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Erdogan says Turkey is set to banish 10 Western ambassadors

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he had ordered the foreign ministry to declare 10 ambassadors from Western countries ‘persona non grata’ for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.

Expelling the 10 ambassadors, seven of whom represent governments from Turkey‘s NATO allies, would mark the deepest diplomatic rift with the West during Erdogan’s 19 years in power.

Kavala has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his trial continues, and denies the charges.

In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”. They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.

“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech, using a term meaning that a diplomat is no longer welcome in the country.

“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he said to cheers from the crowd in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.

The U.S., German and French embassies and the White House and U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Erdogan has said previously that he plans to meet U.S. President Joe Biden at a G20 summit in Rome next weekend.

The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Ankara had not received information from Turkish authorities regarding the matter at this time.

“Our ambassador has not done anything that warrants an expulsion,” the ministry’s head of communications, Trude Maaseide, told Reuters in an emailed statement, adding that Turkey was well aware of Norway’s view on this case.

“We will continue to call on Turkey to comply with democratic standards and the rule of law to which the country committed itself under the European Human Rights Convention,” Maaseide said.

Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to the coup attempt.

Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.

‘AUTHORITARIAN DRIFT’

Six of the countries involved are EU members, including Germany and France. European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter: “The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala.”

Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said his ministry had not received any official notification regarding the issue and that it was in close contact with its friends and allies.

“We will continue to guard our common values and principles, as also expressed in the joint declaration,” he said in an emailed statement.

Kavala said on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/philanthropist-kavala-says-no-possibility-fair-trial-turkey-2021-10-22 that it would be “meaningless” for him to attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible given recent comments by Erdogan.

Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.

The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release in late 2019, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence, and finding that his detention had been intended to silence him.

It issued a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in jail for nearly five years.

The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.

The next hearing in the case against Kavala and others is due on Nov. 26.

(Additional reporting by Nora Buli in Oslo, Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels Writing by Daren ButlerEditing by Peter Graff, Kevin Liffey and Frances Kerry)

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U.S., S.Korea to update war plans while urging diplomacy with N.Korea

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The military chiefs of the United States and South Korea said on Thursday they plan to update contingency war plans and review their combined military command while urging North Korea to return to diplomacy.

North Korea’s missile and weapons developments are increasingly destabilising for regional security, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said after talks with his South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook.

Austin and U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were in Seoul for the first such annual military talks with South Korean officials since U.S. President Joe Biden took office in January, and the last before South Korean President Moon Jae-in leaves office in May.

North Korea has continued to rebuff U.S. entreaties for diplomacy since Biden took over from Donald Trump, who had three summits with leader Kim Jong Un.

The United States calls on the North to engage in dialogue, Austin told a news conference, saying diplomacy is the best approach to pursue with North Korea, backed up by a credible deterrent.

The changing security environment prompted the United States and South Korea to agree to update longstanding operational planning for a potential conflict with North Korea, as well as review their combined military command, Suh said.

The United States stations around 28,500 troops in South Korea as a legacy of the 1950-1953 Korean War, which ended in an armistice but not a peace treaty.

Currently, the United States would command those troops in the event of war, but South Korea has been seeking to gain “operational control” (OPCON).

Suh said the two sides made progress on meeting conditions for OPCON transfer to South Korea.

The United States has pledged to maintain the current level of U.S. troops in South Korea, he added.

This week the Pentagon released a global posture review that calls for additional cooperation with allies and partners to deter “potential Chinese military aggression and threats from North Korea,” including a previously announced decision to permanently base an attack helicopter squadron and artillery division headquarters in South Korea.

(Reporting by Hyonhee Shin and Phil Stewart; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Stephen Coates)

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U.S. defense secretary eyes international response to Russia on Ukraine

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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday suggested any U.S. response to Russia’s actions towards Ukraine would be carried out in conjunction with the international community, as he called on Moscow to be transparent about its military buildup.

Austin, during a visit to South Korea, also voiced hope that the United States and Russia could work to “resolve issues and concerns and lower the temperature in the region.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has warned Moscow to pull back its troops from the Ukrainian border, saying a Russian invasion would provoke sanctions that would hit Moscow harder than any imposed until now.

Asked whether fallout on Russia would be strictly economic, Austin declined to answer directly, saying only that the “best methods” would be used.

“Whatever we do will be done as a part of an international community. The best case though is that we won’t see an incursion by the Soviet Union into the Ukraine,” Austin said, accidentally calling Russia the former Soviet Union.

Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that aspires to join the European Union and NATO, has become the main flashpoint between Russia and the West as relations have soured to their worst level in the three decades since the Cold War ended.

Ukraine says Russia has deployed more than 90,000 troops near their long shared border.

Moscow accuses Kyiv of pursuing its own military build-up. It has dismissed as inflammatory suggestions it is preparing for an attack on Ukraine but has defended its right to deploy troops on its own territory as it sees fit.

 

(Reporting by Phil Stewart; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Annamie Paul feels her exit from politics was premature – iPolitics.ca

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In her first post-election sit down, former Green party leader Annamie Paul said it’s been painful to watch the 44th Parliament kick off, while feeling that she was prematurely kicked out of politics.

Paul was speaking with David Herle, co-host of the Curse of Politics, in a virtual event hosted by the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee on Tuesday evening.

“When you think of what might have been … it’s been hard for me,” she said.

Ahead of the televised federal leaders’ debates, Paul said she had no budget to prepare, and instead worked with a number of 23 year old volunteers, while her husband stood in as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and her son acted as Bloc Québécois Leader Yves-François Blanchet.

Despite this, Paul was strongly praised for her performance in the debates, which she said did not make her nervous.

There were moments in politics when the good outweighed the bad, like when she had opportunities to push the conversation on the Uyghur genocide, she said.

Paul, the first Black person and first Jewish woman to be elected leader of one of Canada’s major federal parties, announced her intention to step down one week after the Sept. 20 federal election, calling her experience as Green leader “the worst period of my life.”

Asked whether her critics within the Greens were against policies of the Israel government, the state of Israel, or whether they were antisemitic, Paul said there were likely critics of all three natures.

Paul said she had little control over the party during the federal election campaign, in which the Greens won its lowest share of the popular vote since the 2000 election.

As Greens polled poorly throughout the election campaign, Paul said she saw the “writing on the wall” and knew she would be held responsible, even though she wasn’t the one making the decisions.

“You’re heading towards your own doom,” she recollected.

The “dispersed power structure” of the party leadership was spread between the executive director, the federal council and a number of volunteers, Paul said.

In contrast, Paul said Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole, who was elected party leader around the same time as Paul, could appoint political and communications directors as needed.

“I had none of those powers, whatsoever,” Paul said.

She could only appoint her chief of staff and those who worked in her office — “no one else.”

READ MORE: Annamie Paul stepping down as Green party leader

Paul placed fourth with nine per cent of the vote in her riding of Toronto Centre and her leadership was fraught with controversy.

During her tenure, then-rookie Green MP Jenica Atwin crossed the floor to the Liberals after being criticized on social media by one of Paul’s top staffers for comments the MP made about the Israel-Palestine conflict.

In July, the executive council sought a non-confidence vote in Paul because she refused to condemn the staffer’s comments, it was cancelled later that month.

On Sept. 25, just a few days after the election, an announcement was sent to all Green members that a leadership review had been launched.

Asked about young people considering entering politics, Paul said, “you have to go into this with your eyes wide open, and you have to know that this is not for everyone.”

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