Tag Archives: European Union

Paris Peace Talks Embolden Status Quo of Incremental Genocide in Palestine

The ill-fated peace talks denounced by both parties do little but provide a veneer of legitimacy to the rightward creep of Netanyahu’s apartheid regime.

Peace talks began in Paris on Friday, led by US Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, with an espoused aim to restart negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians that have repeatedly failed since the Jewish state was established in 1948, in the heart of ancient Arab lands.

The diplomats were joined by representatives from the Arab League, the European Union and several neighboring Arab states, but notably the meeting, designed to reestablish peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, included no representatives for either of the adversaries.

The Israeli Prime Minister publicly blasted the initiative as his country makes a hard shift toward more aggressive militarism against their Palestinian neighbors. In May, Prime Minister Netanyahu appointed controversial far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister to replace the more moderate Moshe Ya’alon. Reacting to the appointment, UN Middle-East envoy Nikolay Maladenov said on Wednesday that Israeli ministers are “killing hope” for peace, following comments by the Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, that a Palestinian state will never be allowed.

“As long as we are in the government, there will be no Palestinian state, there will be no settlement evacuations and we will not give any land to our enemies,” Shaked said on Tuesday.

The situation for Palestinians has grown more desperate in recent years, with childhood poverty increasing at a near exponential rate, people repeatedly dispossessed of their land and under constant bombardment by Israeli defense forces. The climate of violence and fear has been repeatedly noted as closely resembling the South African regime of apartheid, including remarks by former US President Jimmy Carter.

The Palestinian people have been devastated by efforts by Israeli officials to co-opt their leadership, providing victims with few options to voice their dissent to a global audience about the daily tragedy they endure.

Mass killings of Palestinians by IDF forces have given way to a rash of stabbings in Israel by beleaguered Palestinians. More peaceful approaches, including the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) program advanced by Palestinian leadership have had limited effect on Israel, with the world refusing to cut trade ties with the country and leading to ever-higher levels of poverty in Gaza and the West Bank.

On Thursday, Loud & Clear’s Brian Becker sat down with peace activist Miko Peled and political analyst Soraya Sepahpour-Ulrich to discuss whether the Paris peace talks are about peace or if they are a fig-leaf to justify the status quo of Palestinian displacement.

Do the Paris peace talks have any significance or hope of success?

“Frankly the answer is no,” said Sepahpour-Ulrich. “Israel has never been interested in a political solution and the fact that we continue to hold these peace talks, with the first one in 1949, the Lausanne Conference, and many more since 1979.”

“This whole thing reminds me of what Desmond Tutu said about the missionaries – ‘They had the bible and we had the land, they told us to close our eyes and then they had the land and we were holding the Bible,’ and the same thing is true now with these peace talks,” she said.

“Nothing ever comes out of these talks and it tends to buy Israel time to further occupy Palestinian land and engage in incremental genocide,” stated the analyst. “All of these rounds of talks are just buying more time while the Palestinian land is shrinking and so is the number of Palestinian people.”

“If somebody is serious about creating peace then we need more than talk, we need action,” she said.

Why is there no focus in these talks on holding Israel accountable for settlements?

“Let me reframe the conversation for a second if I may. I believe that the only way to move forward is to recognize the following: Palestine was occupied in 1948 and a racist, apartheid regime known as Israel was established in Palestine. In 1967, the state of Israel completed that occupation of Palestine by taking a few small parts that it left out in the West Bank and Gaza strip that then calling it Israel, even though we know it is Palestine,” said Peled detailing the history of Palestinian displacement.

“The establishment of a single state with exclusive rights for Jewish people has been in place ever since and that is it. This idea that there is a Palestine different from Israel and Israel different from Palestine and that somehow the state of Israel will negotiate with a Palestinian entity for some sort of compromise within this framework is hallucination, it is science fiction,” he said.

“The only way to move forward is a complete condemnation of the racist, colonialist project that is called the state of Israel and to get rid of it just like apartheid was done away with in South Africa, with a democracy of equal rights, where Palestinians have all of their rights, the right of return is materialized, and this whole racist, colonialist project is done away with. That is the only way to move forward,” stated the activist.

Peled commented that hope for Palestinians will come not through talks, but through resistance, likening their situation to the South African apartheid. The activist praised Palestinian leadership for modeling their Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) effort on the successful struggle for liberation in South Africa, but considers the situation in the Middle East to be more perilous, with countries around the world refusing to join in solidarity by cutting off trade with Israel.

Sepahpour-Ulrich agreed that the commonplace notion of a two-state solution has always been a false cry for peace, and criticized Europe and the United States for allowing the oppression to continue.

“There is no question in my mind that there is no will to change the status quo, the Europeans and the Israelis and their trade has grown over the years. If you are under the belief that there needs to be a two-state solution or you think that this occupation needs to end, then you freeze your trade, you don’t allow it to grow,” she said. “The United States has been funding this occupation, so, what they are doing is giving lip service, and it is just propaganda, they are selling a false truth.”

“There is no reality to these peace talks. The world is being lied to,” said the analyst. “They are just biding their time to wipe Palestine off the map, which Google incidentally did in one instance.”

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Egypt’s Foreign ministry hits back at EU statements criticising ‘crackdown’ on journalists

EU External Action spokesperson Catherine Ray

Egypt’s foreign ministry has hit back at statements made by the spokesperson of the EU External Ection Service, Catherine Ray, which criticised “restrictions” on freedom of press and the jailing of journalists in Egypt.

Spokesperson of the Egyptian foreign minister Ahmed Abu Zeid challenged the EU spokesperson to look closely at reports made by the delegation of the EU on the large number of newspapers that are published on a daily basis in Egypt.

On Tuesday, Ray issued a statement slamming the recent indictment of three Journalists’ Syndicate leaders and their referral to court.

Ray described the prosecution of the union leaders as “a worrying development that follows the unprecedented raid of Egyptian security forces on the Journalists’ Syndicate building earlier this month.”

On Tuesday, Egyptian prosecutors charged the chairman of Egypt’s Journalists’ Syndicate, along with the syndicate’s secretary general and undersecretary, with harbouring fugitives and spreading false news in the case of police storming of the union’s headquarters on 1 May to arrest two wanted journalists.

The trio were referred to misdeameanour court. The first session in their trial is set for Saturday.

Ray charged that the indictments “reflect broader limitations on freedom of expression and press freedom in Egypt.”

“We call on the Egyptian authorities to review the charges against those arrested or prosecuted for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, and work to bring the laws regulating assembly and counter-terrorism into line with the Egyptian Constitution,” the EU official said.

“I call on the spokesperson to follow [Egyptian] daily TV shows that criticise the performance of the authorities, as well as discussions that take place on social media between different segments of Egyptian society,” Abu Zeid said.

“The foreign ministry was surprised that the high representative did not pay similar attention to the humanitarian and living challenges facing the Egyptian citizen,” said Abu Zeid.

Abu Zeid said the EU should make efforts to support the Egyptian government in order to provide better services to Egyptian citizens.

The statement continued that this “reflects broader limitations on freedom of expression and press freedom in Egypt.”

 

 

Turkey blocks Facebook, Twitter following deadly Ankara blast – reports

Turkish authorities banned Twitter and Facebook after images spread on social media depicting the suicide car bombing that killed and injured dozens in the Turkish capital of Ankara, local broadcasters reported.

Turkey’s telecommunications authority, TIB, blocked access to social media after a court-ordered ban was imposed, Turkish NTV and CNN Turk reported.

Access to Facebook, Twitter, and a number of other sites has been blocked because images showing victims of the tragedy were being shared on those platforms, according to the court.

Difficulty in accessing the sites has been reported by users.Broadcast media has also allegedly been banned from covering certain aspects of the attack. A journalist from Today’s Zaman, a sister publication of the newspaper Zaman that was recently taken over by the government, said “a ban on networks for coverage of explosion in Ankara” had been issued.The blast rocked the crowded center of the Turkish capital on Sunday evening, killing at least 34 people and injuring 125. No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

 

Car bombing rocks Turkish capital Ankara, 34 dead, 125 injured

A blast caused by a suicide car bombing hit the center of Ankara on Sunday evening. The explosion resulted in over a hundred casualties.

At least 34 people were killed and 125 injured in the explosion, according to the Turkish health ministry, as cited by Sputnik news agency.

The blast occurred near Guven Park in the city center.

The suicide car bomb went off at 6:43 pm local time (16:43 GMT), Turkish broadcaster TRT said.

The site of the blast is close to a courthouse and buildings housing the country’s justice and interior ministries.What appears to be CCTV cam footage was posted on YouTube that allegedly shows the moment of the explosion. A couple of buses can be seen in the video, before a passing by car slows down near them and a huge blast is seen.

Turkish authorities have announced that they will release the name of the group responsible for the deadly blast and the results of the probe into the bombing on Monday. “I believe the investigation will be concluded tomorrow and the findings will be announced,” Efkan Ala said in comments broadcast live on local TV, as quoted by Reuters.

The blast was caused by “explosive-laden vehicle,” according to Reuters citing Ankara governor’s office.

The blast appears to have been triggered by a car exploding near a bus stop, TRT said. Guven Park adjoins a major transportation hub.

It’s a car bomb, [it happened] in the heart of Ankara… and today is Sunday, many people may be outside,” Turkish journalist Onur Burcak Belli told RT by phone, adding that the scene of the blast is “very close to a shopping mall” and that “many cars are on fire and apparently a public bus is also on fire.”

I was nearby when I heard the explosion, and there were casualties all around… the numbers of dead are increasing,” an eyewitness told RT by phone, adding that “the explosion was actually bigger than the last one in Ankara.”

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far.

A security official said that initial findings suggest the attack was carried out by Kurdish PKK fighters or a group affiliated with them, Reuters reported.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has issued a statement condemning the attack, saying it shares “the huge pain felt along with our citizens,” AP reported. The party has been previously accused of not speaking out against PKK violence.

Images allegedly showing the aftermath of the explosion emerged on social media. A huge fire could be seen in some of them.

A large cloud of smoke rising into the dark could also be seen from the distance.

Numerous loud sirens could be heard in a Periscope transmission from the scene, in which people can be seen running by, with some screaming.

In February, 28 people were killed and 61 injured in a blast in Ankara, when a car bomb, reportedly targeting military personnel, went off close to the parliament building. Forces linked to the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia were accused of committing that terrorist attack by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

A splinter group of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK), later claimed responsibility, saying the bombing had been in retaliation for Turkey’s military operation in the country’s southeast and vowing to continue its attacks.

 

‘Super Sunday’ Regional Elections in Germany to Test Merkel’s Coalition

Three German regions will vote on Sunday in parliamentary elections that are widely seen as a test for Chancellor Angela Merkel and her ruling coalition ahead of the next year’s general election.

A total of 13 million voters will cast their ballots in the western states of Baden-Wuerttemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as in Saxony-Anhalt in the east. The “Super Sunday” will take place in an atmosphere of concern over Merkel’s open-arms policy on refugees.

The arrival of over a million of migrants at the German border last year looks likely to make it a single-issue election and cost the Conservatives and their coalition partners in the Social Democratic camp votes, the recent opinion polls have shown.

The upcoming vote will be the first opportunity for Germans to deliver their verdict on how the government has been handling the migrant crisis since the chancellor threw the doors open to war refugees coming to Europe from Syria last summer.

The fiercely anti-EU, anti-migrant Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD) party has meanwhile been making gains all across the country. The populist party has seats in five of the 16 regional legislatures and looks set to grab more in the three regions, where it can win between 10-18 percent of votes.

‘Iran, Russia the Most Stable and Independent Players in the Middle East’

With Syria plunged into civil war and the terrorist threat in neighboring Iraq high, Sputnik discussed the situation in the region with Seyed Mohammad Kazem Sajjadpour, a senior adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

“The current instability in the Middle East is reflecting very negatively on the situation in the rest of the world. The region is infested with terrorists from Finland, France, Britain, Russia and Central Asia and this is the new challenge and the new geopolitical reality Iran is facing today,” Mr. Sajjadpour said.He mentioned what he described as “trans-regional players” impacting the situation in the region, above all the US, Britain, France and Germany.

There is also a second group of players, namely Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. The Saudi policy is shortsighted and erratic. Turkey is in political turmoil over its meddling with the crisis in neighboring Syria.

“And last, but not least, it is Daesh, which is both a transnational and internal player,” Seyed Sajjadpour noted.
He described Iran as a strong and influential player, with a high degree of political and social security.

“Millions of Iranians took part in the recent parliamentary elections ensuring a peaceful handover of political power fully in line with the constitution and without violence and conflicts like is often the case with our neighboring countries,” the diplomat said.

He heaped praise on Russia for its role in the settlement of regional conflicts, especially in tandem with Iran.

“We are opening a new chapter in relations between our two countries, which are based on respect for each other’s national identity and independence. Our concerted effort has helped to change the course of the civil war in Syria. Many countries now believe that Russia and Iran can stabilize the situation in the Middle East,” the diplomat emphasized.

When asked whether Moscow and Tehran had different views on who is a terrorist and who is not, Seyed Sajjadpour said: “For us anyone engaged in an armed struggle with the legitimate Syrian government is a terrorist and we see eye to eye with Russia on the need to fight terrorists in Syria… It is our firm belief that it is up to the Syrian people to decide their country’s future.”

Erdogan’s Conundrum: What Could Trigger Military Coup in Turkey

The current state of affairs in Turkey is triggering concern. Ankara is facing the dangerous combination of deepening political polarization in the society, a slump in economic growth, and escalating tensions both at home and abroad.

Unlike the political and economic turmoil in the 1970s and 1990s, the current crisis is largely a result of the conflict between Turkey’s pragmatic domestic and foreign policy and its actual push for leadership, Pavel Shlykov, an associate professor at the Asian and African Studies Institute of the Moscow State University, said in his report.

The current Turkish crisis can be described with several specific features.

First, all spheres of the country’s political and social life as well as all its state institutions are engulfed in the crisis.

Second, public incertitude is growing about the future. People realize that the existing model of social and political development is jaded.

Third, the Turkish military is gradually building up its political influence, thus laying grounds for a military coup.

Fourth, recently the Kurdish problem has entered the new stage, and the situation in south-eastern Turkey can be described as a lukewarm civil war between Turkish troops and Kurdish forces.Furthermore, the conflict in Syria is influencing Ankara’s foreign and domestic policy.

Finally, the political prospects of the ruling Justice and Development Party (founded by Recep Tayyip Erdogan) are vague in the current environment.

Erdogan and the Turkish military

In his report presented at the Carnegie Moscow Center, Shlykov analyzed the question: is a military coup possible in Turkey?

Active involvement of the military in political processes has been part of Turkish history. In the 2000s, Erdogan announced the reforming of relations between the military and civic institutions. Under his political course, the military would not dictate its policy to the government.

A military coup in Turkey would be possible if three criteria are met simultaneously: further deepening of the political crisis, a rising external threat, and the spike escalation of the Kurdish issue. And currently, all of the above is evident, according to the analyst.

After Ankara suspended the peace process with Turkish Kurds Erdogan had to form some kind of a tactical alliance with the military elite who he oppressed in 2007-2008.

The cooperation between Erdogan and the military became obvious in autumn 2015, during a military operation in south-eastern regions mostly inhabited by Kurds. At the time, Ankara gave a blank cheque to the army command. In order to take advantage of the situation, Erdogan admitted that his previous policy toward the military was wrong. Moreover, he found a scapegoat for his “mistakes” – exiled Turkish preacher Fethulah Gulen currently residing in Pennsylvania.

Of course, at the present time the Turkish army is one the most powerful political forces in Turkey. But it is unlikely to stage a coup (like it happened in 1960, 1971 and 1980), Shlykov pointed out. The military doubts they would enjoy broad public support.

In the modern Turkey, the army also plays another important role – to counterbalance Erdogan’s risky foreign policy ambitions. A year ago, the military barely prevented him from invading Syria, and the situation repeated last month.

The Kurdish problem

Turkey has been facing the Kurdish issue in its current state for over 30 years. According to estimates, there are 15-20 million Kurds in Turkey, which accounts for 15 percent of the population. At the same time, the Kurdish minority has historically been highly atomized.

From a political perspective, Turkish Kurds can be divided into three groups: nationalist supporters of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK), Alawite Kurds supporting leftist and social-democratic ideas, and the religious conservative majority (50 percent of the population) who in the 2000s were loyal to Erdogan’s party.

The support of the Kurdish majority for the Justice and Development Party played in to the hands of Ankara. Thus, the conservative majority was excluded from the Kurdish problem and was integrated into the country’s social and political system. But everything changed after the Syrian war began and when Daesh (also known as Islamic State/ISIL) appeared. In this situation, the Kurds proved their readiness for national and political consolidation.

After Ankara refused to help the besieged Kurdish town of Kobani at the Syrian-Turkish border, the conservative majority abandoned their loyalty to Erdogan and his party. They were even more disappointed after dialogue between the Turkish government and Kurds stopped.

Another important factor destabilizing Turkey is the porous 822-km-long border with war-ravaged Syria. Extremists are coming to Turkey from Syria not only to recover from wounds in Turkish hospitals (Erdogan has repeatedly been criticized for this) but also to stage terrorist attacks, undermining country’s national security.

However, according to the report, the rising threats to national security will not consolidate Turkish society, but instead will only deepen its political rifts. Unlike before, the military standoff with the Kurds is not broadly supported by Turks.

The Syrian trap

In 2015, the developments in Syria were not favorable for Ankara. After the Turkish Air Force shot down a Russian jet last November Turkey lost the chance to influence the situation in Syria.

Over the past weeks, Turkey’s pro-government media has reported that now is the perfect time to intervene into the Syrian conflict. However, those reports were aimed only to consolidate public opinion.

here are several reasons that Turkey is unlikely to launch an operation in Syria.

First, in technical terms, any ground operation would require aerial support. Currently, the Syrian airspace is controlled by the Russian Aerospace Forces, and Turkish jets will not be allowed there.

Second, an intervention in Syria would have serious diplomatic problems for Ankara. The operation would be supported by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf monarchies. However, it will spark a conflict with the US and Russia. What is more, during such an operation the Turkish military would have to fight on several fronts at the same time; against the Syrian Army, Daesh, opposition groups, and Kurdish militia. It is obvious that Erdogan is not ready to take the risk.

Finally, if Turkey becomes involved in the Syrian war, they would also end up fighting the Kurds in the south-eastern parts of the country. Consequently, the conflict may spread across the entire of Turkey.

Turkey at a crossroads

Since the era of Kemal Ataturk who tried to create a controllable opposition force in Turkey, all experiments with democracy have turned pear shaped.

In his first years in power, Erdogan launched a number of political and economic reforms aimed at integrating with the European Union. Until 2007, his course was viewed as modernization. But then, especially following the 2010 constitutional reform, the setbacks began.

Currently, Turkey is at a crossroads. The choice is between a super-presidential republic ruled by Erdogan and further development as a liberal-democratic European-like state but with some specific characteristics.

The future of Turkey depends on its leader. According to the constitution, the head of state is Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. But in fact, power is concentrated in the hands of President Erdogan.

Davutoglu is Erdogan’s protégé and is much weaker as a politician than Erdogan. But if he could find courage to restrict Erdogan’s power chances for a liberal Turkey would significantly improve, the analyst noted.

Rift with Russia

After Turkey shot down a Russian bomber in Syria in late November tensions between Moscow and Ankara turned into hostility. Any improvement is unlikely in the coming future.

Shlykov outlined three possible scenarios for Russian-Turkish relations.

First, Russian and Turkey may reconcile.

Second, in order to normalize ties with Russia, Turkey may sacrifice one of its high-profile politicians, by shifting responsibility for the incident.

Third, a road to reconciliation may be very long. In this case, neither Russia nor Turkey would be ready to compromise, and the conflict would dry out in the long-term perspective.

As for now, the situation is developing according to the third variant. The world is now witnessing a deep conflict between Moscow and Ankara, which could ease with its main participants leaving the stage, the analyst concluded.

Baghdad promises revenge after ‘600 wounded,’ 3yo girl killed in ISIS chemical attacks on Iraq

A three-year-old girl has been killed and 600 more people injured after Islamic State militants reportedly carried out two chemical attacks in northern Iraq, local authorities say. The Iraqi government vows that the attackers will pay for the atrocity.

The attacks, which forced hundreds to flee for safety, took place in the city of Kirkuk and the village Taza, according to an AP report citing Iraqi officials.

“What the Daesh [Arabic derogatory term for IS] terrorist gangs did in the city of Taza will not go unpunished. The perpetrators will pay dearly,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said.

Hundreds of wounded are now suffering from chemical burns, suffocation, and dehydration, according to Helmi Hamdi, a Taza-based nurse, who added that eight people had even had to be sent to Baghdad for treatment.

“There is fear and panic among the women and children. They’re calling for the central government to save them,” Adel Hussein, a local official in Taza, said.

Hussein confirmed that German and US forensics teams had arrived in the area to test for the presence of chemical agents.

Sameer Wais, father of three-year-old Fatima Wais, who was killed in the attack, fights for the local Shiite forces. After learning of the tragedy, he ran home and took his daughter to a clinic and then a hospital in Kirkuk.

The girl seemed better the next day, and the family took her home. However, things took a terrible turn in the evening.

“By midnight she started to get worse. Her face puffed up and her eyes bulged. Then she turned black and pieces of her skin started to come off,” Sameer said, as cited by AP.

The girl died early in the morning. Hundreds of people reportedly attended Fatima’s funeral, some showing their discontent with the government and calling on authorities to protect the population from IS attacks.

Fatima’s father said that he was returning to the frontline as soon as possible.

“Now I will fight Daesh more than before, for Fatima.”

Last month, US special forces reportedly detained the head of an IS unit that attempted to develop chemical weapons. The US-led coalition also reportedly began conducting airstrikes and raids on chemical weapons infrastructure two months ago.

The chemicals used by IS so far include chlorine and a low-grade sulfur mustard.

On Friday, when asked how big of a hazard such substances present, US Army Colonel Steve Warren told journalists, “It’s a legitimate threat. It’s not a high threat. We’re not, frankly, losing too much sleep over it.”

The latest attacks come just a few days since Taza was shelled with “poisonous substances,” after which dozens suffered from choking and skin irritation.

Iraq isn’t the only country that Islamic State has attacked with chemical weapons recently. Syrian Kurdish fighters came under a chemical attack by jihadists on Tuesday.

Last month, some 30 Kurdish militia members were injured in a mortar attack that supposedly involved shells armed with chlorine.

‘Dirty Bargain’: Turkey, EU Forge Deal With Syrian Blood on Their Hands

As the Turkish government continues its crackdown on the free press, columnist Kemal Okuyan speaks to Radio Sputnik’s Loud & Clear to expose how this relates to Ankara’s deal with the European Union to stem the flow of refugees.

“I have to say that this is a real dirty bargain,” Okuyan, a leading columnist with Turkish newspaper SoL, tells Loud & Clear host Brian Becker. “The refugee crisis, I think, is an outcome of the terrorist acts of NATO, Turkey, and other reactionary forces in the region.”

 https://www.spreaker.com/embed/player/standard?episode_id=7958257

According to Okuyan, Ankara is manipulating the crisis in order to achieve its own ends with the European Union.”This was on purpose, by the Turkish government,” he says. “And we know that Turkey encouraged people to go by boat through the sea to the Greek islands.

“Now they are using this to blackmail the European Union.”

As part of negotiations with the EU, Ankara wants over 3 billion euros, visa exceptions, Western ground forces in Syria, as well as the enforcement of a terrorist-free zone in neighboring Syria.

While Turkey may be taking advantage of a humanitarian crisis for its own gains, the European Union isn’t entirely innocent, either.

“The European Union is also one of the actors in the Syrian [conflict],” Okuyan says. “Especially Germany, France, Britain. They have their hands in Syria, so they are also responsible for this big human tragedy.”

While the Erdogan government may have sights on joining the EU, it could face problems due to its harsh press laws.

“Nearly three-fourths of the daily newspapers printed in Turkey are in the hands of Erdogan,” Okuyan says.

“There are a lot of journalists in prison in Turkey,” he adds. “There is also blackmailing, [where] you are not arrested, directly, but they say if you have another problem, then you will be put into prison.”

Still, as all sides use the refugee crisis for their own political gain, millions of people are suffering.

“In Turkey, the refugees are in terrible conditions,” Okuyan says. “When you see photos of people [who have] died when crossing to the Greek islands, these are not only accidents, they are killed on purpose for their money.

“They sabotage the boats.”

‘Not consistent with intl law’: UN lambasts EU-Turkey ‘quick fix’ deal on refugee returns

The UN refugee agency has criticized the deal struck between the EU and Ankara which seeks to send refugees back to Turkey. The UNHCR says the agreement will expose migrants to huge risks, as well as break EU and international laws on the right to protection.

Ankara offered to take back all those who cross through its borders into the EU, while resettling the same number of Syrian refugees in the EU. In return in asked for billions more in cash, as well as expedited talks on EU membership and a rapid implementation of visa-free travel. The 28 EU members agreed and the decision is set to be completed by March 17-18, pending more work by officials.

But according to the UNHCR, the decision is a “quick fix” that will create a fragmented flow of refugees all trying to find ways back into the EU.

Speaking at a UN briefing on Tuesday, Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR Europe Bureau Director, stressed that “collective expulsion of foreigners is prohibited under the European Convention on Human Rights. An agreement that would be tantamount to a blanket return of any foreigners to a third country is not consistent with European law, is not consistent with international law.”

Another key problem associated with the decision, according to the UNHCR, is that the refugee flow would be fragmented, resulting in disparate groups that are all trying to return to the EU. “As long as the conflict is not solved, it’s a myth to believe that the people will not try to leave. It may dissuade some people from leaving through that route, but it won’t dissuade everybody.”

On Europe’s commitment and its implementation so far, Cochetel believes the objective of resettling 20,000 refugees in the space of two years on a voluntary basis is still “very low,” not to mention Europe’s failure last September to relocate some 66,000 refugees from Greece. In fact, it failed on an epic scale, managing to relocate only 600, according to Cochetel’s previous statements.

While Turkey currently hosts three million Syrian refugees – the largest number worldwide – its current acceptance rates for those from Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan are also “very low,” the UNHCR director told Swiss radio RTS, as cited by Reuters.

“Sending back people who would not have access to protection in Turkey poses a certain number of problems in terms of international law and European law,” he said. “I hope that in the next 10 days a certain number of supplementary guarantees will be put in place so that people sent back to Turkey will have access to an examination of their request [for asylum],” he added.

Similar concerns were voiced by the UN Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), which stressed that “too many details still remain unclear.”

UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe underlined that “the fundamental principle of ‘do no harm’ must apply every step of way.” For the particular agency, this applies first to the rights of children. They are open to all sorts of dangers, including trafficking, forced labor and other forms of exploitation.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International blasted Ankara’s enduring record of leaving refugees to cope alone. It called the EU decision “alarmingly short-sighted and inhumane,” noting in a Tuesday statement how Turkey has “forcibly returned refugees to Syria and [how] many refugees in the country live in desperate conditions without adequate housing.”

Amnesty’s European head, Iverna McGowan, believes that “by no stretch of imagination can Turkey be considered a ‘safe third country’ that the EU can cozily outsource its obligations to.”