ANKARA, June 17 -- The supplies of Russia’s S-400 missile defense systems to Ankara will begin in the first half of July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters after returning from the summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.
"We discussed with Russia the S-400 issue, this is a closed chapter. There haven’t been any problems. I think the supplies will begin in the first half of July," Erdogan said, according to the NTV TV channel. Ankara is not planning to give up its S-400 contract, Erdogan stressed. "We have put our signature, we will fulfill what we have started. As part of the loan, Russia gave us various benefits and granted a loan with such interest rates which do not exist on the international market," he explained. Turkey’s National Defense Ministry is preparing a reply to a letter sent by Acting US Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan on Washington’s decision to suspend Turkey’s participation in a program on training Turkish pilots in the US on the F-35 bombers in the wake of the S-400 deal. "Very soon, maybe even this week the letter will be sent to [the US side]," Erdogan said.
The first reports that Russia and Turkey were in talks on the S-400 supplies emerged in November 2016. Moscow confirmed that the contract had been signed in September 2017. Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said back then that the deployment of S-400 systems would begin in October 2019. According to Sergei Chemezov, the director general of Russia’s Rostec state corporation, the contract’s price tag is $2.5 bln. Turkey is the first NATO member state to buy these missile systems from Russia. The US has been vigorously trying to stonewall the S-400 deal. Earlier Washington warned Ankara that should the deal with Russia be implemented, the US would not supply its F-35 fighter-bombers to Turkey. The S-400 Triumf is the most advanced long-range air defense missile system that went into service in Russia in 2007. It is designed to destroy aircraft, cruise and ballistic missiles, including medium-range missiles, and can also be used against ground installations. The S-400 can engage targets at a distance of 400 km and at an altitude of up to 30 km.
HONG KONG, June 16 -- Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong has called on residents not to be used as pawns by foreign forces amid the US-China trade war, and said more than 60 statements issued by overseas powers had fuelled tension over the controversial extradition bill.
More than 200 Hong Kong delegates to the National People's Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) met officials from the liaison office on Sunday, when they were also asked to support the Hong Kong government in riding out the storm. The meeting was held hours before people took to the streets for a second consecutive Sunday, despite Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor announcing the suspension of the legislation the day before. The bill, if passed, would allow the transfer of fugitives to jurisdictions Hong Kong lacks an extradition agreement with, including mainland China. “The liaison office officials recognised the Hong Kong government’s intention to pass the extradition bill to plug legal loopholes. But it’s a shame that … many foreign forces keep interfering and smearing the bill,” said Tam Yiu-chung, the city’s only representative to the NPC’s Standing Committee. He and the other delegates met Wang Zhimin, director of the liaison office, and other duty chiefs for about an hour.
PARIS, June 15 -- The mass demonstrations in France are continuing for the 31st week in a row, as people take to the streets of Paris and other cities to show their indignation at French President Emmanuel Macron's economic reforms.
The wave of yellow vests rallies started in France in mid-November over a planned hike in fuel taxes. While the French government has abandoned its plans to raise fuel taxes and introduced other measures aimed at improving the country's socioeconomic situation, protesters have continued to take to the streets across the country every weekend to express their discontent with government policies. The rallies frequently lead to damage and clashes between the police and activists.
LONDON, June 14 -- The UK home secretary, Sajid Javid, has revealed he has signed a request for Julian Assange to be extradited to the U.S. where he faces charges of computer hacking, The Guardian reports.
Speaking on the Today Programme on Thursday, June 13, Javid said: “He’s rightly behind bars. There’s an extradition request from the U.S. that is before the courts tomorrow but yesterday I signed the extradition order and certified it and that will be going in front of the courts tomorrow.” Javid’s decision opens the way to the court sending the WikiLeaks founder to America. Assange faces an 18-count indictment, issued by the U.S. Justice Department, that includes charges under the Espionage Act. He is accused of soliciting and publishing classified information and conspiring to hack into a government computer. Javid said: “It is a decision ultimately for the courts, but there is a very important part of it for the home secretary and I want to see justice done at all times and we’ve got a legitimate extradition request, so I’ve signed it, but the final decision is now with the courts.”
Javid’s decision follows news last week that an attempt to extradite Assange to Sweden had suffered a setback when a court in Uppsala said he did not need to be detained. The ruling by the district court prevented Swedish prosecutors from applying immediately for an extradition warrant for Assange to face an allegation of rape dating back to 2010. Assange denies the accusation. Assange is serving a 50-week sentence in Britain for skipping bail after he spent seven years in the Ecuadorian embassy in London attempting to avoid extradition to Sweden. Swedish prosecutors dropped their rape investigation in 2017 but reopened it after Ecuador rescinded its offer of asylum to Assange in April this year and allowed British police to arrest him.
WASHINGTON, June 14 -- American officials released images they said show that Iran was involved in an attack on an oil tanker near the entrance to the Persian Gulf on Thursday (June 13), one of a pair of incidents that have raised tensions between the United States and Iran over the past day.
An Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps patrol boat "was observed and recorded removing the unexploded limpet mine from the Kokuka Courageous", one of two tankers attacked on Thursday, according to Navy Captain Bill Urban of the US Central Command. That was after another mine had already detonated, damaging the ship, the US said. The video and photographs showing a boat alongside the hull of a larger vessel with a hole in its side were released by the US Central Command along with a timeline of the episode. It was the first evidence publicly put forward by the US to support its claim - announced earlier on Thursday by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - that Iran was behind the attacks. Iranian officials have rejected the accusation.
"Both vessels were in international waters in the Gulf of Oman approximately 10 nautical miles apart at the time of the distress calls," Capt Urban said in a statement, adding that the crew of the Courageous was rescued by a Dutch tug and later taken aboard the USS Bainbridge. He said that the crew of the second tanker, the Front Altair, were put aboard a Revolutionary Guard Corp vessel. Iran said on Friday (June 14) it was responsible for maintaining the security of the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf, state radio reported, adding that blaming it for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman was alarming. “We are in charge of maintaining security of the Strait and we rescued the crew of those attacked tankers in the shortest possible time ... US Secretary of State (Mike) Pompeo’s accusations towards Iran is alarming,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said. Kokuka Sangyo, the Japanese operator of the Courageous, said it was attacked twice on Thursday, in incidents that were three hours apart, forcing the crew to evacuate. The tanker was carrying 25,000 tonnes of methanol from Saudi Arabia to Asia. Japanese public broadcaster NHK, citing Kokuka Sangyo's chief executive officer, said the ship was hit by a shell. The manager of the Norwegian-owned Front Altair said it was sailing in international waters when it was damaged by an explosion, and that the episode was being treated as a "hostile attack". The ship had loaded a cargo of naphtha in Abu Dhabi and was bound for Taiwan, a company official said.
BANGKOK, June 11 -- In his speech, responding to His Majesty the King’s royal command formally appointing him as prime minister at the Government’s House today (June 11), General Prayut Chan-o-cha promised to perform with honesty and integrity to make Thailand prosperous and keep Thais happy and healthy.
The Prime Minister said that he will listen to the voices of the people and dedicate his government to eradicating corruption, reducing inequality and elevating the welfare of the people. He also expressed his intention to provide opportunities for the younger generation to participate in national development to keep up with the digital era. General Prayut specifically emphasized his commitment to promoting a peaceful environment for a unified society based on love, unity and compassion, while safeguarding the dignity of the institutions of State, Religion and the Monarchy. The prime minister mentioned the important roles of the private sector and encouraged them to continue to support the new government.
NUR-SULTAN, June 9 -- The polls at the Kazakhstan presidential election have opened on Sunday at 7:00 am local time.
9,970 polling stations have begun their work in Kazakhstan, with 64 additional stations set to open abroad, including in Russia’s five cities - Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, Astrakhan and Omsk. Russian Ambassador to Kazakhstan Alexey Borodavkin told TASS that Russian observers, along with their colleagues from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Common Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) would monitor the election process in order to ensure an objective result.
"Over 1,000 foreign observers have arrived to monitor the Kazakhstan election. Around 400 of them are Russian," he said. "Russian observers are already working in Kazakhstan within observer missions from the CIS, the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, the CSTO Parliamentary Assembly, the Council of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Belarus-Russia Union State, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, as well as on the line of cooperation between regions and central election commissions of our countries." For the first time ever, first president of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has not presented his candidacy for the election. Seven candidates are on the ballot, including current president Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.
ANKARA, June 8 -- The Pentagon announced in a letter that it would halt F-35 fighter jet training for Turkish pilots over Ankara's purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense system, Turkey's state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Saturday.
In a letter to his Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, U.S. acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said that all Turkish pilots in the program must leave the country by July 31 and the training for new pilots will be suspended. Turkish Defense Ministry also confirmed the letter in a statement on Saturday, saying that the Pentagon expected to address security concerns over the S-400 deal. Shanahan expressed his expectation to find a solution to the existing problems between the two countries in the framework of the strategic partnership and to maintain comprehensive security cooperation, the ministry said.
The U.S. repeatedly warned that it will cut off Ankara's purchase of F-35 fighter jets if the Turkish government goes ahead with plans to buy Russian S-400 air defense system, triggering a heated dispute between the two NATO allies. Washington has already suspended deliveries of parts and services related to Turkey's receipt of the multi-million-dollar jets. However, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday reaffirmed his resolve to buy S-400 system despite threatened sanctions from the United States.
LONDON, June 6 -- Fresh from its victory in European polls, Mr Nigel Farage's Brexit Party is hoping to win its first seat in Britain's Parliament on Thursday (June 6) in a by-election in Peterborough.
The poll in the eastern English cathedral city was triggered after the sitting MP, Fiona Onasanya, was dumped by voters after being jailed for lying over a speeding offence. The Brexit Party, formed by eurosceptic figurehead Farage only a few months ago, secured 38 per cent of the vote in Peterborough in May 23 elections for the European Parliament. It is hoping to capitalise on that momentum as well as voter disillusionment with the main Conservative and Labour parties, who have historically shared the seat. Both parties were punished by voters in the European polls for the political chaos over Brexit, which has forced out Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May. Onasanya was a Labour MP, but was expelled following her conviction and the party is fighting to keep the seat. It got 17 per cent of the vote in Peterborough in the European polls, while the Conservatives secured just 11 per cent, level with the Greens. The pro-European Liberal Democrats got 15 per cent.
Mrs May is stepping down after delaying Brexit twice as she tried and failed to get her EU divorce deal through Parliament. Mr Farage, who has called for Britain to leave the bloc without a deal, said the by-election outcome could top the European result. "Our political establishment were absolutely mortified by what happened," he said while campaigning in Peterborough last weekend. "But in some ways what happens here on Thursday is even bigger... the opportunity for the next chapter in this great story." The Brexit Party's candidate is Mr Mike Greene, a local businessman. The Labour candidate is the Unite trade union activist Lisa Forbes. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has visited the city, saying the party's campaign was about local issues and climate change. "We take that core Labour message out to all the doors of bringing our society and our community together... to ensure we maintain that trading relationship with our nearest neighbours in Europe and to ensure that we get a Labour government at the end of this," he said. Fifteen candidates are standing. Four pro-EU parties were planning to stand a joint 'Remain' candidate - Mr Femi Oluwole, a campaigner for a new Brexit referendum.
During the 2016 Brexit referendum, 62 per cent in the wider Peterborough area voted to leave the EU.
In the 2017 general election, Onasanya narrowly won the seat for Labour by 607 votes, or a 1.3 per cent margin, from the Conservative Stewart Jackson, who had been the MP since 2005. The 35-year-old lawyer was sentenced in January to three months in prison for perverting the course of justice. She was released on licence after four weeks and returned to sit in Parliament as an independent MP, wearing an electronic surveillance tag. Under a new law introduced in 2015, her conviction triggered a recall petition which was backed by 28 per cent of eligible voters. The polls close at 10pm and the by-election result is expected early on Friday.
VATICAN CITY, June 6 -- Pope Francis will receive Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican on July 4, Agence France-Presse reported on Thursday, citing a statement by Vatican Spokesman Alessandro Gisotti.
"I can confirm that the Holy Father will receive Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Vatican on July 4," Gisotti said. The Kremlin earlier confirmed that Putin was expected to make a visit to Italy but said nothing about the date of the visit and the president’s plans to meet with Pope Francis. In November 2018, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the date of Putin’s visit to Italy would be agreed on through diplomatic channels. He pointed out that the invitation for the Russian leader to visit Italy had been mentioned during Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s visit to Russia on October 24, 2018. In April, Kremlin Aide Yuri Ushakov told reporters that the Russian president planned to visit Italy in the summer. Italian Ambassador to Russia Pasquale Terracciano said later that Putin was expected to visit the country in July.