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.

EU calls for end to Palestinian rocket attack on Israel

            By Erdogan Cagatay Zontur</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - EU foreign policy chief on Sunday called for an immediate end to Palestine’s rocket attacks on Israel, and reiterated the Union’s support to Israel.</p>    <p>“Indiscriminate rocket attacks from Palestinian militants in Gaza must stop immediately. The European Union reiterates its fundamental commitment to the security of Israel,” Federica Mogherini said in a written statement.</p>    <p>“These attacks provoke unspeakable suffering to the Israelis and serve only the cause of endless violence and of an endless conflict,” Mogherini added.</p>    <p>The statement came after Israeli attacks since Saturday martyred at least 23 Palestinians, including a pregnant woman and her infant child, and left more than 100 others wounded.</p>    <p>“A new escalation risks also to reverse the work to relieve the suffering of the people in Gaza who are already paying a high price with many victims that we mourn,” Mogherini said and added: “And it puts in further danger the prospects for long-term solutions, which will require the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, credible security guarantees for Israel and a lifting of restrictions of access and movement.</p>    <p>“The European Union reiterates its full support to the push of Egypt and the United Nations to reduce tensions in Gaza and expect the parties to work with them to restore calm,” Mogherini said, calling for international community “to bring relief to all those suffering from this conflict and cooperating with those who serve the cause of peace”.</p>      <p>The escalation in the Gaza Strip started when four Palestinians were martyred, including a teenager, and 51 wounded on Friday in Israeli army attacks on Hamas-affiliated sites and a separate attack on a rally against the decade-long occupation and siege of the Gaza Strip.</p>    <p>The Israeli assaults were met by Palestinian resistance factions launching 600 rockets towards Israeli settlements, killing three people, according to Israel.</p>    <p>More than 80 Israelis have received treatment since Saturday from Palestinian rocket attacks, including 62 for panic attacks, Israel's Megan David Adom emergency services said earlier Sunday.</p>    <p>Since Saturday, Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip have targeted at least 200 civilian sites including seven residential buildings.</p>    <p>On Saturday, a building where Anadolu Agency’s office in Gaza was located was razed by Israeli warplanes.</p>    <p>No deaths or injuries were reported in the attack.

Turkey rejects EU statement on drilling in Eastern Med

             By Vakkas Dogantekin</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) - Turkey on Saturday rejected an EU statement on its plan to do hydrocarbon drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean. </p>  <p>&quot;We reject the statement made today by Ms. Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, regarding our hydrocarbon exploration activities in the Eastern Mediterranean,&quot; said a Foreign Ministry statement.</p>  <p>As the country with the longest coastline in the region, Turkey is determined to protect its &quot;own rights and interests within our continental shelf&quot; as well as those of the Turkish Cypriots on the island of Cyprus, said the statement.</p>  <p>Turkey also said its hydrocarbon activities in the Eastern Mediterranean are based on its legitimate rights under international law.  </p>  <p>&quot;To date Turkey has not refrained from taking necessary steps in this context, and will not do so in the future,&quot; the statement added.</p>  <p>It explained: &quot;In fact, it is the Greek Cypriot administration which has not abstained from irresponsibly jeopardizing the security and stability of the Eastern Mediterranean region, by disregarding the inalienable rights of the Turkish Cypriots, who are the co-owners of the Cyprus Island, over the natural resources.&quot;<br>  

The ministry accused the Greek Cypriot administration of "refusing every proposal of cooperation and insisting on its unilateral activities in the region despite all our warnings."

On Saturday, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement: "We express grave concern over Turkey's announced intention to carry out drilling activities within the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus.”

Turkey’s statement also urged that all actors outside the region "acknowledge the fact that Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus cannot be excluded from the energy equation in the Eastern Mediterranean, and they should stop providing unconditional support to the Greek Cypriot administration."

"Furthermore, those who have not taken any steps towards the resolution of this issue for years do not have the right to give advice to us," the statement concluded.

Turkey blames Greek Cypriot intransigence for the failure of peace talks, also faulting the European Union for admitting Cyprus as a divided island into the union in 2004 after Greek Cypriot voters rejected a UN-brokered peace deal.

EU: Free press crucial for democracies

            By Gozde Bayar</p>  <p>ANKARA (AA) – The European Union has highlighted the essential role of a free press ahead of Friday's World Press Freedom Day.</p>    <p>“On World Press Freedom Day we celebrate the essential role of a free press not only as a conveyer of reliable and accurate news, but as a pillar of democracy,” said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in a Thursday press release. </p>  <p>A free press and freedom of expression are essential for democracies, she added.</p>  <p>She also stressed the media’s potential to support for democracy, peace, and reconciliation.</p>  <p>The EU works to block the spread of &quot;disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy,” she said.</p>  <p>The bloc is determined to enhance quality journalism worldwide by defending the press and media freedom, she added. </p>  <p>World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 and is celebrated worldwide each year on May 3.</p>  <p>This year, the 26th celebration of the day is co-organized by UNESCO, the African Union Commission, and the government of Ethiopia.

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 warns against human rights abuses in China

             By Serife Cetin</p>    <p>STRASBOURG (AA) - China continues to deteriorate on civil and political rights despite its progress on economy and social rights, said the EU’s foreign policy chief on Thursday.</p>    <p>Speaking at a plenary session of the European Parliament on China, Federica Mogherini said: “Passing the clear message that for Europeans, human rights are not less important than economic interests.”</p>    <p>“This is a message that we have to consistently and in a coherent manner, as Europeans, pass at all levels: The Parliament, the Commission, the Council, and individual Member States in their bilateral relations with China,” she stressed. </p>    <p>Mogherini said the EU has a new kind of relationship with China -- “a more intense one, but also a more frank and open one.”</p>    <p>“Our best tool is to keep engaging with China on human rights in a respectful but extremely clear manner,” she said.</p>    <p>On the deterioration of human rights, Mogherini said the arrests of human rights defenders and lawyers are still ongoing, which violates fundamental freedoms.</p>    <p>“We have all seen the reports on the situation in Xinjiang, with political 're-education camps' targeting Uighurs and other minorities, mass surveillance, restrictions on travel,” she said. </p>    <p>The Xinjiang region is home to 13 million Uighurs. The Turkic Muslim group, which makes up around 45 percent of Xinjiang’s population, has long accused authorities of cultural, religious and economic discrimination.</p>      <p>*Writing by Nilay Kar Onum

EU calls for transfer of power to civilians in Sudan

                              By Gozde Bayar</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - The European Union will not recognize the legitimacy of the Transitional Military Council (TMC) in Sudan, the EU foreign policy chief said on Tuesday.</p>    <p>“As long as the transition is not managed by civilians, the European Union will not recognize the legitimacy of the Transitional Military Council,” Federica Mogherini said at the plenary session of the European Parliament on the situation in Sudan, according to a statement.</p>    <p>Mogherini said the military establishment in Sudan has taken some “goodwill” steps -- including changing the head of the Transitional Military Council, resignation of the head of the National and Security Services and release of some political detainees. </p>    <p>“These steps have signaled that there may be the space for a negotiation,” she added.</p>    <p>The EU foreign policy chief also supported the African Union’s call for handover of the power to a civilian-led transitional authority in the next 15 days.</p>    <p>Last week, the Sudanese army ousted  President Omar al-Bashir after months of protests against his 30-year rule. The TMC was established shortly afterward to run the nation’s affairs for a two-year transitional period.

EU calls for ‘immediate ceasefire’ in Libya

                                By Gozde Bayar</p>    <p>ANKARA (AA) - The EU's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire in Libya.</p>    <p>“The only scenario where the whole country, where all Libyans, in an inclusive and unified manner moves forward, is a negotiated political solution,” Mogherini said at the plenary session of the European Parliament on the situation in Libya, according to a statement.</p>    <p>Mogherini said that she has been in contact with the UN special envoy to Libya Ghassan Salame and working along “three main lines”.</p>    <p>&quot;First, to affirm the need to open humanitarian corridors as a matter of urgency, and fully respect humanitarian international law.</p>    <p>&quot;Second, to establish an immediate ceasefire that I am sure the UN are ready to negotiate. </p>    <p>“Third, to go back to the political track, with the holding of the National Conference as soon as possible to give Libyans, the Libyan people […] the chance to outline the common way forward,” the EU foreign policy chief added.</p>    <p>She said refugees and migrants trapped in detention centers “are also at risk&quot;.</p>    <p>The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN Refugees Agency (UNHCR) worked collaboratively to evacuate the refugees outside Libya or move them to safer places inside Libya, the statement said.</p>    <p>Earlier this month, Khalifa Haftar, who commands forces loyal to Libya’s eastern-based government, embarked on an ambitious campaign to capture Tripoli, where Libya’s UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) is headquartered. </p>    <p>The GNA announced Monday that at least 76 people, including 24 civilians, had been killed since clashes erupted in the surroundings of capital Tripoli. </p>    <p>Since the 2011 ouster of late President Muammar Gaddafi, two seats of power have emerged Libya: one in eastern Libya, and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN’s recognition.</p>  <p> 

Sudan: EU urges quick move to civilian transition govt

             <p>By Serife Cetin </p>  <p>BRUSSELS (AA) - The EU on Thursday called for Sudan to have a “swift handover” to a civilian transitional government following the removal from the presidency of Omar al-Bashir.</p>  <p>&quot;Only a credible and inclusive political process can meet the aspirations of the Sudanese people and lead to the political and economic reforms the country needs,&quot; said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini in a written statement.</p>  <p>&quot;That can only be achieved through a swift handover to a civilian transitional government. In that process, all must exercise calm and utmost restraint,&quot; she said.</p>  <p>Mogherini said that for months the Sudanese people have peacefully called for a change.</p>  <p>&quot;As underlined by the Chairperson of African Union Commission in his statement today, a military council does not provide the answers and breaches the principles of the African Union Charter,&quot; she added.</p>  <p>The Sudanese military earlier Thursday announced the removal of al-Bashir, who had ruled Sudan since 1989, and the imposition of a two-year &quot;transitional phase&quot; following mass demonstrations calling for the president to step down.</p>  <p>Defense Minister Awad ibn Auf further announced a one-month curfew along with a three-month nationwide state of emergency.</p>  <p>He also announced the suspension of Sudan’s 2005 Constitution and the dissolution of the Sudanese presidency, parliament, and council of ministers.</p>  <p>A military council, he said, would be drawn up to run the country’s affairs during the post-Bashir interim phase.</p>  <p>Sudanese opposition parties and professional associations voiced &quot;total rejection&quot; of what they described as a &quot;military coup&quot;.</p>  <p>Al-Bashir came to power on the back of a 1989 military coup against the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Sadiq al-Mahdi.</p>  

EU foreign policy chief calls for truce in Libya

            By Yusuf Hatip</p>  <p>BRUSSELS (AA) – European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini called Wednesday for a halt to the fighting in Libya and a return to UN-backed policies.</p>  <p> “Libya can count on EU unity in support of an immediate stop of fighting, humanitarian truce and return to @UN led political process, in interest of all Libyans,” the European External Action Service, the EU’s Foreign and Security Policy Service led by Mogherini, said on Twitter.</p>  <p>Mogherini spoke earlier over the phone with Fayez al-Sarraj, chairman of the Presidential Council and prime minister of the UN-backed Government of National Accord.</p>  <p>Forces led by Commander Khalifa Haftar claimed Wednesday to have captured the Yarmuk military camp south of the capital, Tripoli, from the UN-backed government.</p>  <p>They said in a statement they are advancing towards Tripoli’s center.</p>  <p>Since last week, the fighters have carried out an attack to seize the capital from the UN-backed government.</p>  <p>The Yarmuk military camp is in the Ain Zara area, which had been witnessing clashes between Haftar’s forces and government forces.</p>  <p>The UN-backed government has not yet issued a statement on the claims.</p>  <p>Libya has remained beset by turmoil since 2011, when a bloody NATO-backed uprising led to the ouster and death of President Muammar Gaddafi after four decades in power.</p>  <p>Since then, the country’s stark political divisions have yielded two rival seats of power: one in eastern Libya, with which strongman Khalifa Haftar is associated, and another in Tripoli, which enjoys UN support. </p>  <p>*Writing by Erdogan Cagatay Zontu