Turkey to continue E. Med drilling, seismic activities

Turkey is set to issue a license for drilling in the western part of its continental shelf in the Eastern Mediterranean region, the country’s foreign minister said on Tuesday.

Mevlut Cavusoglu’s remarks came at a news conference held following his meeting with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov.

Cavusoglu said the Turkish administration demonstrated its goodwill in the region where tension has been high following the discovery of energy resources, by making “temporary” gestures in line with the demands of Germany and some other European countries.

However, according to the Turkish top diplomat, Ankara’s gestures were not reciprocated by the Greek administration and Greek Cypriots and Turkey reactivated its drilling vessels in response.

“We will defend rights of Turkey and Turkish Cypriots in the Eastern Mediterranean, and not make any concessions,” he said, adding seismic and drilling activities would be conducted this month.

“Oruc Reis [seismic research vessel] has gone to the region, we had designated the western frontier of our continental shelf in new regions as of late August. By giving licenses to those areas as well, we’ll continue all kinds of seismic research and drilling activities. We are fully determined,” he said.

Cavusoglu went on to say that Turkey had consistently demonstrated a positive approach to the matter and accused Greece of ill-will against Turkey.

Azerbaijan-Turkey ties

Azerbaijan’s newly-appointed top diplomat said he was glad to make his first official foreign visit to Turkey.

Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov underlined that the relations between Turkey and Azerbaijan were developing in all areas, adding that their trade volume continued to expand. 

Bayramov also thanked Ankara for its support during recent border tensions with Armenia in Azerbaijan’s northwestern Tovuz area, leaving at least 12 Azerbaijani soldiers — including two senior officers — martyred and another four soldiers wounded. 

“Brotherly Turkey always categorically supports Azerbaijan’s position based on international law,” he said, adding that Baku also always supported Turkey’s “just stand.” 

“Azerbaijan and its nation always stands by Turkey. Our unity is eternal and we build our future based on this solid ground.”

Baku accused Yerevan of “provocative” behavior and Turkey warned that it would not hesitate to oppose any attack on Azerbaijan.

Bayramov said Armenia’s aggressive politics were the main obstacle towards sustained peace in the region.

“Azerbaijan-Turkey relations, which are based on historical roots and brotherhood, are developing in all areas, including the political, economic, humanitarian and military fields.”

The development of relations with strategic partner Turkey is Azerbaijan’s foreign policy priority, he said.

The first coronavirus vaccine in the world has been registered in Russia, President Vladimir Putin announced Tuesday. 

The vaccine, developed by the Gamaleya National Research Center, has officially been registered with Russia’s Health Ministry, Putin told a meeting of members of the government in Moscow.

Putin added that the vaccine trials yielded positive results, with all volunteers having built up immunity to the coronavirus. 

He added that one of his own two daughters was among the vaccine’s first recipients.

After inoculation she had a high temperature for two days, then developed immunity, and recent tests found a high level of antibodies against the virus, said Putin. 

He stressed that the vaccination will be “strictly voluntary and free of charge.” 

Mass vaccination as early as October

The vaccine is based on human adenovirus and contains dead COVID-19 particles which cannot multiply and are therefore safe, said Alexander Gintzburg, head of the Gamaleya center. 

However, it can provoke an immune response such as high temperature to the introduction of foreign substances, he added. 

The vaccine is called GamCovidVac, standing for “Gamaleya Covid Vaccine.” 

It is designed to be administered through two injections to prolong the immunity. The vaccine will be co-produced by the Gamaleya Center and Binnofarm, a Moscow-based pharmaceutical.

In the first phase, doctors, the elderly, and teachers will be immunized. Mass vaccination is expected to start in October. 

Earlier, the Association of Clinical Trials Organizations (ACTO) asked the Health Ministry to delay registration of the vaccine, saying the trial had not had enough test subjects. But the ministry rejected the request, saying the group’s claims fail to take into account the trial results.

Since appearing in Wuhan, China last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 188 countries and territories. 

The US is leading with the most confirmed infections with 5.09 million, followed by Brazil with over 3 million cases and India with 2.27 million, according to data compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University. With nearly 900,000 cases, Russia is among the hardest-hit countries. 

New Zealand’s prime minister on Tuesday confirmed four local cases of the novel coronavirus — the first in the last 102 days.

Addressing a news conference aired live in Auckland, Jacinda Ardern said four local infections had been reported in the country.

The new cases were reported after 102 days with no registered local COVID-19 infections.

Authorities have since announced a lockdown in the capital to alert level-3 starting Wednesday afternoon, Ardern said.

A total of 1,570 coronavirus cases have been reported in the country, including 22 deaths.

Ardern said that under alert level-3, Auckland residents would stay home “unless you were an essential service worker.”

The rest of the country will be under alert level-2.

Ardern asked schools, public facilities, bars, restaurants and businesses to close from mid-day Wednesday.

Earlier, New Zealand had imposed a level-4 lockdown on March 25 and moved to level-3 on April 27. With active cases at nearly zero, the country moved into level-2 on May 13 and level-1 on June 9.

Turkey will continue to implement its own plans in the field and diplomacy until a common sense prevails on the issue of Eastern Mediterranean, the Turkish president said Monday.

“Turkey will continue to implement its own plans in the field and diplomacy until common sense prevails on the issue [of Eastern Mediterranean],” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, following the Cabinet meeting in the capital Ankara.

“We are always here and ready to resolve conflicts through dialogue on equitable basis,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan also called on the Mediterranean countries to cooperate in finding “an acceptable formula that protects the rights of all.”

“No way Turkey would consent to any initiative trying to lock the country to its shores, ignoring the vast Turkish territory,” Erdogan said.

Last month, after Athens objected to Ankara’s seismic survey in an area south of the island of Meis, or Kastellorizo, German diplomatic efforts helped defuse tension between Turkey and Greece.

But Greece’s controversial move last week to sign a maritime delimitation agreement with Egypt, which Turkey says violates its continental shelf and maritime rights, has further sparked tension between the two neighbors.

Turkey also announced on Monday that its seismic vessel Oruc Reis will conduct research in the region until Aug. 23.

Ankara accuses Greece of pursuing maximalist policies in the Eastern Mediterranean and underlines that its maritime claims violate Turkey’s sovereign rights.

Turkey has long contested the Greek Cypriot administration’s unilateral drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean, asserting that the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) also has rights to the resources in the area.

Fighting pandemic

Erdogan said Turkey ranks 73rd in the number of COVID-19 cases per million people and 57th in the death rate per million people.

“When this period [pandemic] ends, Turkey will be among the least damaged countries globally,” he added.

“Turkey will write a new success story using its geographical location, logistics network connections, manufacturing capacity, human resources, knowledge, and skills within the new world order that will form after the pandemic.”

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed over 732,600 lives in 188 countries and regions since it originated in China last December.

The US, Brazil, India, and Russia are currently the worst-hit countries in the world.

More than 19.94 million COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, with recoveries exceeding 12.15 million, according to figures compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University.

Claw-Tiger: Turkey neutralizes 41 terrorists in N.Iraq

By Sarp Ozer

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey has neutralized 41 terrorists as part of Operation Claw-Tiger in northern Iraq and seized large number of weapons and ammunition, said the defense minister on Monday.

"All our troops burst on the pre-determined areas with attacking air operations. They are working day and night, and the efforts are ongoing to take these regions under control," Hulusi Akar said.

His remarks came during a weekly meeting of chief of general staff, commanders of air, land and naval forces via a video link. The commander of Turkish Task Force in Afghanistan and the head of military representative of Turkey in NATO headquarters were also in attendance of the meeting.

"We have achieved notable successes with our efforts so far. 41 terrorists have been neutralized, a large number of weapons, ammunition, tools, and life-sustaining materials belonging to the terrorists have been seized," Akar added.

He also said that at least 81 terrorist hideouts in northern Iraq were demolished by Turkish air forces in the Operation Claw-Eagle on June 15.

"Our targets are only terrorists, we are respecting the territorial integrity of our neighbor Iraq," he added.

He stressed that Turkish forces are quite careful to not harm civilians as well as historical and religious buildings.

Operations Claw-Tiger and Claw-Eagle were launched earlier this month to ensure the safety of Turkish people and borders by neutralizing the threat of PKK and other terrorist groups, who often use northern Iraq to plan cross-border attacks.

In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of 40,000 people, including women, children and infants.

Top Turkish diplomat to attend conference on Syria

By Burak Dag

ANKARA (AA) – Turkey’s top diplomat will participate in a teleconference Tuesday on the future of Syria and its region.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his international counterparts will take part in the IV Brussels Conference, to be co-chaired by the European Union and the UN, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“During the conference, which is the main platform for financial pledges for Syria, and regional countries hosting Syrians, including Turkey, donor countries and other stakeholders will declare their financial contributions for the period ahead,” the statement said.

The meeting aims to support efforts for a UN-sponsored political solution to the Syrian conflict, and address the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country.

“Turkey, in line with equitable burden- and responsibility sharing, expects the continuation of international community support during the conference organized at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened living conditions of displaced Syrians, thus increasing the burden on host countries," the statement added.

Syria has been ravaged by a civil war since early 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on pro-democracy protesters.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and more than 10 million displaced, according to UN estimates.

Turkey has long promoted a political solution to the conflict, working for cease-fires to protect civilians from the ravages of war, encouraging safe access for humanitarian aid, and supporting a commission to draw up a new Syrian constitution.

Ankara has also worked for the safety of local Syrians near its borders by preventing the formation of a terrorist corridor there.

Turkey currently hosts some 3.6 million Syrian refugees, more than any country in the world.

UPDATE 2 – Macron’s party suffers major loss in French polls


By Yusuf Ozcan

PARIS (AA) – French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling party suffered a major defeat in Sunday’s second round of municipal elections, held three months late due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the exit polls, candidates of Macron's La Republique En Marche (LREM) – Republic on the Move – lost in major cities such as Paris, Marseille, and Lyon.

Many analysts say that from now on, Macron – with his government shaken by its handling of the coronavirus outbreak – will focus more on the presidential elections set for 2022.

Around 60% of voters sat out the elections – a record high – versus only 37.87% in 2014.

– Green wave

The country saw a green wave as the Europe Ecology-The Greens (EELV) party won a number of victories in major cities including Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Poitiers, Tours, Annecy, Besancon, and Marseille.

Edouard Philippe, the current prime minister, was elected mayor of Le Havre in Normandy, northwestern France, with over 58% of the votes against the French Communist Party. Philippe will have to decide between staying premier or taking over as mayor.

But the center-right Republican Party (LR) was able to protect the municipalities it won in the last local elections. The LR also managed to win the mayor’s seat in Lorient, a post in Brittany held by the Socialist Party (PS) since 1965.

– Anne Hidalgo re-elected Paris mayor

In Paris, the current mayor, Anne Hidalgo, announced victory in her reelection bid with 49.3% of the votes, beating Republican Party (LR) candidate Rachida Dati.

Louis Aliot, the candidate of the National Rally (RN) – Marine Le Pen's far-right xenophobic party – won in the city of Perpignan, southern France, with a population of 121,000.

– Mayor with Turkish background wins

Metin Yavuz, of Turkish descent, was elected mayor of Valenton, a commune in Paris’ southeastern suburbs.

According to unofficial results, Yavuz got 52.37% of the votes.

– Controversial Sonia Krimi suffers major defeat

French lawmaker Sonia Krimi, known for her comments on the Armenian claims about 1915, suffered a major defeat in the elections.

Running from Macron’s LREM party, she won only 8.7% of the votes in Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, in France’s northwest.

Turkish Foreign Minister Cavusoglu last year criticized Krimi over her comments on the 1915 events at a seminar in Turkey.

"France is the last country to give Turkey lessons about genocide and history, because we didn’t forget what happened in Rwanda and Algeria. France needs to look into its own dark history," said Cavusoglu.

* Writing and contributions by Iclal Turan