettlement</p>    <p>Stroud said the “international aid committed to Turkey to alleviate the refugee crisis has also enabled this huge resettlement of Syrians.”</p>    <p>Underlining that the U.K. has committed £2.8 billion ($3.7 billion) for Syria and the region since 2012, including allocations to United Nations agencies, she said the UN has a consolidated appeal target of $9 billion for the Syria crisis.</p>    <p>“Driving from the airport at Gaziantep to the IoM headquarters which is close to the Syrian border, we passed building site after building site, new home after new home, and new apartment block after apartment block,” Stroud said.</p>    <p>She added that she was “told that 95 per cent of the refugees have been housed in permanent accommodation.”</p>    <p>Stroud said: “Whatever is driving Turkey’s hospitality, it is unquestionably an act of generosity — and in Europe we need to look and learn what it means to care for our neighbours.</p>    <p>“The IoM are conducting an interesting analysis of the pull and push factors for refugees. By far the largest number of refugees have no desire whatsoever to leave the area, and if they do it is only to go as far as Turkey.”</p>    <p>Stroud wrote that “Turkey has begun to point the way for addressing the global refugee crisis by providing a model for a regional solution to a regional problem”.</p>    <p>She said: “Turkey is providing a home for many refugees, when we won’t, and is still working with the EU and international community.”</p>    <p>“Whilst this is complex, it should also be applauded,” she added.</p>    <p>“Turkey’s commitment to the refugees is a lesson for us all. Instead of pushing them as a nation away, we should stand by them at this time.”

EU calls for democratic solution in Venezuela

            By Gozde Bayar</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – The European Union called for free and fair elections Tuesday as a way to resolve the situation in Venezuela.</p>  <p>“We reiterate that there can only be a political, peaceful and democratic way out for the multiple crises the country is facing,” EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement.</p>  <p>She said the EU rejected any form of violence and called for a de-escalation of the conflict to prevent the loss of lives.</p>  <p>“We will continue to spare no efforts to achieve a reinstatement of democracy and rule of law, through free and fair elections, in accordance with the Venezuelan constitution.”</p>  <p>The EU is closely following the latest events in Venezuela, she added.</p>  <p>Earlier Tuesday, Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido released a video in which he could be seen alongside a small contingent of uniformed military personnel and armored vehicles calling for an uprising to end the &quot;usurpation&quot; of President Nicolas Maduro.</p>  <p>He stressed that it was the beginning of the final phase of “Operacion Libertad”, or Operation Liberty, to oust Maduro.</p>  <p>“The National Armed Forces have made the correct decision. They have the support of the Venezuelan people,&quot; Guaido said.</p>  <p>He also called on Venezuelans to take to the streets to support the &quot;democratic forces&quot; and &quot;recover the country's freedom&quot;.</p>  <p> 

EU should decide if it wants Turkey: Foreign minister

               By Faruk Zorlu </p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - The EU should decide whether it wants to see Turkey in the union or not, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Tuesday.</p>  <p>&quot;If the European Union doesn't want to have us, they have to give the decision,&quot; Cavusoglu told a news conference after the 4th Visegrad Group (V4)+Turkey Foreign Ministers Meeting in Slovakia.

"But it's not only about the reform, or it's not only about the benchmarks or criteria that Turkey can meet or Turkey has not met," he said.

Turkey has repeatedly complained of political hurdles, discrimination, and double standards standing in the way of its joining the EU.

During the meeting, Cavusoglu, Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak, Czech Foreign Minister Tomas Petricek, Poland's Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz, and Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto exchanged views on Turkey-EU relations and discussed recent international developments.

<p>Turkey applied for EU membership in 1987 and accession talks began in 2005.</p>  <p>But negotiations stalled in 2007 due to the objections of the Greek Cypriot administration on the divided island of Cyprus as well as opposition from Germany and France.</p>  <p> 

Europe's economic sentiment falls in April

By Muhammed Ali Gurtas

ANKARA (AA) – The Economic Sentiment Indicator (ESI) fell “markedly” in both the EU28 and the eurozone in April, said the European Commission on Monday.

“The deterioration of euro-area sentiment resulted from lower confidence in industry, retail trade and, to a lesser extent, in construction and among consumers,” the commission said, noting that confidence in services was stable.

The index in the eurozone fell 1.6 points on a monthly basis to 104 in April.

“Among the largest euro-area economies, the ESI rose only in the Netherlands (plus 0.4).

“While it decreased in France (minus 1.0) and Italy (minus 1.0) and, more significantly so, in Germany (minus 1.5) and Spain (minus 2.6),” it said.

The eurozone/euro area or EA19 represents member states that use the single currency — euro — while the EU28 includes all member countries of the bloc.

Over the same period, the ESI in the EU28 dropped by 1.5 points to 103.7.

“The commensurate decline of the headline indicator for the EU reflects the strong deterioration of sentiment in the largest non-euro area EU economies, the U.K. (minus 1.5) and Poland (minus 3.7),” the commission said.

“In line with the euro area, EU industry confidence took a blow and consumer sentiment weakened.

“While the deterioration of EU confidence in retail trade was less marked than in the euro area, EU confidence in construction worsened more strongly,” it said.

The commission also added that confidence in services rose moderately across the 28-member bloc.

'Turks, Armenians can easily solve their differences'

By Vakkas Dogantekin

ANKARA (AA) – Turks and Armenians could resolve their differences if "imperialist powers" would stop interfering and using the so-called Armenian genocide as a tool of political leverage against Ankara, Turkey said on Wednesday.

"There are no issues Turks and Armenians who have lived together for 800 years could not solve by a real dialogue if only the imperial powers didn't politicize history and attempt to use the so-called Armenian genocide as a disciplinary tool against our country," Turkish Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said on Twitter.

He underlined that ignoring Turkey’s initiatives for a solution on the events of 1915 along with non-binding decisions by third parties "unilateral efforts of third countries" taking non-binding decisions created difficulties for "efforts to uncover the truth."

Altun reiterated that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's proposal to establish a joint historical commission in 2005 with Armenia was still on the table despite being rejected by Armenia.

  • Good will from Turkey

Altun cited the "historic" 2014 statement of condolence by then-Prime Minister Erdogan to Armenian communities around the world, which was published in nine languages including Armenian.

He added that Erdogan sends messages of "heartfelt" condolences to Turkey's Armenian patriarch and community every year as a goodwill gesture.

Altun said Turkey has repeatedly proved its "humanitarian approach and conscientious stance."

He also commemorated the Turkish diplomats who had been martyred by assassins of the Armenian terrorist organization ASALA across the world since 1970s.

The Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) martyred 38 Turkish diplomats between 1975 to 1985, vanishing after 1988.

Many Turks today believe ASALA continues its existence within the ranks of another terror group, the PKK, which is recognized as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S., EU, NATO as well as dozens of other states.

Altun called for restraint and balance in the analysis of the events of 1915, calling on the international community to respect the loss and grievances of both sides instead of focusing one.

"There is no international court ruling, political consensus or academic agreement that defines the events of 1915 as genocide," Altun said.

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 these incidents as a "genocide", describing them 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 as well aw international experts to tackle the issue.