Germany's Merkel calls for establishment of EU army

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday called for creating a European Union army, stressing that Europeans can no longer merely rely on the U.S. for their security.

“We Europeans now have to really take our faith fully into our own hands if we want to defend our union,” Merkel said addressing the European Parliament.

She called on member states to take steps to make the EU a strong actor in international politics, and argued that this also necessitates developing joint military structures in the long-term.

“If we look at the developments of the past years, we have to work on the vision of creating a real European army one day,” Merkel said.

The German Chancellor argued that creating an EU army would also be important for the peace within the continent.

“As Jean-Claude Juncker said some years ago, a common European army would show the world that there will never again be war in Europe," she said, referring to the comments of the European Commission president, a strong advocate of creating an EU army.

As several European lawmakers booed her, Merkel stressed that the EU army was not an alternative to the NATO, the West's main defense alliance.

“It would not be an army against NATO, of course not. We can be a good supplement to NATO,” Merkel added.

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Muslims in Xinjiang face repression: German parliament

BERLIN (AA) – Government and opposition lawmakers urged China on Thursday to end repressive policies against Uighur Muslims in northwestern Xinjiang, an autonomous region of the country.

The opposition Green Party accused Chinese authorities of severe human rights violations, forced political indoctrination and massive surveillance in the region.

“An estimated one million people have been arbitrarily detained in internment camps in China's northwestern Xinjiang region,” Green lawmaker Margarete Bause said during a parliamentary debate on the human rights situation in Xinjiang.

She heavily criticized authorities for their clampdown on freedom of religion.

“Praying is prohibited, mosques are demolished. The goal of all these measures is to systematically eliminate the culture and identity of the Muslim minority in Xinjiang,” she said.

Stefan Liebich from the opposition Left Party said the detention of around one million people in internment camps in Xinjiang was “unacceptable”.

Liebich acknowledged that China’s concerns over stability and the threat of terrorism were understandable.

“But these cannot justify mass surveillance, spying, internment camps and torture,” he stressed.

Michael Brand, a senior lawmaker from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, promised that the government would continue to raise human rights issues in talks with Chinese officials.

“Under the pretext of the fight against terrorism, brutal repression and human rights violations continue in Xinjiang,” he said.

Brand criticized Chinese authorities for claiming that the internment camps were in fact “vocational education centers” and stressed that such explanations were far from being plausible.

Chancellor Merkel’s coalition partner the Social Democrat Party (SPD) backed calls on China to close the camps.

“When we read the reports of Human Rights Watch, we get the impression that Xinjiang has become an open-air prison,” SPD lawmaker Frank Schwabe said.

“We want full transparency. We want to have the opportunity for all UN bodies to be able to visit Xinjiang. We are calling on China to close these camps,” he added.

Germany: Merkel's ally enters race for party leadership

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA)- A conservative ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has entered the race on Wednesday to become the next leader of Christian Democratic Union (CDU), with a pledge to regain the confidence of citizens.

Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who was appointed as secretary general of the CDU earlier this year by Merkel, said if elected as party chair in December, she would give priority to domestic security issues.

“In my view, one of the major issues we must address in the coming months is the question how we can better achieve security, how we can restore trust to the state and its institutions,” she said.

Kramp-Karrenbauer also underlined the importance of EU-wide solutions to the problems of security and organized crime.

Chancellor Merkel, who led the CDU for 18 years, announced last week that she will not run for the chair again, but underlined that she wanted to remain chancellor until her term ends in 2021.

Merkel’s critics blamed her liberal refugee policy for the party’s heavy losses in the regional polls.

Christian Democrats will elect their new chair at an upcoming party conference in December in Hamburg.

Almanya'dan Ukrayna'ya “yaptırım” desteği

MOSKOVA (AA) – Almanya Başbakanı Angela Merkel, Minsk anlaşmalarında ilerleme sağlanamadığını belirterek, "Minsk anlaşması uygulanana kadar Almanya, Rusya'ya yönelik yaptırımların uzatılmasından yana olacak." dedi.

Merkel, Ukrayna'nın başkenti Kiev'de, Ukrayna Devlet Başkanı Petro Poroşenko ile gerçekleştirdiği görüşmenin ardından basın mensuplarının sorularını yanıtladı.

Ukrayna krizinin çözümü için tek yolun Minsk anlaşmalarından geçtiğini vurgulayan Merkel, "Çok zor olsa da Ukrayna'nın Minsk anlaşmalarındaki sorumluluklarını yerine getirmesi son derece önemli. Almanya, bu konuda Ukrayna'nın yanındadır." diye konuştu.

Merkel, Ukrayna'nın toprak bütünlüğünün önemine işaret ederek, "Maalesef, Ukrayna'da istikrarlı bir ateşkes sağlanamadı. Bölgenin silahsızlandırılmasına yönelik gayretlerimizi artırmamız gerekiyor." ifadelerini kullandı.

Avrupa Birliği'nin (AB), Ukrayna krizi nedeniyle Rusya'ya yönelik uyguladığı yaptırımlara da değinen Merkel, "Minsk anlaşmalarında ilerleme sağlanmıyor. Minsk anlaşması uygulanana kadar Almanya, Rusya'ya yönelik yaptırımların uzatılmasından yana olacak." değerlendirmesinde bulundu.

Ukrayna Devlet Başkanı Poroşenko da Rusya'nın Ukrayna'ya yönelik saldırılarında, Almanya'ya desteğinden ötürü teşekkür ederek, şunları kaydetti:

"AB, Minsk anlaşmaları uygulanmadığı için Rusya'ya yönelik yaptırım uyguladı. Yaptırımlar, bir baskı aracı olarak kullanılmak için devam ettirilmiyor. Bu kararların tek amacı, Rusya’nın sorumlu bir şekilde Ukrayna topraklarındaki askerlerini çekmesi içindir."

Poroşenko, Rusya'nın bugün Ukraynalı çok sayıda şahıs ve şirkete yönelik yaptırım kararını da değerlendirerek, "Rusya'nın yaptırım listesinde olmak Ukrayna'da devlet nişanı almak gibi görülüyor. Listeye giremeyenler bu duruma son derece alındı." diye konuştu.

Rusya, bugün imzalanan kararnameyle, 322 Ukrayna vatandaşına ve 68 Ukraynalı şirkete yönelik yaptırımları yürürlüğe koymuştu.

Merkel’s old rival Merz announces leadership bid

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – German conservative politician Friedrich Merz has announced his bid to lead Christian Democratic Union (CDU), after Angela Merkel's decision to step down as party chair.

Speaking at a press conference in Berlin on Wednesday, the 62 year-old politician said the CDU needed “renewal” and “a new beginning” amid heavy losses in recent regional polls.

“We cannot allow voters turning away from established parties out of frustration and giving their votes to populist parties,” he said, referring to the disenchanted voters of the CDU, who turned to the far-right AfD in recent elections.

Merz, who challenged Merkel in 2002, and withdrew from politics in 2009, later worked for an investment management company.

In recent months, he sharply criticized Merkel’s open door policy for refugees.

Christian Democrats will elect their new chair at an upcoming party conference in December in Hamburg.

Merkel, who has led the CDU for 18 years, announced on Monday that she will not run for the chair again, but underlined that she wanted to remain chancellor until her term ends in 2021.

Merkel likely to step down in 2019: Former FM

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is likely to step down next year to clear the way for a new coalition government, former Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel claimed on Wednesday.

“Angela Merkel’s decision to give up CDU party chair was probably a first step,” Gabriel said in an op-ed he wrote for the weekly Die Zeit newspaper.

The social democrat politician, who served as a foreign minister in the former coalition government led by Chancellor Merkel, said he expected further steps by her.

“She wants to clear the way for a new ‘Jamaica coalition’ between the CDU/CSU, the liberal FDP and the Greens, by giving up the chancellery,” he said.

Gabriel predicted that Merkel would give up the chancellorship at the latest after the European Parliament elections in May 2019.

Merkel, who has led the CDU for 18 years, announced on Monday that she will not run for the CDU chair again in the upcoming party conference in December, amid heavy losses of Christian Democrats in recent regional polls.

However, Merkel underlined that she wanted to remain chancellor until her term ends in 2021.

Germany announces $1.14 billion fund for Africa

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced on Tuesday the launch of a €1billion ($1.14 billion) fund to support private investments in African countries.

Speaking at the G20 Compact with Africa conference, Merkel pledged to ease financing burdens and support African countries’ development objectives.

“Now we have a €1billion fund, through which we would be able to support small and medium-sized enterprises from Germany or Africa,” she said.

But Merkel also raised her expectations from partner countries for reform and transparency to attract more direct investments to their countries.

Leaders from Benin, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Morocco, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia attended the conference hosted by German Chancellor in Berlin.

Merkel underlines importance of civil society in Egypt

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – Germany’s chancellor on Tuesday underlined the crucial role of civil society in Egypt after meeting in Berlin with the visiting Egyptian president.

“President [Fattah] al-Sisi repeatedly says he wants to be the president of all Egyptians, and he is currently enjoying his second term in office,” Angela Merkel told a joint press conference at the Chancellory.

“We are encouraging him to develop civil society and see that as an opportunity,” she said, but stopped short of criticizing the country's human rights situation.

Merkel also thanked Egypt for its efforts to stop the flow of illegal immigration into Europe.

“Egypt is controlling its maritime border in an excellent way. There is no immigration into Europe, despite the fact that there are many refugees living in the country,” she stressed.

Merkel said during their meeting, they also discussed regional issues, including the situation in Libya and in Syria, and the Middle East conflict.

“We also briefly discussed the situation in Gaza. Both of us are advocates of a two-state solution, which however has become rather complex, because of the current situation,” she said.

Al-Sisi is in Berlin to attend the G20 Compact with Africa conference, hosted by the German government to support private investment and infrastructure projects in Africa.

A former army chief, al-Sisi ousted Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president, in a military coup in 2013.

A year later, he was elected president for a four-year term.

He was re-elected this March in elections in which he won a whopping 97.8 percent of votes. All but one of his challengers either withdrew from the race or were arrested.

Germany’s Merkel announces to give up party leadership

By Ayhan Simsek

BERLIN (AA) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that she won’t run in her party’s December leadership election, amid heavy losses of Christian Democrats in recent regional polls.

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, following a meeting of her party’s executive board, Merkel said she wanted to open the way for a change within the party.

“I will not be standing for reelection as party chair in the upcoming CDU party conference in December,” she said.

Merkel underlined that she intended to remain chancellor until her term ends in 2021.

“My fourth term, will be my last term as chancellor,” she said, adding that she will not seek any political position afterwards.

Merkel, who has led the CDU for 18 years, came under growing pressure after Christian Democrats suffered heavy losses in recent regional polls in the states of Bavaria and Hesse.