Pentagon chief says ready to fund southern border wall

By Beyza Binnur Donmez

ANKARA (AA) – The Pentagon is prepared to provide additional financial support for the Trump administration's controversial southern border wall, according to the U.S. defense secretary.

"The first priority of the DOD [Department of Defense] is the protection of the homeland. So the southwest border is a security issue," said Mark Esper, when asked by reporters if the Trump administration will transfer part of its 2020 defense budget for building the wall on the Mexican border.

"And so we'll see how things play out, but we remain committed to supporting the Department of Homeland Security and its mission," he told a press conference alongside his Japanese counterpart on Tuesday, following their meeting.

Asked whether that support would be financial, Esper stressed: "If that's what it takes, we are prepared to support."

Last week a federal appeals court in Louisiana ruled the government could use $3.6 billion in military funds to construct border barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border — a decision hailed by U.S. President Donald Trump.

The border wall was one of Trump's most prominent campaign promises, a pledge to help keep undocumented immigrants out of the country, but the last three years have seen little progress in Trump’s signature project.

Droves of migrants from Central American countries try each year to cross the treacherous deserts and rivers on the way to the U.S. in a bid to flee violence and poverty in their home countries.

Trump has pursued a hardline approach to immigration, both legal and illegal, since coming to the office.

As part of its anti-immigration policy, Washington also signed a safe third-country agreement with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

The agreement forces Central American migrants to apply for asylum and be processed in a third country before they can seek asylum in the U.S., even though under U.S. laws migrants are allowed to apply for asylum within the U.S. or at official ports of entry.

Although Mexico rejected the deal, it reached another one last June with the U.S. following a tariff which obligates the country to reduce its immigration flow.

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By Handan Kazanci

ANKARA (AA) - Anadolu Agency is here with a rundown of the latest developments on the coronavirus pandemic and other news in Turkey and around the world.

- Coronavirus in Turkey

Turkey on Thursday confirmed 926 additional recoveries as the country began easing measures against the novel coronavirus, according to the country’s health minister.

The total number of recoveries from the disease hit 131,778 as 926 more patients were discharged from hospitals over the past day, Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter, citing Health Ministry data.

The country's death toll from the outbreak rose to 4,630 as Turkey reported 21 new fatalities over the last 24 hours.

Turkey conducted over 54,000 COVID-19 tests in the past 24 hours, bringing the total tally to more than 2.2 million, said Koca.

Meanwhile, Turkey plans to resume international flights to 40 countries gradually as of June 10, Transport and Infrastructure Minister Adil Karaismailoglu said Thursday.

International flights from Turkey will carry passengers first to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, Bahrain, Bulgaria, Qatar and Greece, Karaismailoglu said in a statement.

Turkey suspended all international flights on March 28 amid COVID-19-related travel restrictions worldwide.

- Global coronavirus developments

A low death toll was once again recorded Thursday as France recovers from the coronavirus pandemic which plagued the country over the last three months, according to the latest statistics reported by the Health Ministry.

The country registered a total of 46 deaths in hospitals Thursday, a drop of 39 cases over those reported Wednesday.

Italy on Thursday reported 88 more fatalities from the pandemic, bringing the death toll to 33,689 as authorities unveiled new guidelines to prevent crowded summer spots like beach resorts from becoming new virus hotbeds.

The slowing trend in the number of deaths registered in May continued in early June, confirming that the peak of the crisis has been passed.

Face masks on English public transport will be mandatory from June 15, the British government announced Thursday, as a further 176 people died from the coronavirus over the past 24 hours.

British authorities announced that the UK-wide death toll from COVID-19 is now 39,904.

As Spain prepares for its state of emergency over COVID-19 to last until June 21, the Health Ministry reported Thursday that 195 more people were infected with the coronavirus and five more had died.

The number of infections diagnosed Wednesday was down slightly from the 219 people who tested positive Tuesday but up from Monday and Sunday. In total, 240,660 infections have been confirmed in the country.

Health officials in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza announced Thursday the arrival of medical supplies sent by Turkey to help fight the novel coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra confirmed that two polymerase chain reaction (PCR) machines had been delivered for detecting the virus.

- George Floyd Memorial service

Hundreds of mourners on Thursday attended the first of several memorials for George Floyd – an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody on May 25.

The service at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota was attended by Floyd's family and Ben Crump, the civil rights attorney representing the family, as well as celebrity guests.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday urged demonstrators joining protests over the death of George Floyd to get tested for the novel coronavirus.

Speaking at his daily press briefing, Cuomo said around 30,000 people have taken part in the statewide protests demanding justice for the killing of the unarmed black man in police custody.

Of them, 20,000 were involved in rallies in New York City.

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged citizens not to overlook the racism problem in Germany while intensely discussing racism and police brutality in the US after the death of George Floyd.

"This murder of George Floyd is very, very terrible. Racism is something terrible,” Merkel said Thursday evening in an exclusive interview with public broadcaster ZDF.

“Racism has always been present, but sadly we also have this [problem]. We should first sweep in front of our own door,” she stressed.

- Other developments

Turkey and Libya plan to advance cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean, including exploration and drilling activities, to further benefit from natural resources, Turkey’s president said in a meeting with Libya’s prime minister Thursday.

The meeting between Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Fayez al-Sarraj took place at the presidential palace in the Turkish capital Ankara.

Erdogan said Turkey and Libya have reached a consensus on expanding their cooperation areas on the territory of Libya.

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