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Germany: UN Security Council on verge of paralysis

By Busra Nur Bilgic Cakmak

ANKARA (AA) – German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday said the UN Security Council is “on the verge of paralysis” as the country prepares to take on the one-month term presidency.

In an interview with German Press Agency (DPA), Maas said even on important issues such as the Syrian conflict or COVID-19 pandemic the Security Council cannot reach a common position due to disagreements and tensions between permanent members.

“It is another example of the Security Council being on the verge of paralysis. In major current crises such as Syria and the coronavirus, the Security Council no longer meets the demands it should face,” said Maas.

“There is permanent self-obstruction; sometimes from one side, sometimes from another,” he added.

Maas urged the US and China to put aside their differences, adding that the silence of the Security Council amid a pandemic cannot be accepted.

“We want to make another attempt to reach a common position on the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.

– Relations with US

Maas acknowledged that recent tensions between the US and Germany were not only because of President Donald Trump, and reflected deeper changes in international arena.

“Anyone who thinks that having a Democrat in office would reinstate the trans-Atlantic partnership to what it was before is underestimating the structural changes,” said Maas.

“The trans-Atlantic partnership is extremely important, will remain important, and we are working to secure its future. But in its current form, it no longer meets the demands that both sides have of it.”

The main disagreement between the US and Germany raised from the issues of Nord Stream 2 pipeline and NATO defense spending.

The Nord Stream 2, an extension of the first Nord Stream pipeline, spearheaded by Russia's Gazprom, is nearing completion and has the same annual capacity, running almost parallel to the first pipeline route. Together they will meet the annual gas demands of a quarter of the European continent.

However, some European nations expressed their opposition to the project, arguing that it would increase the EU's dependence on Russian gas while urging that Europe instead focus on diversifying its energy resources.

The US administration has been targeting Germany to abandon the project, also threatening sanctions on companies working for the gas pipeline.

– Increase defense spending

Trump has long called for NATO members, including Germany, to fulfill their obligation to spend 2% of their GDP on defense. Just nine of the alliance's 28 member-states have met the threshold, according to NATO's latest data, which was released in November.

The US president recently confirmed plans to withdraw 9,500 troops from bases in Germany, saying Berlin should up its defense spending.

"They're delinquent of billions of dollars and this is for years," Trump said during a roundtable discussion at the White House earlier this month. "So, we are putting the number down to 25,000 soldiers, we'll see what happens. But Germany has not been making payment."

Speaking to leading European newspapers this weekend, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they are aware that they should spend more on defense.

“We in Germany know that we have to spend more on defense; we have achieved considerable increases in recent years, and we will continue on that path to enhance our military capabilities,” she said.

“American troops in Germany help to protect not only Germany and the European part of NATO but also the interests of the United States of America,” she added.

Lewandowski becomes player of season in Germany

By Can Erozden

ANKARA (AA) – The German champions Bayern Munich's Polish star Robert Lewandowski became the player of the 2019-20 season in the league on Friday.

Bungesliga announced the news with this headline: "Lewandowski voted Player of the Season for 2019/20!"

"Lewandowski has 33 goals and counting. Little wonder he has been voted the 2019/20 Player of the Season!," it said on the website.

The German football's top-flight competition added that it was "a deserved win" for Lewandowski as the 31-year-old took the majority of the votes to claim this honor.

He competed against Borussia Dortmund star Jadon Sancho, who was the runner-up in the polls and Bayer Leverkusen's Kai Havertz, who finished third.

Lewandowski is one of the key players in Germany, spending the last decade in this country.

He first played for Borussia Dortmund in 2010-2014.

Then Lewandowski joined Bayern Munich on free transfer in 2014 summer.

The Polish international won eight Bundesliga titles, six with Bayern Munich.

COVID-19: Germany hit by local infection spikes

BERLIN (AA) – Germany has reimposed coronavirus lockdown measures in two northwestern districts on Wednesday after local outbreaks linked to a meat processing factory.

The North Rhine-Westphalian authorities have announced that in Guetersloh and Warendorf, schools and public venues such as cinemas, gyms and bars were closed until at least June 30.

Also, gathering of more than two people in public were banned.

Over 1,550 workers of the meat factory in Guetersloh, owned by Germany’s market leader Toennies, have tested positive for COVID-19, according to local media reports.

The initial investigation has shown the cooling system of the factory, which recirculated the air without effective filtration, has enabled the quick spread of the virus among the employees.

On Wednesday, health authorities boosted testing in the districts of Guetersloh and Warendorf, to identify people infected with the virus and stop its spread.

Germany’s four federal states, Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Schleswig-Holstein, and Lower Saxony have announced plans to restrict travel from the two districts, which have become a new epicenter for the disease.

Meanwhile, neighboring Austria issued a travel warning on Wednesday, urging its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Germany launches COVID-19 tracking app

BERLIN (AA) – Germany launched a coronavirus tracing app Tuesday to help stem the spread of novel coronavirus.

The Corona-Warn-App would help authorities quickly identify and warn users about possible exposure to the virus, Health Minister Jens Spahn told a news conference.

“This app is safe, it’s voluntary and easy to handle,” he said, stressing that users will remain anonymous and will not provide personal data to authorities.

The smartphone app will use Bluetooth technology and remember encounters between people by exchanging encrypted random IDs between devices.

If a user tests positive for COVID-19 and wants to inform others, the app will alert other users who had been near the infected person in the last 14 days.

User information will be stored on smartphones and not on central servers to protect privacy.