Monthly Archives: March 2014

Pakistani ex-President Musharraf charged with high treason

A Pakistani court has charged former President Pervez Musharraf with treason for implementing emergency rule and suspending the constitution in 2007. Musharraf has already been found guilty of the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

If convicted of the charges he could face the death penalty. Musharraf has pleaded not guilty and claims the charges are politically-motivated.

Judge Tahira Safdar read out the five charges in the hearing which included treason for subverting the constitution and instituting emergency rule in Pakistan in 2007. Musharraf defended himself in the court hearing and made a speech in which he named himself a patriot and said he had acted within the constitution when he declared a state of emergency.

“I am being called a traitor, I have been chief of army staff for nine years and I have served this army for 45 years. I have fought two wars and it is ‘treason’?” he told the court. His lawyer later asked for permission for Musharraf to be exempt from house arrest to visit his ailing mother in Dubai.

Musharraf tendered his resignation as president in 2008 because of mounting charges against him by the Pakistani opposition. He then fled into exile in London for four years, returning to Pakistan in March last year with the intention of running in elections.

However, in his absence the Pakistani government had issued warrants for his arrest in connection with the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Musharraf was barred from running in the elections.

The former president was indicted for the murder of Bhutto in August of last year. Then-opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was killed in December 2007 during a political rally in the city of Rawalpindi by a suicide bomber. The judge ruled that Musharraf was complicit in her murder because he had not provided adequate security during the rally.

Musharraf’s trial has been dogged with delays since it began last November. Initially the former president refused to present himself at a hearing after it was found that incendiary devices had been planted along the road to the court. In addition, he was taken to hospital with chest pains on the way to court at the beginning of January.

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North & South Korea exchange artillery fire across sea border

U.S. and South Korean marines participate in a U.S.-South Korea joint landing operation drill in Pohang March 31, 2014

North Korean shells have landed in South Korean waters, prompting Seoul to open fire across a disputed border zone. North Korea announced plans early on Monday morning to conduct military exercises along the western maritime boundary.

The North fired several artillery shells in territory north of the North Limit Line in the Yellow Sea at 12:15pm local time (03:15 GMT), reports South Korean news agency Yohap. After several shells landed south of the border, South Korean military opened fire with K-9 self-propelled howitzers.

“Some of the shells fired by North Korea dropped in our area and our side responded with fire,” a military spokesman told AFP news agency, adding that for the moment both sides were firing into the sea.

Earlier on Monday, the North Korean People’s Army warned their southern counterparts that military drills would be conducted in seven border regions.

“North Korea demanded South Korea control its vessels in seven regions north of the NLL before it holds the live-fire drills,” the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) of South Korea said in a statement. “We have banned vessels from entering the training zone for the safety of residents and sailors.”

The North has drawn international condemnation over the last couple of weeks over its ballistic missile tests. Last week the UN Security Council warned Pyongyang that there would be consequences if it continued testing its missile technology. The Security Council passed a resolution in 2006 that prohibits the testing of ballistic missile technology by Pyongyang.

Pyongyang regards its missile tests as an act of protest against South Korea’s ongoing joint military drills with the US, which it calls a rehearsal for an invasion.

‘New form’ of nuclear test

Pyongyang stepped up its bellicose rhetoric on Sunday and threatened to carry out a “new form” of nuclear test. Giving no further information as to the nature of the new tests, the North Korean Foreign Ministry issued a statement, decrying the UN’s condemnation of its ballistic missile tests which it considers as purely “defensive.”

In response, Pyongyang said it will employ “more diversified nuclear deterrence,” which would be used for hitting medium- and long-range targets “with a variety of striking power.”

“We would not rule out a new form of nuclear test for bolstering up our nuclear deterrence,” said the Foreign Ministry in an official statement published on the KNCA news agency website.

North Korea conducted its third nuclear test in February of last year, prompting Washington to ratchet up the economic sanctions on the Asian nation. Pyongyang also carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009 allegedly using a small stockpile of plutonium. The North also claims to be running a uranium enrichment program, fueling fears in the region that it will be able to produce fuel for atomic bombs.

RT News.


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‘Obama pushing world into war’ | The Herald


NEW YORK. – US Presidesnt Barack Obama’s hegemonic policies regarding Russia are pushing the world into a new war, an analyst wrote in a column for the Press TV website. “Obama overthrew the Ukrainian government in order to be able to stuff the country into NATO, throw Russia out of its Black Sea naval base, and put US missile bases in Ukraine on Russia’s border,” Dr Paul Craig Roberts wrote in a column for Press TV on Saturday.

“Obama is angry that his plan didn’t pan out as intended, and he is taking his anger and frustration out on Russia,” he added.

The analyst pointed that Obama’s demand for more NATO troops to be stationed in Eastern Europe and the build-up of military forces on Russia’s borders to allegedly protect Poland and the Baltic states is yet another provocation by Washington that could trigger a war with Moscow.

“Obama doesn’t say what effect the US/NATO military build-up and numerous war games on Russia’s border will have on Russia.

“Will the Russian government conclude that Russia is about to be attacked and strike first? The reckless carelessness of Obama is the way wars start,” he said.

“Today the drive to war is blatantly obvious.

“The lies are obvious, and the entire West is participating, both media and governments,” he added.

“World War 1 (and World War 2) was the result of the ambitions and mistakes of a very small number of people,” the analyst recalled.

Meanwhile, NATO has accused Russia of violating Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the comment yesterday in an article for Germany’s Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

“And they flout the principle that every state is sovereign, and free to choose its own fate,” he wrote in reference to Moscow.

Non-NATO member Ukraine’s policy on joining the alliance has changed over the past decade, but co-operation between the two has “grown steadily stronger as a result,” Rasmussen also said.

Tensions between the Western powers and Moscow heightened after Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and formally applied to become part of the Russian Federation following a referendum on March 16, in which nearly 97 percent of voters in Crimea said yes to reunion with Russia.

On March 21, President Putin signed into law documents that officially made the Black Sea peninsula part of the Russian territory despite condemnation from the West and the new Ukrainian government.

The move sparked angry reactions from the United States and the European Union, both imposing punitive measures against a number of Russian officials and authorities in Crimea.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the country has absolutely no intention of crossing into Ukraine. – Press TV

via ‘Obama pushing world into war’ | The Herald.

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Egypt – Interior Minister reveals involvement of Arab country in Morsi espionage case

Hamad bin Jassim

Hamad bin Jassim –former Qatar’s prime minister is involved in the case, 

Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim has revealed new details about the high-profile espionage case in which leaders of the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood are involved.

The minister told a news conference held at the Interior Ministry’s headquarters in central Cairo that investigations proved the involvement of an”Arab country,” in reference to Qatar. in the case in which deposed president Mohamed Morsi and others, including presidential secretary Amin el-Serafy, are accused.

The Minister told the news conference that the accused conspired to seize a large number of defense documents , reports and files connected with the Armed Forces armament and national security and agreed to assign leading MB member Serafy, who is held in connection with the case which used to be kept inside a safe in one of the presidential palaces and carry them to an office of the MB in preparation for sending them to an intelligence agency which had been in close contact with them at that time and which supports the international organization of the Muslim Brotherhood with the aim of destabilizing Egypt and undermining it.

Investigations revealed that Serafy carried the top secret materials outside the presidential palace and kept them with his daughter Karima before going into hiding and later being arrested on December 17, the minister said. These documents were delivered to an MB member called Mohamed Adel Kelany, an air attendant who hid them in his home in Nasr City, he said.

According to the minister, Kelany was detected while meeting with MB members in charge of smuggling the information including Karima and Ahmed Ismail Thabet who were arrested at dawn today having in their possession classified reports of sovereign and supervisory institutions. He disclosed that those involved in the smuggling plot were MB member Alaa Sablan, a Palestinian who lives in Qatar, in addition to MB member Ahmed Abdu Afifi, MB member Asmaa al-Khatib, a worker at the Rasd network who fled to Malaysia and MB member Khaled Hamdy Radwan, the son of detained MB leading figure in Gharbia Hamdy Radwan.

The minister said that upon directives by Serafy to his daughter and the other members of the mentioned group, copies of the classified materials were made and kept on a flash memory and Sablan was ordered to travel to Qatar to arrange for air attendant Kelany to transfer the documents to the country. According to the revealed information Sablan traveled to Turkey on December 23 and from there to Qatar where he met with Ibrahim Helal from Al Jazeera news channel who arranged for a meeting between him and a senior Qatari official to agree on delivering the original copies of the classified documents after smuggling them to either Turkey, Lebanon or Qatar in return for getting a sum of 1.5 million dollars. The Qatari official gave the man a down payment of 50,000 dollars of which 10,000 were sent to Afify through Radwan.
The Minister said that the members of the group who are in Egypt were already arrested after arrest warrants were issued for them by the prosecution. He said that the classified documents that Kelany had in his house included information about the defense ministry, the national security authority, the administration supervisory authority, the justice ministry and the public security authority.

Afify and Radwan are now being interrogated by the state security prosecution, he said.

Confessions of one of the accused

البوابة نيوز: الإرهابي أحمد على يعترف بالتخابر ضد مصر لصالح قطر.

State Information Services Interior Minister reveals involvement of Arab country in Morsi espionage case.

البوابة نيوز: عبد الرحيم علي يكشف دور حمد بن جاسم في سرقة تقارير الأمن المصري.


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​NATO to promote ties with Ukraine, boost military presence in Eastern Europe

NATO will strengthen relations with Ukraine and send more troops to Eastern Europe, the bloc’s outgoing chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has said. The Ukrainian coup-imposed foreign minister is to fly to Brussels to take part in Ukraine-NATO talks.

Days after seconding US President Barack Obama’s statements on “ensuring a regular NATO presence” in “vulnerable” countries, NATO’s Secretary General Rasmussen spoke to the German media detailing the alliance’s plans in Eastern Europe.

Speaking to Welt am Sonntag, Rasmussen said that NATO’s expansion in the region has been “one of the greatest success stories of our time.” However, the alliance’s “task is not yet complete,” the NATO chief added.

NATO’s partnership with Ukraine has been getting “ever stronger,” Rasmussen noted, accusing Russia of violating the country’s right to “freely determine its own destiny,” as well as its territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro and Georgia have already sought NATO membership and are already working on reforms to achieve it, he said.

“We are now considering revised operational plans, military manoeuvres and adequate troop reinforcements. We will, for example, relocate more aircrafts to the Baltic States,” Rasmussen told Focus magazine.

While this does not apply to Ukraine, which, according to the NATO chief, does not see membership a priority “in the foreseeable future,” NATO will help to “reform” Ukraine’s armed forces.

At the same time, NATO seeks “diplomatic solution to the crisis” in Ukraine, Rasmussen said, and will “keep the channels of communication with Moscow open.” This comes days after the alliance’s chief tweeted that NATO is to “review viability” of its relationship with Russia.

The Ukrainian coup-imposed government is set to discuss cooperation with NATO as early as next week, according to Kiev-picked acting foreign minister Andrey Deshchytsa.

Deshchytsa told journalists on Saturday he will take part in the extraordinary session of Ukraine-NATO Commission in Brussels on April 1-2, will “hold meetings and consultations” with US and UK foreign ministers, as well as attend the meeting of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on April 2-3.

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have been holding an unexpected meeting on Ukraine in Paris. Kerry abruptly changed his travel route and decided to meet his Russian counterpart on Saturday after speaking with Lavrov over the phone. The latest round of Russian-US diplomacy over Ukraine started with President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama discussing the situation in the Eastern European country by phone on Friday.

 RT News.

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Egypt to hold presidential elections May 26-27


Egypt’s presidential elections will take place on May 26 and 27, Egyptian media reported Sunday, citing an announcement by the country’s Presidential Elections Commission.

Army chief Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced Wednesday that he would resign and declared his candidacy in the national polls. El-Sisi, 59, Egypt’s defense minister, had to leave the army in order to run for president.

El-Sisi is popular among Egyptians who supported the army’s decision to remove Morsy from power last year following mass protests against the latter’s rule. into his term — seeing el-Sisi as the kind of strong man needed to end the turmoil dogging Egypt since a popular uprising in 2011

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Lavrov: If West accepts coup-appointed Kiev govt, it must accept a Russian Crimea

The West is inconsistent in not recognizing the Crimea referendum as legitimate, while recognizing the military coup in Kiev, Russian FM Sergey Lavrov said. He accused the EU and US of duplicity and described sanctions as a “dead-end track.”

If the West accepts Kiev’s coup-appointed government then it must, in turn, accept the legitimacy of Crimea’s referendum to join with Russia, Lavrov told Irada Zeinalova, the host of the “Sunday Time” analytical program on Russia’s Channel One TV.

Q: Last week was eventful and quite challenging. You met the representative of the Ukrainian delegation on the margins of the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague. It was the first meeting at the foreign ministers’ level under the current circumstances.However, the only thing the wider audience saw of this meeting was one photograph and only one comment from you. Could you expand a little more on this meeting? What was its general tonality? Obviously, only you could know such things as whether the parties were or were not ready for negotiations.

Sergey Lavrov: The meeting took place in a calm atmosphere; there was nothing edgy, just a normal talk. I gave my agreement for this contact since I believe it never hurts to use an opportunity to share our vision of possible solutions to the serious crisis in Ukraine with the representatives of the current Ukrainian authorities directly, and also in view of the fact that at the current stage, Kiev is failing to set up a nationwide dialogue based on mutual respect that would equally account for the interests of East and South, as well as other areas of Ukraine, a neighbourly country to us.

‘Ukraine needs end of violence, constitutional reform and federalization’

I confirmed the validity of the proposal we made a while ago, pertaining to the necessity to implement all of the issues registered in the Agreement of the 21 February and signed by Yanukovich, Yatsenyuk, Tyagnibok, Klitchko and Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland. First and foremost, order has to be restored in all cities, all illegal weapons must be surrendered, all buildings that have been taken over illegally must be released, all barriers from streets and squares must be removed, and there must be no more “Maidans” or “mini-Maidans.”

Once these obvious steps aimed at restoring normal law and order are undertaken, the constitutional reform process should be started immediately, which is something that has also been captured in the Agreement of the February 21. We are convinced that the success of this reform can only be ensured by participation of all political forces and movements representing all areas and regions without exception, and each of them must have an equal decision-making opportunity within the framework of these negotiations.

We are convinced that it would be impossible to work out solutions to all of Ukraine’s problems without a unanimous agreement on the introduction of the federal form of government in Ukraine. Each region needs to have the opportunity to elect directly its local authorities, the executive branch and the governors, and to have all the rights and needs of its citizens satisfied across all spheres, including economy, finances, culture, language, social activities or the right for friendly relations and travel to neighboring states, be it Poland, Lithuania or Russia.

We know from experience that the unitary state does not work in Ukraine. After every presidential election they change the Constitution: first they give more power to the president, then to the parliament, after that to the government. This merry-go-round cannot last for long. Federalization is a way to make all the regions feel comfortable, so that every region will know that its rights are being respected. And at the national level, they will have certain things in common, like defense, foreign policy, judiciary. We would be willing to do that – I mean guarantees that external players would offer to Ukraine after it implements these reforms.

I had pretty long conversations with US Secretary of State John Kerry, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and leaders of other EU member states, and it seemed to me that they know much more about the reforms planned by the parliament and the government it appointed than our Ukrainian counterparts.

‘Rights of Russian-speakers in Ukraine are not guaranteed’

Q: Did the Ukrainian counterparts explain to you how are they going to take into account the interests of the eastern and southeastern parts of Ukraine if their constitutional reform does not involve the Russian language and the rights of Russian-speakers?

A: I didn’t ask them about that. Like I said, they answered that the parliament had set up a special commission, even though we haven’t heard much about it, and that this commission can incorporate into their work a lot of the proposals coming from southern and eastern regions. But I would say it is impossible to do that without inviting all the regions to participate in the body working on the constitutional reform. But so far there has been no such invitation.

‘Russia’s troops in their right to relocate on own territory’

Q: On one hand, US Secretary of State John Kerry, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other Western politicians claim they are ready for dialogue. But they always qualify that by saying, “unless Russia continues to escalate the confrontation.” By “escalation” they mean our potential actions to protect the rights of Russian-speakers in eastern and southeastern Ukraine. Why do they keep insisting on this? Just this week, NATO reported that our troops were concentrated along the border.

A: Russian troops are deployed on our territory. From time to time, they have scheduled and unscheduled, surprise exercises. Every respectable nation does that if it wants its armed forces to be combat-ready. Our recent exercise was transparent and fully met all the OSCE standards. We have duly notified our partners about it. After we received requests from other nations, we allowed foreign inspectors, including some from the US and Ukraine, to monitor the exercise.

There is an Open Skies Treaty, which allows aerial surveillance flights over the territory of treaty member states, and such flights took place just a couple of weeks ago following a request by Ukraine. Foreign monitors filed their reports after the inspection, and there was nothing in those reports suggesting that those movements of Russian troops presented any threat. We are not plotting against anybody, and we are still open for a frank conversation. But please note that every nation has the right to move troops around its territory.

‘If West accepts coup-appointed Kiev govt, it must accept a Russian Crimea’

Q: Talking about the Constitution and constitutional reforms in Ukraine, there is an impression that they only bring up this topic now in connection with Crimea. Why our western partners ignore all the constitution and human rights violations done by those who organized the Maidan protests? Does the West deliberately turn a blind eye on all those violations? Or maybe they are just not aware of them?

A: This is a big question. Unfortunately, I think they do this deliberately. From the very beginning of the certain events in Ukraine, in early November, when the Ukrainian president made a perfectly legitimate decision to postpone the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU (just to postpone it, mind you, not to cancel it altogether!), the protests started on Independence Square, with protesters putting up tents, setting up mobile kitchens, portable toilets, etc., and very soon militants from the Right Sector and other radical groups appeared on Maidan — we warned Western countries against patronizing them. They responded, rather indistinctly, that those were legitimate expressions of civilian position. Although, even at that point it was clear that those protests were turning unconstitutional and anti-governmental.

And then there was a coup, which happened just the next day after President Yanukovich signed an agreement with the opposition in the presence of the foreign ministers of three EU nations. Immediately, they said that a revolution had taken place and that we had to face the facts. They still say that today, when we say that what happened was illegitimate. The PACE committee on legal affairs decided to request an opinion from the Venice Commission as to whether what happened in Ukraine was legitimate, but the motion was blocked. The Venice Commission did not receive the request, largely due to the secretariat of the Council of Europe manipulating various technical regulations regarding Council of Europe activities.

‘West refuses to accept awkward reality’

They keep on telling us that “When it’s gone, it’s gone,” “it can’t be undone,” “let bygones be bygones,” and “let’s be constructive about it and think how you can call off your decision regarding Crimea.” I’m not exaggerating; that’s literally what they keep saying to us. My response is very simple. Even if we don’t compare the legitimacy of what happened on Maidan and what happened in Crimea (and I am absolutely sure that the first was an unlawful act while the latter was the expression of the will of the people, with so many people voting in favor of reunification with Russia, it is simply impossible to challenge) — so, even if we forget about that, it makes absolutely no sense for a diplomat to say that you have to accept what happened on Maidan as reality but what happened in Crimea is not reality. This is a dirty trick. If they are willing to accept the first reality, then they definitely have to accept another one.

‘We had no other choice for Crimea’

Q: You are Russia’s top diplomat. As the decision regarding Crimea was being made, you certainly considered the possible reaction of the western counterparts. Does reality match your expectations? Did you expect a more moderate or a tougher response?

A: We cannot do otherwise but consider the consequences of every diplomatic step we take. In this case, it was not an act of diplomacy; it was a fundamental step of national importance. Besides that, this issue could not be held dependent on a negative, positive or any other sort of reaction from other countries that had nothing to do with it. After the Crimean referendum made it absolutely clear that the people of Crimea want to be with the Russian Federation, we had no choice. Frankly, the Russian leadership in general and the president in particular did not have any other choice. We could not betray ethnic Russians and Crimeans after they made their choice through an extremely democratic and transparent procedure.

‘Western sanctions vs Russia a decent way of expressing offense’

Q: The reaction we’re receiving from the West is sanctions. The officials in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe are very weird; they say they want to expel Russia from PACE. How serious would it be if Russia has to leave this political forum? Did you expect such a strong reaction? Although some people say it’s softly.

A: We didn’t bother to ponder what kind of reaction we’ll see. We had no choice. The choice we made was based on all of our modern history, on the international law, on Russia’s statehood, on our responsibility for the ethnic Russians who suddenly found themselves living in another country. And the way it happened had nothing to do with international law.

You know how the agreements in Belovezhskaya Pushcha (to break up the Soviet Union) were accorded, when those who talk so much about international law today gave a standing ovation to that act. They had no reservations about the legitimacy of what happened back then.

As for introducing sanctions – this is a dead-end track. There is a feeling that our Western partners have been working to ‘tear’ Ukraine away from Russia for years. When they realized that they were wrong and that they had made a mistake by undermining all the agreements we made after the collapse of the Soviet Union, they couldn’t admit it. Misunderstood feeling of pride got involved. So the reflective sanctioning we’re observing right now looks like an attempt to express their frustration through the most possibly decent means.

I’m not mincing words now, because I tell the same to my [foreign] colleagues. In our one-on-one conversations, they all ask me to understand the situation and walk in their shoes, because “the West cannot put up with such developments,” they say that “We do understand you, but we are a team, and we all have to speak with one voice.” But this is something from the previous era, when there were two blocs, two geopolitical strategic opponents facing each other. Back then, it was “either-or”; “either you’re with us or you’re against us.” We have left this concept behind long time ago. But, unfortunately, many decision-makers in the West still have this mentality.

I’m not saying that these sanctions are ridiculous or that we don’t care about them. They are nasty. It is very obvious that the West wants to make sanctions look personal, to present them as if they target individuals. Well, we don’t enjoy those sanctions but we don’t feel any pain either. We’ve seen much harder times.

‘Russia won’t obey the western rules’

Russia’s relationship with the West has been quite eventful in the post-Soviet period. We were welcomed to the democratic world, because they expected us to follow their orders and observe all the rules created by the west in this segment of the Christian civilization. This is not partnership, but rather an attempt to take under control a non-aligned geopolitical ‘turf’. We saw that attitude exposed in developments in Ukraine. We saw how desperate the West was to drag Ukraine into its orbit, without paying attention to the interests of the Ukrainian economy, culture and the nation. Ukraine is a very complex, multi-ethnic and multicultural country. The ultimate motive behind all that was to separate Ukraine from Russia. Remember how Zbigniew Brzezinski said that with Ukraine Russia is a great power, yet without Ukraine Russia is not something less significant?

Incidentally, I was taken aback by what the US President Barack Obama said about Russia being a regional power and about the costs we will have to pay. We did not lose any lives when we responded to the legitimate choice of the Crimean people. The ‘games’ the American played in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yugoslavia have cost thousands of lives. There is always a price, but in every case it is different.

‘Countries pressured into voting for UN Assembly resolution on Ukraine’

Q: Do you think that the UN General Assembly vote on the resolution regarding Ukraine and Crimea has demonstrated that the world is no longer unipolar? A hundred nations voted for the resolution drafted by the West, and then there were 93 nations that supported Russia’s position on Crimea, voted against the resolution, were not present or abstained. A hundred and 93 – this is practically parity. Do you think the UN in its current state is capable of responding properly to challenges of the international politics?

A: The pressure mounted in connection with this resolution was extreme. We know there were not just demands to endorse this openly provocative resolution. There were if not threats, then reminders about “consequences”. A country that refuses to toe the line would not get a loan, or some kind of a visit would be canceled.

In addition to officially declared sanctions, other measures are also being taken that amaze us. Our diplomats in EU countries are denied appointed meetings with foreign ministries. We know that the US and EU diplomats in Moscow have been instructed not to attend events where blacklisted officials may appear. This absolutely contradicts the very purpose of diplomacy. Diplomacy is the art of talking and working out agreements. Using diplomats as instruments of your sanction policies is something totally different.

Now a few words about the vote on the resolution and the balance of power in the world. I meet with John Kerry on a regular basis. I am amazed at how the Europeans have delegated the decision-making on the Ukrainian issue to Washington when it comes to relations with Russia. As we have already said on multiple occasions, they talk about setting up a contact group. The idea of this group is that Europe and America will ‘oversee’ how Russia and Ukraine are trying to reach some kind of an agreement. This is unacceptable, because the problem is not in our bilateral relations with Ukraine; the problem is that there is a severe crisis of statehood in Ukraine.

‘West’s duplicity and inconsistency obstructs dialogue over Ukraine’

That’s why we suggested a different approach. If our Western partners agree, Russia, US and the EU might form a support group for Ukraine and address the current Kiev authorities together, encouraging them to open a nationwide dialogue. They should invite all political forces without exception (excluding the armed militants, of course) and all regions to join the discussion as equal partners. As a result, they will produce a new constitution, which will define Ukraine as a federation, reaffirm and guarantee that Ukraine’s status of a non-aligned state, and protect the rights of all the ethnic groups in Ukraine. Of course the rights of ethnic Russians is a priority for us, but the same attitude also applies to Czechs, Hungarians, Germans and other minorities living there.

If our partners are ready, we’re open to the broadest dialogue possible.

But the first step the current Ukrainian authorities must take is offering a hand of friendship to all of the Ukrainian people, to all of the regions, and invite them to an equal and open dialogue regarding the future of their country. If they take this approach, we would be wide open to cooperation.

We don’t have any hidden agenda. We want Ukraine to be a peaceful, stable and friendly nation. We absolutely respect its right to engage in cooperation with Russia, Europe, America and whoever they want. We may achieve a lot if we use this approach.

When we talk to our American partners, they tell us, “First, let’s de-escalate the situation. We should both influence those people who listen to us in Ukraine, encourage them to calm down, stop attacking each other, and engage in some sort of a dialogue.” We are ready to do that, and that’s the message we have been sending. I hope that Americans and Europeans are also sending a similar message (and the events of the last few days seem to indicate that they are).

For example, we have long since asked them to do one simple thing: we asked our Western partners and the current Ukrainian authorities to make a statement regarding their position on the Right Sector – and we’re not even talking about taking measures to prevent the ultranationalists from going out of control. Only recently we started to see the first reactions to our request. That is probably due to the fact that the glorious picture that our Western colleagues had been painting has proven to be wrong and that everyone can see now that involvement with the radical forces can have extremely grave consequences, especially in matters of maintaining power and control.

I hope that the steps the authorities in Kiev are undertaking now to ban the radical formations and to have the agreement for all illegally possessed weapons surrendered fully and unconditionally will be implemented, and I hope that the West will facilitate it.

While inviting us to participate in such a dialogue and assuring us via bilateral contacts of their readiness to facilitate the normalization of the situation, our partners are nonetheless being inconsistent because what they are doing at the same time on public platforms including the UN General Assembly is different: they are encouraging there quite confrontational and contentious statements that are bordering on insults, which is not helping with creating a positive framework for a normal dialogue. This double-standard approach is very disruptive to the process.

‘EU giving visas only to Crimean Ukrainians would be gravest violation of human rights’

Q: There are some leaks from the EU implicating that the citizens of Crimea will only be granted Schengen visas if they apply in Kiev. If this is true and the decision has been made, this part of the sanctions is a pure provocation! To your knowledge, has the decision been made or not yet?

A: As far as I know the decision has not been made yet. But such talks are indeed taking place, and in a quite strange manner at that. The talk is about introducing the rules that would oblige citizens of Crimea wishing to obtain a Schengen visa to enter Ukraine and apply for it at the Ukrainian i.e. non-domestic consular post, and they would need a Ukrainian passport for that. At the same time, they are talking about a visa-free regime to Ukraine for all EU states. Ukraine has unilaterally introduced a visa-free regime for all EU citizens and applied this regime to travel to Crimea. They are discussing such approaches seriously and publicly. They do not talk to us. They are discussing it internally thinking that once they make the decision it will be complied with. This is unacceptable. This is a crude violation of human rights.

People who live in Crimea and have chosen to be Russian citizens have nothing to do with any geopolitical matters. They simply want to live in a state that is home to their language, culture, and their “gene pool.” If the EU goes through with such steps, I am sure will we respond in a way that would make the EU understand the unacceptability of such a grave abuse of human rights.

Q: Will there be a response to Kiev’s announcement about introducing a visa regime for Russian citizens? They seem to be undecided whether to go through with it or not. If they do, is Russia ready to introduce a visa regime for Ukrainian citizens in response?

A: I believe it would be an unwise thing to do. And I think Kiev has already given this idea up. Someone quick-tempered must have articulated the thought. It has already been denounced, so I believe it is not a valid for discussion anymore.

Q: The members of the Right Sector were recently called Kremlin spies, presumably because only enemy spies can damage the country’s reputation to such an extent. Earlier, Yulia Timoshenko implicitly confirmed her statements where she called for bombing of Russia and exterminating the Russian population. Do you bring these extremist statements to the attention of your Western counterparts? Obviously, you can’t turn a blind eye when a presidential candidate is speaking out like this.

A: These statements, of course, are pure rhetoric. The list of presidential candidates features not only Timoshenko, but also figures like Yarosh and Tyagnibok, who is a member of the coalition and the leader of the Svoboda party. The party’s platform still relies on the principles set forth in the declaration signed by Ukrainians in June 1941 which is basically an oath of allegiance to Hitler and his new order in Europe. Again, this is still part of the official platform of the Svoboda party.

‘Moscow has info that Right Sector was behind snipers shootings’

Q: Are we the only people who know about it?

A: No, I mentioned this to my Western partners a few times. When I brought this up, one of my key partners hesitated a bit at first and then said: “We’re watching Svoboda, but they’re members of the coalition and they’re moving towards the political mainstream.” It’s very hard to react to that, because that’s a level of a dialogue with facts in hands. Still, that is how it is.

As for the radials in Ukraine, we keep drawing attention to that. And those who said that Moscow’s hand was behind the Right Sector – I will let it weigh on their conscience.

We have factual information – which I have presented to my counterparts – about whose embassy maintained contacts with the Right Sector, and whose embassy its leaders visited all the time; whose representatives were always staying on Maidan, in the buildings controlled by the Right Sector from there [the movement] was orchestrating many of its acts of violence including sniper shootings. Let it weigh on the conscience of those who were involved in such exercises.

Q: Are you saying it was the Right Sector who coordinated sniper shootings?

A: We have such information.

Q: Did you share this evidence with your Western partners?

A: We have shared our concerns and suspicions with them. I can’t claim that it is 100 percent true, but there are a lot of facts that point to that. Of course, it must be double-checked. I hope that the investigation announced by the current Ukrainian authorities will be completed and won’t be swept under the rug.

Q: We’ve have repeatedly heard that Russian pilots of Russian airlines are not allowed to rest in Ukraine in violation of ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) rules. This is a threat to flight safety of both Russian and Ukrainian passengers. The Russian Foreign Ministry says that the situation has not changed. This week it happened again. What can be done in this situation – when it’s a question of the life of our citizens?

A: As far as demands are concerned, we have probably done everything possible. We filed a protest with Ukraine and ICAO demanding that our crews be allowed to leave the aircraft so that they would be able to rest normally in a hotel for several hours instead of sitting crooked and waiting for takeoff. So far, we haven’t received any sensible response. I hope we will get it shortly. You’re absolutely right, it’s a safety problem. Alternatively, we could stop flights [to Ukraine].But I don’t think it is in anyone’s interest.

Q: Don’t you feel that things like not allowing pilots to leave the plane, denying visas for ordinary Crimeans and calling Russia ‘a regional power’ – all these are just some…

A: Petty things.

Q: Yes, petty things. It’s so strange that people may react in this way when the future of a big country, Europe’s and Russia’s partner, is at stake. It’s like cutting off the nose to spite the face.

A: I’m not so much surprised by the pettiness of those who have seized power in Ukraine. But the pettiness of their Western sponsors is amazing.

Q: Unexpectedly amazing?

A: Yes, unexpectedly. Because these are large countries, serious people, supporters of democracy, and defenders of justice. But leaders are becoming petty, and you and I are not the first ones to notice that.

 RT News.

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MH370 search could take years, U.S. navy official says, as nations race to find black box before its too late

The search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 could take years, a senior U.S. Navy official said Sunday, as search and rescue officials raced to locate the plane’s black box recorder days before its batteries are set to die.

Ten ships and as many aircraft are searching a massive area in the Indian Ocean west of Perth, in Australia, trying to find some trace of the aircraft, which went missing more than three weeks ago and is presumed to have crashed.

The Malaysian government announced moves to tighten airport security, but the head of the U.S. senate intelligence committee said there was no evidence that terrorism had any role to play in the flight’s disappearance. “There’s speculation, but there’s nothing,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein. “This is a very difficult mission.”

Among the vessels to join the search is an Australian defence force ship, the Ocean Shield, that has been fitted with a sophisticated U.S. black box locator and an underwater drone.

Captain Mark Matthews, a U.S. navy officer who is in charge of the black box pinger detector, said the search area of 123,000 square miles needs to be significantly reduced before there is any serious prospect of finding the black box.

“Right now the search area is basically the size of the Indian Ocean, which would take an untenable amount of time to search,” he said.

Todd Curtis, an aviation expert and former Boeing engineer, warned that the hunt for the plane could last for years.

He said the black box was unlikely to be found before its 30-day pinger, which helps searchers to locate both the box and the plane, runs out of battery life in about a week.

“The likelihood of finding the plane quickly, especially given the pinger will soon end, is going down astronomically,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

“Even if they found the debris today, there is the problem of estimating where it drifted over the past three weeks and then estimating the new area. It all has the potential to take much more than two years.”

Dr Curtis said the search was likely to be “very prolonged” and may end in failure. “There is a chance they will never find the plane,” he said.




MH370 searchers reveal objects found in Indian Ocean not related to missing Malaysia Airlines plane

MH370 black box may never give up its secrets … even if it isn’t ‘impossible’ to find

MH370 searchers struggle after days staring out at the empty Pacific expanse: ‘It is incredibly fatiguing work’

The failure to find any wreckage from the plane has been harrowing for the families of the 239 passengers, many of whom continue to cling to the hope that survivors will be found.

Twenty-nine distraught Chinese family members flew to Malaysia yesterday, demanding that the authorities “reveal the truth” and “hand over the murderer.” At an emotive press conference they chanted: “We want the evidence, we want the truth, we want our families back.”

 National Post.

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Turkey to vote in crucial local elections amid graft scandal and social media ban

Supporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) wave Turkish and party flags during an electioSupporters of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) wave Turkish and party flags during an election rally at Kadikoy in Istanbul on March 29, 2014.n rally at Kadikoy in Istanbul on March 29, 2014.

With Twitter bans, YouTube blocks, damning leaks and a ‘shadow government’ pulling strings behind the scenes, municipal elections in Turkey are only the beginning of a crucial 15-month voting cycle that could determine Turkey’s future for decades to come.

The polls are set to open across the country on Sunday in what would normally regarded as small town politics replete with the nuts and bolt issues of governing like streets, schools and trash collection. But these are not ordinary times in Turkey, and what would normally be considered local fare is now being viewed as a much broader referendum on the ruling party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party [AKP].

During the last poll in 2009, AKP clinched 39 percent of the vote, light years ahead of the socially liberal and Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP), which only managed 23 percent. While AK Party actually took a 2.6 point hit compared to their 41.6 percent showing in 2004, analysts believe anything below 40 percent this time around will be considered a blow to Erdogan.

Along with CHP, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Justice and Development Party (BDP) are also hoping to dethrone AK after over a decade in power.

The nationwide municipal poll is also the first time Turks will vote since last summer’s antigovernment demonstrations, which left 11 dead and over 8,000 injured.

Despite a series of scandals which have completely changed the landscape of Turkish politics, opinion polls suggest the Islamist AK Party, which was first swept to power in 2002, will win on Sunday as well. That victory is viewed as a stepping stone in once against asserting its dominance in a year-plus voting cycle which will see the presidency up for grabs in August and the culminate in the June 2015 Turkish general election.

The mayoral elections in Ankara and Istanbul are viewed as the most important litmus test for Erdogan’s rule, with many believing Sunday’s result is vital to Turkey’s very survival as a democratic state.

Istanbul, the 15-million-megapolis where Erdogan first tested his mettle as the city’s mayor over 20 years ago, is viewed as the epicenter of events. As the old Turkish political aphorism goes: “The one who takes Istanbul, takes Turkey.”

Mustafa Sarigul, the 57-year-old mayor of Istanbul’s wealthy district of Sisli and CHP candidate, hopes to dislodge AK party incumbent Kadi Topbas in elections.

In the Turkish capital, Ankara, meanwhile, five-time AK Party incumbent Melih Gokcek is taking on the CHP’s Mansur Yavas in the mayoral race. Gokcek bested Yavas during the previous race in 2009.

Meanwhile, the run-up to the local elections have been marked by constant rancor, with allegations of fraud adding to the protests over corruption and the suppression of political and civil freedoms from the opposition.

The latest scandal first erupted on December 17, when three AK Party cabinet ministers’ children were arrested on corruption charges, and several government figures were targeted in graft investigations.

In February, a firestorm was sparked when audio recordings in which Erdogan is reportedly heard telling his son, Bilal, get rid of tens of millions of dollars, were posted on YouTube.

Erdogan has responded by purging thousands of police and prosecutors, lashing out at “traitors” and “terrorists” for organizing the campaign against him. Chief among them is rival Fethullah Gulen, the US-based head of the Gulen movement whom Erdogan has accused of organizing a “parallel state.”

Then in a move that has since sent shockwaves through liberal sections of Turkish society, Erdogan moved to do away with the medium in which both the damning leaks and protests against his rule were publicized: social media.

Last week, Turkey blocked access to Twitter just hours before Erdogan promised to “wipe out” the social media network during a campaign rally in the northwestern city of Bursa.

Then on Thursday, access to YouTube was also cut off in Turkey after an explosive leak of audiotapes that appeared to show ministers talking about provoking military intervention in Syria.

Meanwhile, whatever Sunday’s result, Erdogan, who will complete his third term next year, technically cannot run for a fourth term due to an AKP bylaw.

He does have the option of running for president in Turkey’s first publicly-elected presidential elections later this year. There has also been talk of lifting the three-term limit to allow Erdogan to run for PM once again.

Critics fear that Erdogan’s long-heralded “Turkish model”, described as an example of a modern, moderate Muslim state that works, is steadily devolving into authoritarianism.

The popular Turksih daily Hurriyet published an open letter to Erdogan urging him to unite the country of 76.6 million people before it becomes irrevocably fractured.

“Whatever percentage of the votes you get, it should be your and all of your duty to defuse the dangerous polarization and tensions that has spread throughout the whole country.”

Sunday could prove pivotal as the country struggles through what one senior government official called one of the biggest crises in Turkish history.

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Questioning Erdoğan government’s motives is not treason


It seems that it is easier for the Turkish government to put the blame on an external source, such as the media, opposition parties or foreign governments, rather than answering legitimate questions and admitting failure on many Turkish foreign policy choices.

The media in Turkey as well as opposition parties have questioned the motives of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan‘s government following the shooting down of a Syrian military aircraft just a week before the local elections and the prime minister trumpeting that Turkey will not hesitate to retaliate in the event of an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah, a slice of Turkish territory in Syria, attracting unnecessary attention to an area that was probably unknown to many until recently, and what would appear to some as him encouraging an attack and to gain nationalist votes in the local elections.

The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has gone as far as having Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu accuse the Turkish media outlets of treason and acting as if they are the spokespeople of the Syrian regime.

In the latest incident, two Syrian MiG-23 warplanes were recently warned four times when they began flying close to Turkish airspace, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) said in a statement on Monday, and one was shot down by Turkish F-16 fighter jets in line with Turkey’s rules of engagement. Prime Minister Erdoğan and other Turkish officials say that the warplane was violating Turkish airspace by about one-and-a-half kilometers at the Turkey-Syria border.

“The downing of a Syrian military aircraft, while perhaps explicable in terms of the so-called ‘rules of engagement’ declared by Turkey, is undoubtedly an exaggerated response to an alleged airspace violation,” main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Faruk Loğoğlu told Sunday’s Zaman.

Following the start of civil war in Syria, Turkey developed rules of engagement stating that Syrian military aircraft should not come within five kilometers of the Turkey-Syria border. The Syrian military aircraft was targeting certain terrorist areas in Kasab in Syria when it was shot down by the Turkish F-16 fighter jet, according to various press reports.

‘Aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria’

Loğoğlu also said that the move is “probably inconsistent with the principle of legitimate self-defense as enshrined in the UN Charter” and he added, “If the Syrians claim that the Syrian air force is fighting terrorists in the region, then the Turkish action, in effect, also means aiding and abetting terrorism in Syria.”

“The more disturbing problem in connection to this is that Erdoğan and Davutoğlu are daring to play dangerous games with Turkey’s national security and acting as if they seek an armed conflict with Syria,” said Loğoğlu. “This scenario, if actually a plan put in action, is aimed at diverting public attention away from the corruption and bribery allegations and is a cheap ploy to make a national hero out of Erdoğan,” he said.

The area surrounding the tomb of Süleyman Şah was relatively unknown to most Turks, until the Turkish government drew attention to it recently, saying that it is the only Turkish territory outside Turkey’s borders. Süleyman Şah, who drowned in the Euphrates River, is the grandfather of Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman Empire. The area in Syria where he is buried is considered Turkish territory under international agreements. Beginning in mid-March, President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Erdoğan and Foreign Minister Davutoğlu threatened anyone who targets this area with Turkish retaliation.

Erdoğan said, “Attacking the tomb of Süleyman Şah means attacking Turkey,” in a recent TV interview.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) threatened Turkey, according to recent press reports, and demanded in a YouTube video that Turkey lower its flag and withdraw its troops protecting the site within three days. The video was uploaded on March 20 but has since been removed by YouTube due to its threatening content.

The criticism of the Turkish government’s foreign policy choices does not just come from within Turkey. The editorial board of the influential US newspaper The Washington Post wrote on March 25 that the Turkish prime minister is acting desperately to hold onto his power.

“Erdoğan tried and failed to shut down Twitter in his country last week. Half a million tweets from Turks were recorded in the first 10 hours after the attempted ban, including one from President Abdullah Gül. On Sunday, the Turkish military had better luck in targeting two Syrian MiG-23 planes that Turkey said briefly penetrated its airspace: One that failed to heed warnings to turn around was shot down,” said the editorial.

The Turkish government also announced on Thursday that it will block access to YouTube, citing national security concerns, following a leaked audio recording that was posted on YouTube by a number of different usernames around noon on Thursday. The audio reveals an allegedly top secret conversation between Davutoğlu, Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Feridun Sinirlioğlu, National Intelligence Organization (MİT) head Hakan Fidan and Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler.

Erdoğan confirmed the meeting at a public rally in Diyarbakır on Thursday, saying that the wiretapping of his foreign minister’s office is “immoral, cowardly, dishonest and mean.”

The conversation in the uploaded audio recording focuses on whether the Turkish military should enter Syria to protect the tomb of Süleyman Şah. The voice allegedly belonging to Davutoğlu can be heard saying that “the prime minister said this [the area where the tomb is located] must be evaluated as an opportunity at this juncture.”

When Fidan asked in the recording why they were pushing for an attack on the tomb of Süleyman Şah, Davutoğlu allegedly responded by saying that the pretext for an incursion must be acceptable to the international community.

The Turkish foreign minister also allegedly said, “Without a strong pretext, we cannot tell US Secretary of State [John] Kerry that we need to take severe measures.” Davutoğlu then apparently added that Kerry had asked him whether Turkey was determined to strike Syria.

According to the audio files, Fidan allegedly said, “If needed, I will dispatch four men to Syria. [Then] I could have them fire eight mortar shells at the Turkish side and create an excuse for war. We can also have them attack the tomb of Süleyman Şah as well.”

Sinirlioğlu was also seemingly recorded as saying that Turkey’s national security has turned into cheap material for domestic political consumption. Gen. Güler allegedly warned, “What we are going to do is a direct cause for war.”

Today’s Zaman

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