Interviews, Perspectives 0 comments on Experts react: What’s next after Tunisian president’s parliamentary freeze? .. by Atlantic Council

Experts react: What’s next after Tunisian president’s parliamentary freeze? .. by Atlantic Council

On July 25, Tunisian President Kais Saied took drastic measures to bring “peace” to Tunisia and “save the state” from a political system that he claims is plagued by corruption and unfit to handle the current economic and health crises facing the country. President Saied invoked Article 80 of Tunisia’s constitution to sack Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi and freeze parliament. By invoking Article 80, which entitles the president to take the necessary measures to halt any imminent “danger threatening the integrity of the country,” Saied assumed full powers under the executive branch. In a publicly broadcast speech, President Saied said he would name a new prime minister within the next thirty days—a deadline which Saied said can be extended until the “situation settles down.”

Below, Atlantic Council experts react to the events, assess the impact on the fledgling democracy, and offer their thoughts on how the international community may respond.

Domestic crises were an excuse for Saied to act

Tunisian President Saied has decided to freeze parliament for at least a month, remove the immunity of parliamentarians, sack the prime minister, and take control of the security forces. That Saied considers these actions legitimate, according to his interpretation of Article 80 of the 2014 constitution, is not surprising. The crisis has been developing since the summer of 2020, when the president fired Prime Minister Elyes Fakhfakh and forced parliament to accept the appointment of his advisor, Hichem Mechichi. Many would argue that Saied felt threatened by the leader of the Islamist Ennahda party and Parliament Speaker, Rached Ghannouci. Immediately thereafter, when Mechichi disagreed with the president on several fronts, Saied initiated a series of aggressive political measures to have him removed.

The events of July 25 were the last resort for Saied to reach his objective to assume complete control of the country. The failure of the government to deal with the economic crisis and the coronavirus pandemic provided the excuse for President Saied to act. This divisive maneuver could have irreparable consequences for the fledgling democracy, chief among them an intensified confrontation between various political actors. The grievances and tensions within Tunisia are now high enough to worry about an eventual escalation from civil demonstrations to armed confrontation.

Karim Mezran, director of the North Africa Initiative and resident senior fellow.

Tunisia 2014’s constitution includes a specific provision on the state of emergency. According to Article 80 of the constitution, the president, “in the event of imminent danger threatening the nation’s institutions or the security or independence of the country, and hampering the normal functioning of the state, may take any measures necessitated by the exceptional circumstances.”

Per Article 80, exceptional measures can be imposed to maintain the integrity of state institutions and services and ensure the continuity of the government despite the gravity of a crisis. However, the president must also ensure that such measures guarantee a return to the normal functioning of state institutions and services as soon as possible.

The adopted measures should be suspended once the reasons for their implementation have ceased. Considering their exceptional character, certain conditions must be in place. Prior to the announcement of the state of emergency, the president must consult with the prime minister and the speaker of parliament and inform the head of the constitutional court. However, the latter is impossible to fulfill given that Tunisia has yet to institute a constitutional court that oversees a legitimate implementation of the constitution. Additionally, through an official statement to the people, the president must announce that he intends to implement such measures.

The condition expressed in Article 80 does not specify whether the president must consult with the parliament and government on the critical situation the country is facing, or on the measures to be taken. The president has a certain degree of discretion to decide whether to delay the state of emergency. However, Article 80 does not confer unrestricted powers to the president. It clearly states that during a state of emergency, parliament shall be deemed to be in a state of continuous session throughout such a period. Therefore, the president cannot dissolve parliament. Moreover, a motion of censure against the government cannot be presented. This implies that the state of emergency does not settle a constitutional dictatorship, which would have concentrated all three branches of government in the hands of the president nor allow the suspension of the separation of powers.

Given the nature of the measures announced by President Saied, he exercised his powers beyond the scope and conditions stipulated in the constitution. Yet, the crisis in the country has been ongoing for months and is undeniably of an exceptional character, which legitimately allows the recourse to Article 80. However, their scope should be limited and restricted, mainly in the absence of a judicial review by the constitutional court.

Haykel Ben Mahfoudh, nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs.

International repercussions

Once again, Tunisia is on the frontline of a major global crisis. In 2011, when soaring global prices led to a spike in the cost of living, socioeconomic despair in Tunisia converged thunderously with political dissent and kicked off the Arab Spring. This time, widespread anger over the mismanagement of COVID-19 and its calamitous fiscal fallout has set the stage for another political inflection point. International reaction to President Saied’s move will be complicated by the fact that he has not sought to suspend the constitution prima facie but rather to act within it. While Saied has enlisted the support of the armed forces and his sacking of the government was celebrated by large crowds in the streets, he ultimately lacks the party apparatus to consolidate his position formally. Just as Tunisia ten years ago became the trial case for democracy in the Arab world, so the coming weeks may test the prospects—and the dangers—of a political insurgent claiming to take on a corrupt system and unilaterally calling time on a dysfunctional elite. Therefore, the outcome will carry implications beyond the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, particularly as pandemic-related discontent intensifies globally.

Alia Brahimi, nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs.

How Algeria responded to the events

News of President Saied’s dismissal of the government and parliament reached neighboring Algeria amidst an already turbulent period.

Earlier this month, the Pegasus spyware scandal escalated tensions with Morocco, Algeria’s neighbor to the west, to their worst levels in years and raised delicate questions about the country’s cyber defenses. The coronavirus pandemic has swelled dramatically in recent days, threatening to overwhelm the country’s health services, sending citizens scrambling for oxygen and other supplies, and prompting renewed curfews. Preoccupied with these and other challenges, none in Algiers welcome the possibility of a constitutional crisis in Tunisia.

Algerian state media reported that Saied called his Algerian counterpart, Abdelmadjid Tebboune—likely to reassure Tunisia’s largest neighbor that the shakeup will not jeopardize the country’s stability. On the contrary, Saied will have presented his move to sideline the Ennahda party as best for Tunisia’s future prosperity. That message is unlikely to provoke objections from Algerian leaders, no strangers themselves to bending the rules to subvert Islamist advances—as they did most substantially in 1992, touching off a decade of violence. To maintain Algeria’s critical support, Saied will need to reassure Algiers that his move will not have such destabilizing effects on Tunisia or the wider region.

Ordinary Algerians, who share tight ties with their Tunisian neighbors, are also watching events closely, as they have ever since protests there touched off the Arab Spring a decade ago. To many Algerians, Tunisia’s rocky but heretofore successful democratic transition was proof that a third way existed between the strongmen and the Islamists. That hope was one of many factors that helped kindle Algeria’s Hirak, a mass protest movement for political change that began in 2019. Today activists in Algeria and across the region are watching Tunisia closely to see whether it will remain a model worth aspiring to.

Andrew Farrandnonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs.

What does the crisis mean for Egypt?

With his decision to dismiss the government and freeze parliament’s activity, President Saied attempted to sideline Ennahda, the main Islamist party, whose historical leader, Ghannouci, is the current parliament speaker. Saied and Ghannouci’s difficult relationship seems to mirror that of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the Muslim Brotherhood’s. In Egypt in 2013, one year after his election, Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the military after large-scale protests against Morsi’s government. Today in Tunisia, we are witnessing a president riding on the anger of many Tunisians who have been protesting what they see as a corrupt and inefficient parliament. This anger is directed against Ennahda, which is being blamed for ineffectively addressing the country’s mounting economic and political problems. Furthermore, President Saied is not hiding the desire to concentrate all political power in his own hands, by imposing a robust presidential system and emulating what Egyptian President Sisi has already realized.

It is very likely—in the name of their shared aversion to political Islam—that Sisi will welcome and support the latest developments in Tunisia, as another example of the failure of the political branches of the Muslim Brotherhood and their inability to transform into reality the revolutionary ideals of the so-called Arab Spring. Cairo could favor a possible transformation of the Tunisian political landscape if it moves toward an anti-Islamist and strong presidential system. This could pave the way for creating an arch in North Africa against political Islam, possibly also influencing the political situation in Libya.

Alessia Melcangi, nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs.

What happens in Tunisia, doesn’t stay in Tunisia

The unfolding Tunisian crisis was an endmost litmus test for the credibility of countries that often hype liberal ideals, democratic norms, and progressive values as cornerstones for good governance. Yet, the settling dust of European and American complacency observed towards Tunisia’s democratic challenges is revealing a bleak picture that vindicates the MENA region’s authoritarians that often count on their Western counterparts’ complacency. Those whose thrones once creaked under the strain of freedom-seeking Tunisians’ ardor are now rejoicing in their gloom. The irony is not lost on observers: a decade that began with the region’s youth forcing an agenda for change through collective mobilization is ending with aging authoritarians applauding as the only fledgling democracy borne out of the decade’s early revolutionary fever has its wings clipped.

While there are legitimate questions about President Saied’s capabilities to steer Tunisia out of the quagmire he has embroiled it in, what is indubitable is that his intentions—well-meaning or not—are of no consequence to those already leveraging the ossifying president’s blundering impulses to push their own narrative. In neighboring Libya, an unrepenting General Khalifa Haftar has welcomed the move—congratulating Saied for acting against Islamists. Similarly, Gulf-funded media outlets are misleadingly using Tunisian developments to scapegoat Islamism for the country’s ills. The muted response of Western countries to the current crisis while they predominantly spectated as Tunisia’s post-revolutionary democratic candlelight dimmed has enabled these forces to reinforce their echo chambers.

Much like 2011, Tunisian developments and how they are dealt with will ripple beyond its borders. Neighboring Libyans, whose country’s precarious post-conflict transition currently hangs in the balance, will be the first to take the moral from Tunisia’s story to determine the rules of their own political game.

Emadeddin Badi, nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Middle East programs.

What to watch for next?

In the past few months, Tunisians have taken to the streets to protest the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Angered by the increasing death rates caused by the pandemic as well as the deadlock of the main political parties to solve the crisis, Tunisians have reached a tipping point. The frustration caused by the recent surge of cases has exacerbated a difficult economic situation caused by years of economic stagnation. Although it is still too soon to tell whether President Saied has the support of a majority of Tunisians, many protestors who took to the streets on July 25 after the president’s actions cheered his decision to dissolve parliament—reflecting their deep dissatisfaction with the current political deadlock.

We are witnessing many young Tunisians reacting to the inability of Tunisia’s ruling parties to govern the country. Soaring unemployment, corruption, and a growing number of COVID-19 cases have caused a wave of unrest which President Saied is using to secure more power for himself through new elections. To know whether Tunisia’s democratic institutions are at risk, it will be vital to monitor the following political scenarios:

  • Will Saied go as far as arresting opposition leaders after he revoked the immunity enjoyed by members of parliament?
  • Will clashes between the protestors and police turn violent and how will security services respond?
  • How soon will Saied nominate a new prime minister as he promised?
  • Will there be further restrictions on the press after the July 26 storming at Al Jazeera’s Tunis bureau and the expulsion of its journalists?
News, Perspectives 0 comments on Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Osman Ayfarah of Al Jazeera

Secretary Antony J. Blinken with Osman Ayfarah of Al Jazeera

QUESTION: Secretary Blinken, thank you for joining us.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Good to be with you.

QUESTION: At the moment, all eyes are on Tunisia. We know you had a conversation with the Tunisian President Kais Saied. So what did you say to him, if I may ask?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Tunisia’s been a remarkable demonstration of democracy, and it’s really, I think, been a strong example not just for the region but for the world. And we have concerns about deviating from that democratic map, taking actions that run counter to the constitution, including freezing the parliament. We very much recognize that Tunisians are suffering terribly with COVID-19 and a very, very challenging economy. They need a government, of course, that’s responsive to their needs, but that has to happen in a way that is consistent with, respectful of the constitution.

And so I had a long conversation with the president and urged him to make sure that Tunisia returns to the democratic path as quickly as possible. We also have concerns with any efforts to repress the voices of the Tunisian people, including the media, which we’ve seen some reports of in recent days. So our strong hope and expectation is that Tunisia will return to that democratic path, act consistent with the constitution, unfreeze the parliament, have a government in place to do the work of the people, to be responsive to their needs.

QUESTION: What was the president’s response to you?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I don’t want to speak for him. That – I’ll let him speak for himself. But he gave a lengthy explanation of both the actions he was – he had taken and his intentions going forward. And the intentions he expressed to me were to return Tunisia to that democratic path and to act in a way that was consistent with the constitution. But of course we have to look at the actions that the president takes, that Tunisia takes.

QUESTION: Closing down Al Jazeera’s bureau immediately after the president’s decisions was very worrying, and we had solidarity with all the journalists, including the National Union of Tunisian Journalists. As a former journalist yourself and Secretary of State of United States, what are your comments?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: My comment is that we stand resolutely for freedom of the press and for the ability of journalists to do their jobs, including in Tunisia. And we look to the Government of Tunisia to uphold and respect the rights of journalists, and that’s one of the things that we expect of them.

QUESTION: How vital is the security of the Gulf countries and the partnership with the Gulf countries to the interests of the United States?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, we have a strong partnership with countries in the Gulf. I’m here in Kuwait to reaffirm that partnership. It happens to be the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the United States and Kuwait, and the 30th anniversary of the liberation of Kuwait after the invasion by Saddam Hussein. But as we’re looking at these partnerships we’re not only working to sustain them; we’re working to build on them and to build on them in new ways, not only dealing with many of the diplomatic challenges and security challenges that exist in the region, including in Yemen, including in different ways in Lebanon, in Syria, but also to work together on a whole variety of issues that will have an impact on the lives of citizens throughout the region and in the United States. Health security, food security, collaboration on science and technology, dealing with some of the emerging technologies that are shaping people’s lives – that’s also now part of the agenda with our partners in the Gulf.

But we remain very much engaged, very much present, working in partnership both with individual countries as well as with the, for example, the Gulf Cooperation Council. And I think this visit to Kuwait was a reaffirmation of that.

QUESTION: President Biden did say he was interested and would work to end the war in Yemen. Why hasn’t that happened? What are the obstacles?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, I wish it was like flipping a light switch, but it’s not. But from very early in the administration the President made clear that commitment. We appointed, very early on as well, a senior special envoy to lead our diplomacy, Tim Lenderking, who has been very actively engaged in trying to bring the war to an end with support and engagement from me, from the President himself.

We very much appreciate the plan that Saudi Arabia has put forward to move in that direction. Unfortunately, the reality is that the Houthis have not engaged in a meaningful way, and they need to demonstrate that they’re prepared to end the war, to enter into negotiations, to stop their offensive operations within Yemen, as well as their attacks on Saudi Arabia itself. And we’re resolutely in support of Saudi Arabia, in terms of defending its territory from these attacks.

This is about ending a war and it’s about ending the incredible suffering of the Yemeni people. Yemen, as you know, is perhaps the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. And I hope that the Houthis will demonstrate that they actually care about the people of Yemen, not simply in trying to gobble up more territory. So we’re looking to them to come to the negotiating table, to engage in a meaningful way, and to bring this war to an end.

QUESTION: You decided to withdraw from Iraq and Afghanistan, and this coincides with the Taliban gaining ground substantially. Is the United States prepared to accept a Taliban government in Afghanistan or a Taliban-dominated government in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Well, with regard to Afghanistan, first, it’s important to remember why we went to Afghanistan in the first place. We were attacked on 9/11. We were determined to bring to justice those who attacked us and to make sure, to the best of the ability, that that couldn’t happen again. And we’ve largely succeeded in accomplishing those objectives. Osama bin Laden was brought to justice 10 years ago, and al-Qaida, in terms of its abilities to attack us or anyone else from Afghanistan, has been vastly diminished. And we will keep a very close eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t reemerge, and if it does we will do what’s necessary to prevent it from attacking us or from attacking anyone else.

We were there for 20 years, a trillion dollars. More than 4,500 Americans lost their lives. And it is time for Afghanistan to shape its own future. Having said that, even as we’re withdrawing our military forces, we remain very much engaged in Afghanistan with a strong embassy, with support for Afghanistan’s economy, humanitarian support, development support, support for security forces, as well as very active diplomatic engagement to try to bring an end to the conflict at the negotiating table with the Taliban and with the Afghan Government. There is no military solution to the conflict.

Now, if an Afghanistan emerges that does not respect the basic rights of its people, that abuses the rights of women and girls, that does not respect the basic gains of the last 20 years, that Afghanistan will be a pariah in the international community.

QUESTION: Final question is about Iran. What are you offering Iran? When you say the ball is in Iran’s court, what do you mean by that? I know you’re – we’re running out of time, so you’re going to have to be brief.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: So very quickly, we’ve engaged in multiple rounds of negotiations, indirect with Iran in Vienna, along with the Europeans, Russia, and China, to see if we can both come back into compliance with the nuclear agreement. And we have made very good faith efforts to do that. We’ve made clear everything that we’re prepared to do. Unfortunately, Iran has not yet made the basic decision about whether it is willing to do what’s necessary to come back into compliance with that agreement. So that’s what I mean when I say the ball is in Iran’s court. They’ve not yet made that decision.

We hope that they do make the decision. We are prepared to go back to Vienna at any time to focus on diplomacy and to return to compliance with the agreement. But there – this is not – this can’t be an indefinite process. At some point, if Iran continues to make the advances it’s made on its nuclear program, as it’s lifted the constraints imposed by the nuclear agreement, it will get to a point where we can’t deal with that simply by coming back into compliance with the nuclear agreement.

Meanwhile, I might add, we’re seeing significant protests in Iran that began in areas distant from Tehran, but now we’re seeing in Tehran, because people in the first instance are demanding that the government provide for its basic needs, including water, and we’ve seen tremendous mismanagement that has not addressed the needs of the Iranian people. And we’re also seeing them look to their broader aspirations for freedom, and we stand very much with the people who are trying to make their voices heard and call on the Iranian Government to respect the right to peaceful protest and not to repress it.

QUESTION: Secretary Antony Blinken, thank you very much for talking to Al Jazeera.

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you.

QUESTION: (In Arabic.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Good to be with you.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Tunisia’s crisis tests Biden’s democracy agenda .. By Ishaan Tharoor

Tunisia’s crisis tests Biden’s democracy agenda .. By Ishaan Tharoor

You’re reading an excerpt from the Today’s WorldView newsletter. Sign up to get the rest, including news from around the globe, interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday.

Since he took office, President Biden has repeatedly signaled that his administration would stand up for democracy and human rights. He cast the United States as a warrior in the global trenches, battling against the advance of authoritarian powers such as China and Russia. He insisted his administration would prioritize human rights after four years of transactional opportunism from his predecessor.

Almost immediately, though, there were reasons to be skeptical about Biden’s stated “values” agenda, especially when it comes to U.S. policy in the Middle East. The new administration could muster only a slap on the wrist for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia, who Biden had vowed on the campaign trail to make into a “pariah” for his alleged role in the assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Human rights advocates were also irked by the administration’s role in preserving support for Egypt’s dictatorship and Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian territories, as well as its inability to swiftly draw down the war in Yemen.

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Now, there’s the crisis in Tunisia, where President Kais Saied invoked emergency protocols to sack the prime minister and suspend parliament. He also imposed a month-long curfew. Saied’s supporters welcomed his intervention amid mounting public frustrations over the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Many critics, though, see the move as the biggest test yet for Tunisia’s democratic institutions and fear Saied could be presiding over a coup akin to Abdel Fatah al-Sissi’s military takeover in Egypt in 2013.

It’s a well-worn cliche that Tunisia is the only democratic success story of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings. Its fledgling democracy persevered even as a ruthless counterrevolution took hold in Egypt, civil war hollowed out Syria, and Libya and Yemen both collapsed into a morass of warlordism. But the cliche obscures the constant struggle to build and maintain that democratic rule. In the past decade, Tunisia has endured waves of political turmoil, yet its factions overcame them through dialogue, compromise and fresh elections.

Saied’s gambit may bring that process to a shuddering halt. A retired law professor, Saied says he is acting constitutionally, though analysts pointed to an apparent overinterpretation of the article that justifies the emergency measures and the country has yet to form a constitutional court to adjudicate over such decisions. In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — home to governments that constitute a kind of anti-Arab Spring axis — commentators and social media users celebrated what they called the downfall of Ennahda, the moderate Islamist party that held sway in the now-suspended parliament and that opponents accuse of having ties to the Muslim Brotherhood.

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In Tunisia, Saied’s supporters cheered a shaking up of the status quo, no matter its political risks. “Those celebrating in the streets are less worried about a concentration of power than they are about a government that has seemingly abandoned its people,” wrote Fadil Aliriza, a nonresident scholar at the Middle East Institute. “This is evident in the current health crisis, the continuing economic crisis, and the long-festering crises” in various sectors, from education to transportation.

Ennahda officials have decried Saied’s move as a coup and urged supporters to take to the streets. The specter of police crackdowns loom; authorities also raided the news office of Al Jazeera. “It’s ominous for human rights when a president claims constitutional backing for seizing enormous powers and the next thing you know police start going after journalists,” Eric Goldstein, acting Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement. “Whatever the government’s record in responding to the Covid-19 crisis, concentrating powers that could be used against basic rights should always set off alarm bells.”

The question now is what the rest of the world will do. The Biden administration released only anodyne statements of concern and said it had not yet determined whether the events in Tunisia constituted a coup. Experts fear a repeat of the Obama administration’s failure to arrest Sissi’s dismantling of Egyptian democracy, which was backed by Persian Gulf monarchies eager to snuff out political Islam. “If the world’s democracies do not come out strongly against the coup attempt, it leaves an opportunity for counterrevolutionary powers like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to influence the crisis in support of Saied, much like they did for … Sissi,” wrote Sharan Grewal of the Brookings Institution. “With Tunisia’s economy in the doldrums, foreign support — and aid — may well shape the outcome of this crisis, for good or for ill.”

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American lawmakers argue that the United States it has the capacity to exert pressure on Saied and ensure the interruption of the country’s democratic order does not last beyond a month. The United States has committed over $1 billion in aid to Tunisia since pro-democracy protests toppled the country’s long-ruling dictatorship in 2011. On Tuesday, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced legislation that would tether U.S. security assistance to whether a government is upholding human rights, humanitarian law and democracy.

“I think Tunisia is a perfect example of the importance of this bill,” she told Today’s WorldView, adding that her proposed act — which has limited hopes for passage — “would make clear that if Tunisian leadership did not comply with international law, then that funding would be suspended.”

Lawmakers across the political spectrum, including Sen. Lindsay O. Graham (R-S.C.), have urged the Biden administration to do more to buttress Tunisia’s faltering democracy. But Omar and other influential voices on the left want the aspirational rhetoric of the Biden administration around human rights to come with a fuller and sharper set of teeth, according universal rather than ad hoc standards.

For example, Omar’s Stop Arming Human Rights Abusers Act would establish an independent, bipartisan commission that would make recommendations about whether to list or delist a country based on its human rights record. “We can’t force the State Department or the White House to say that a coup is a coup, or a genocide is a genocide, or a war crime is a war crime,” Omar said. “There will always be politics involved. But we can add a lever of pressure that comes from an independent body of experts looking at the facts and saying, ‘This should trigger a suspension of aid, according to the law.’”

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Skeptics of such an approach may argue that it would compromise U.S. strategic interests in places such as the Middle East in favor of an agenda that may just push away certain governments toward U.S. rivals. Omar rebuffed such thinking. Tying U.S. security aid to human rights “doesn’t mean we don’t continue to cooperate with our partners in the region,” she said, “but by putting in place clear red lines for human rights abuses, the [United States] would leave no doubt as to what activities will trigger U.S. accountability.”

Saied has given himself a month to steer his country back toward democratic order. Civil society groups are calling for the president to announce a clear timeline to relinquish his extraordinary powers. It’s unclear, for now, to what extent Biden is willing to hold him to account.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Biden Acquits Moscow From Late Cyber Attacks

Biden Acquits Moscow From Late Cyber Attacks

US President Joe Biden said, “we’re not certain” who is behind the attack. “The initial thinking was it was not the Russian government, but we’re not sure yet.”

US President Joe Biden said on Saturday that “we’re not certain” who is behind the attack. “The initial thinking was it was not the Russian government but we’re not sure yet,” he said.

The US President also confirmed that he directed US intelligence agencies to search for the party responsible for a complex cyber-attack with ransomware programs that infected hundreds of American companies, and prompted the suspicion of the involvement of Russian cyber groups.

Biden pointed out that the identity of the party responsible for the attack was not identified, adding that he had instructed US intelligence agencies to investigate the matter.

He revealed that he had directed U.S. intelligence agencies to investigate, and the United States will respond if they determine Russia is to blame.

This came in response to a question about the attack, during his visit to Michigan to promote the vaccination program.

Director of the electronic virus research department at Kaspersky Lab, Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky, said that companies in Ukraine, Turkey, and Germany, were attacked by the encrypted Ransomware virus, but Russia had the highest numbers.

The Kyiv Metro Network and the Odesa International Airport administration in Ukraine had announced being exposed to cyber-attacks.

On the other hand, the Russian Interfax agency and the Fontanka electronic bulletin in St.Petersburg also said they were cyber-attacked.

SolarWinds, the Colonial Pipeline, which transports fuel in the southeastern United States, and even the JBS meat production company are American companies that were recently targeted by the Ransomware virus, which has slowed or even stopped their production.

It is noteworthy that the Geneva summit, between US Presidents Joe Biden and Russian Vladimir Putin on June 16, came to overcome the “major challenges” between the two parties, especially after the tension in the atmosphere recently.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Russian Response to US “Sea Breeze” Maneuvers

Russian Response to US “Sea Breeze” Maneuvers

Following the US exercise “Sea Breeze” with more than 30 countries in the world, the Russian Black Sea Fleet and aviation of the Southern Military District (YUFO) are conducting exercises in the Black Sea in response to the US joint maneuvers.

The aviation of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, along with the aviation of the Southern Military District (YUFO), conducted combat training flights over the Black Sea.

The flights come in light of the annual Sea Breeze exercise that the United States conducts with more than 30 countries around the world.

The Information Support Department of the Black Sea Fleet stated that “Sea Breeze” maneuvers began last Monday in the northwestern part of the Black Sea, and will continue until July 10.

The Russian Defense Ministry indicated that “the Black Sea Fleet forces are implementing a set of measures to control the movements of ships participating in the exercises.”

The statement added that “more than ten aircraft of the Black Sea Fleet and the Southern Military District (UFO), conducted training flights over the Black Sea, with training missions that include missile and bomb strikes against the ships of the imaginary enemy.”

The statement indicated that “Su-30SM multipurpose fighters and Su-24M front-line bombers were used by the naval aviation of the Black Sea Fleet, and Su-34 and Su-27 bombers from the squadron were used in the YUFO area. Prior to that, the amphibious aircraft (B-2) crew from naval aviation conducted a reconnaissance of conditional targets in the Black Sea.”

5,000 soldiers, 40 aircraft, and 32 ships from 32 countries, including Ukraine, the United States, and NATO members, are expected to participate in the “Sea Breeze” exercises.

Ukraine and NATO have launched Sea Breeze exercises in the Black Sea, which will involve dozens of warships, following an incident with a British destroyer off the Crimean peninsula.

The “Sea Breeze” official account published the maneuvers on Twitter, quoting the tweet of one of the journalists accompanying the US destroyer “USS Rose”.

Perspectives 0 comments on Uncertainties after the first Biden-Poutin summit: What progress in cybersecurity? .. By Kamal Ben Younes

Uncertainties after the first Biden-Poutin summit: What progress in cybersecurity? .. By Kamal Ben Younes

The first Joe Biden – Vladimir Poutine summit was organized in Geneva on June 16, in a context of tensions between the major world capitals, in particular because of the problems of cyber security and the gap between the countries in the field of the mastery of the new technologies, internet and telecommunication.

The war launched under former US President Donald Trump against the G5 Chinoix and US rivals whose high tech field could continue and worsen.
Conflicts of interest in the areas of cyber security risk becoming more complicated with the confirmation of new military, security and economic imbalances, linked to the gap in the field of digitization and the mastery of new sciences and scientific research.
The conclusions of the Biden – Putin summit were deemed “historic” and are reminiscent of the famous Ronald Reagan – Michael Gorbachev summit in 1985 in Geneva itself.
The Russian side had succeeded in highlighting again certain “red lines” of its international policy, including a call for a return to “multilateralism” and to limit Washington’s “unilateral” policies, including in Central Asia and in the sector. of high technology.
Beijing – Moscow merger

For years, Russia, China and emerging powers have not only developed multilateral cooperation, but have also struggled against the American presence in Central Asia and its breakthrough in Africa.

But China, which is making rapid technological and economic progress, is now also a threat to the interests of Russia and other competitors of the USA, especially in Central Asia.

It is condemned to open up new avenues of consultation on its new technology programs with Europe, NATO and especially the USA.

Indeed, the last leader of the USSR, Mikhail Gorbachev, in his analysis of the Biden-Putin summit, asserted that this summit is as important as the meeting of 1985 in terms of results. At least six months are needed, Biden said, to assess the effectiveness of the meeting’s resolutions. But observers are especially interested in cyber security issues, the G5, the manipulation of the internet and globalization in media and electoral issues, with regard to the so-called “manipulation” of dozens of American voters. by Russian social networks ”. (?)

For the moment, there is only one confirmed reality: the 2 military superpowers which have left have realized that “there will be no winner in the potential nuclear war nor in an open war between the ” hackers ” .

Tensions?

At the same time, it should be noted that the summit of the leaders of the two nuclear superpowers “coincides” with the increase in criticism and media wars launched by certain NATO countries against Beijing and Moscow and their allies including Iran, in particular after technological development and digital security in China and Russia.

European and American leaders had even officially supported the public alert launched by the Finnish intelligence chief on “the risks of Chinese and Russian high-tech networks” on the entire European and world economy.

He warned of the risks of disrupting transport, internet and communication networks with the notorious Chinese G5.

Campaign against “giant monopolies”

At the same time, elected American officials are targeting the monopolies of the giants of advanced technology.
Five bills were drafted by members of the American Congress, all members of this “antitrust” sub-committee, which in 2020 completed a 16-month investigation into GAFA (Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon) and developed a report advocating splits within GAFA.

These monopolies are accused in the United States even accused “of abuse of a dominant position. “

“Currently, unregulated technology monopolies have too much power over the economy,” wrote Democrat David Cicillin, chairman of an anti-monopoly committee in the House of Representatives.

“They are in a unique position to pick winners and losers, destroy small businesses, raise prices for consumers and put people out of work. “

His Republican colleague Ken Buck had estimated that the bills presented “break the monopoly power of Big Tech over what Americans can see and say on the internet, promote an online market that encourages innovation and gives a level playing field in US small businesses ”.

“Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google have prioritized power over innovation and in so doing have hurt American businesses and consumers,” he said.

Concretely, one of these texts prohibits the acquisition of small groups threatening the “dominant platforms” with the sole aim of making them disappear. Another “prohibits groups like Amazon from manipulating their online market to promote their own products”.

Yes, but

On June 16 in Geneva, in response to a CNN reporter, Vladimir Putin denied any Russian involvement in the cyber attacks targeting the United States and any interference in the American elections.

On the contrary, he considers that the cyber attacks in the world come first from the United States itself, then from Canada, Latin America and the United Kingdom.

Putin concludes that his country is also threatened by cyber attacks and that following his first summit with his American counterpart, the White House and the Kremlin “will work together to ensure cybersecurity.”

Young people and children of the world have the right to breathe without fear of the scenarios of new nuclear, digital, electronic or biological wars.

The construction of the new equitable world order should be based on a reduction of the “digital divide” between the countries of North and South, East and West.

We should end the unilateralism that has reigned since the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1988.

The world after Donald Trump and after Covid 19 really needs a new international multipolar policy.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on They Relied on Chinese Vaccines. Now They’re Battling Outbreaks .. By Sui-Lee Wee

They Relied on Chinese Vaccines. Now They’re Battling Outbreaks .. By Sui-Lee Wee

More than 90 countries are using Covid shots from China. Experts say recent infections in those places should serve as a cautionary tale in the global effort to fight the disease.

Mongolia promised its people a “Covid-free summer.” Bahrain said there would be a “return to normal life.” The tiny island nation of the Seychelles aimed to jump-start its economy.

All three put their faith, at least in part, in easily accessible Chinese-made vaccines, which would allow them to roll out ambitious inoculation programs when much of the world was going without.

But instead of freedom from the coronavirus, all three countries are now battling a surge in infections.

China kicked off its vaccine diplomacy campaign last year by pledging to provide a shot that would be safe and effective at preventing severe cases of Covid-19. Less certain at the time was how successful it and other vaccines would be at curbing transmission.

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Now, examples from several countries suggest that the Chinese vaccines may not be very effective at preventing the spread of the virus, particularly the new variants. The experiences of those countries lay bare a harsh reality facing a postpandemic world: The degree of recovery may depend on which vaccines governments give to their people.

In the Seychelles, Chile, Bahrain and Mongolia, 50 to 68 percent of the populations have been fully inoculated, outpacing the United States, according to Our World in Data, a data tracking project. All four ranked among the top 10 countries with the worst Covid outbreaks as recently as last week, according to data from The New York Times. And all four are mostly using shots made by two Chinese vaccine makers, Sinopharm and Sinovac Biotech.

“If the vaccines are sufficiently good, we should not see this pattern,” said Jin Dongyan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong. “The Chinese have a responsibility to remedy this.”

Image A vaccination on Chiloé Island, Chile. In Chile, the Seychelles, Bahrain and Mongolia, 50 to 68 percent of the populations have been fully vaccinated.
Credit…Alvaro Vidal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Scientists don’t know for certain why some countries with relatively high inoculation rates are suffering new outbreaks. Variants, social controls that are eased too quickly and careless behavior after only the first of a two-shot regimen are possibilities. But the breakthrough infections could have lasting consequences.

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In the United States, about 45 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, mostly with doses made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna. Cases have dropped 94 percent over six months.

YOUR CORONAVIRUS TRACKER: We’ll send you the latest data for places you care about each day.

Israel provided shots from Pfizer and has the second-highest vaccination rate in the world, after the Seychelles. The number of new daily confirmed Covid-19 cases per million in Israel is now around 4.95.

In the Seychelles, which relied mostly on Sinopharm, that number is more than 716 cases per million.

Disparities such as these could create a world in which three types of countries emerge from the pandemic — the wealthy nations that used their resources to secure Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots, the poorer countries that are far away from immunizing a majority of citizens, and then those that are fully inoculated but only partly protected.

China, as well as the more than 90 nations that have received the Chinese shots, may end up in the third group, contending with rolling lockdowns, testing and limits on day-to-day life for months or years to come. Economies could remain held back. And as more citizens question the efficacy of Chinese doses, persuading unvaccinated people to line up for shots may also become more difficult.

One month after receiving his second dose of Sinopharm, Otgonjargal Baatar fell ill and tested positive for Covid-19. Mr. Otgonjargal, a 31-year-old miner, spent nine days in a hospital in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. He said he was now questioning the usefulness of the shot.

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“People were convinced that if we were vaccinated, the summer will be free of Covid,” he said. “Now it turns out that it’s not true.”

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Xi Jinping, China’s leader, pledged to deliver a Chinese vaccine that could be easily stored and transported to millions of people around the world. He called it a “global public good.”
Credit…Andrea Verdelli/Getty Images

Beijing saw its vaccine diplomacy as an opportunity to emerge from the pandemic as a more influential global power. China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, pledged to deliver a Chinese shot that could be easily stored and transported to millions of people around the world. He called it a “global public good.”

Mongolia was a beneficiary, jumping at the chance to score millions of Sinopharm shots. The small country quickly rolled out an inoculation program and eased restrictions. It has now vaccinated 52 percent of its population. But on Sunday, it recorded 2,400 new infections, a quadrupling from a month before.

In a statement, China’s Foreign Ministry said it did not see a link between the recent outbreaks and its vaccines. It cited the World Health Organization as saying that vaccination rates in certain countries had not reached sufficient levels to prevent outbreaks, and that countries needed to continue to maintain controls.

“Relevant reports and data also show that many countries that use Chinese-made vaccines have expressed that they are safe and reliable, and have played a good role in their epidemic prevention efforts,” the ministry said. China has also emphasized that its vaccines target severe disease rather than transmission.

No vaccine fully prevents transmission, and people can still fall ill after being inoculated, but the relatively low efficacy rates of Chinese shots have been identified as a possible cause of the recent outbreaks.

The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have efficacy rates of more than 90 percent. A variety of other vaccines — including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson — have efficacy rates of around 70 percent. The Sinopharm vaccine developed with the Beijing Institute of Biological Products has an efficacy rate of 78.1 percent; the Sinovac vaccine has an efficacy rate of 51 percent.

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The Chinese companies have not released much clinical data to show how their vaccines work at preventing transmission. On Monday, Shao Yiming, an epidemiologist with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said China needed to fully vaccinate 80 to 85 percent of its population to achieve herd immunity, revising a previous official estimate of 70 percent.

Data on breakthrough infections has not been made available, either, though a Sinovac study out of Chile showed that the vaccine was less effective than those from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna at preventing infection among vaccinated individuals.

A representative from Sinopharm hung up the phone when reached for comment. Sinovac did not respond to a request for comment.

William Schaffner, medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University, said the efficacy rates of Chinese shots could be low enough “to sustain some transmission, as well as create illness of a substantial amount in the highly vaccinated population, even though it keeps people largely out of the hospital.”

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Mongolia now ranks among the top countries that have fully vaccinated its population, inoculating about 52 percent of its people. But on Sunday, it recorded 2,400 new infections, quadrupling from a month before.
Credit…Khasar Sandag for The New York Times

Despite the spike in cases, officials in both the Seychelles and Mongolia have defended Sinopharm, saying it is effective in preventing severe cases of the disease.

Batbayar Ochirbat, head researcher of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies at Mongolia’s Ministry of Health, said Mongolia had made the right decision to go with the Chinese-made shot, in part because it had helped keep the mortality rate low in the country. Data from Mongolia showed that the Sinopharm vaccine was actually more protective than the doses developed by AstraZeneca and Sputnik, a Russian vaccine, according to the Health Ministry.

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The reason for the surge in Mongolia, Mr. Batbayar said, is that the country reopened too quickly, and many people believed they were protected after only one dose.

“I think you could say Mongolians celebrated too early,” he said. “My advice is the celebrations should start after the full vaccinations, so this is the lesson learned. There was too much confidence.”

Some health officials and scientists are less confident.

Nikolai Petrovsky, a professor at the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University in Australia, said that with all of the evidence, it would be reasonable to assume the Sinopharm vaccine had minimal effect on curbing transmission. A major risk with the Chinese inoculation is that vaccinated people may have few or no symptoms and still spread the virus to others, he said.

“I think that this complexity has been lost on most decision makers around the world.”

In Indonesia, where a new variant is spreading, more than 350 doctors and health care workers recently came down with Covid-19 despite being fully vaccinated with Sinovac, according to the risk mitigation team of the Indonesian Medical Association. Across the country, 61 doctors died between February and June 7. Ten of them had taken the Chinese-made vaccine, the association said.

The numbers were enough to make Kenneth Mak, Singapore’s director of medical services, question the use of Sinovac. “It’s not a problem associated with Pfizer,” Mr. Mak said at a news conference on Friday. “This is actually a problem associated with the Sinovac vaccine.”

Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates were the first two countries to approve the Sinopharm shot, even before late-stage clinical trial data was released. Since then, there have been extensive reports of vaccinated people falling ill in both countries. In a statement, the Bahraini government’s media office said the kingdom’s vaccine rollout had been “efficient and successful to date.”

Still, last month officials from Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates announced that they would offer a third booster shot. The choices: Pfizer or more Sinopharm.

Reporting was contributed by Khaliun Bayartsogt, Andrea Kannapell, Ben Hubbard, Asmaa al-Omar and Muktita Suhartono. Elsie Chen and Claire Fu contributed research.

Perspectives 0 comments on Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi consolidates hard-line grip as reformers pushed aside .. By  Kareem Fahim

Iran’s new president Ebrahim Raisi consolidates hard-line grip as reformers pushed aside .. By  Kareem Fahim

Iran’s announcement Saturday of a resounding election victory by Ebrahim Raisi, the ultraconservative judiciary chief, signaled a stunning consolidation of power, handing the elected leadership back to hard-liners and sidelining reformists who negotiated a nuclear deal with global powers and advocated greater engagement with the West.

The victory by Raisi also showed the determination of Iran’s conservative establishment, including its security and intelligence agencies, to eliminate any political challenge at a critical moment, analysts said.

Among the potential landmark moments ahead: reckoning with who would succeed the 82-year-old supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is seen as a mentor to Raisi.

Some experts speculated about whether the return to unity at the top — Khamenei’s ruling clerics and the political structure around Raisi — could become a permanent fixture in Iran and the country’s relatively vibrant election contests could be a thing of the past. For Friday’s election, most moderates were barred by the ruling establishment, leaving many voters frustrated and turnout apparently low.

Raisi’s win, however, was not expected to derail negotiations currently underway in Vienna between Tehran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal. Khamenei has allowed Iran to reopen the dialogue and appears ready to keep it going in efforts to lift international sanctions.

But the longer-term impact on Iran’s relationships with Europe and the United States was far less clear.

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Raisi, 60, a fixture of Iran’s hard-line establishment since his 20s, is viewed as an acolyte of the supreme leader and has been floated in the past as a possible successor. Human rights groups have linked him to numerous episodes of repression over decades and said he played a central role in mass killings of dissidents in the late 1980s.

Raisi, who unsuccessfully ran for president in 2017, has cast himself as an anti-corruption crusader, while critics have accused him of using corruption as a fig leaf to eliminate rivals.

“At this stage, when the supreme leader is very likely to pass away, Raisi represents a man who the entire security establishment trusts,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran. “He has been on the side of the security and intelligence agencies — that use the judiciary for repression — his entire life.”

In a statement Saturday, Raisi called the election that brought him to power “a great epic of the rising nation that opened a new page of contemporary history,” according to state-run IRNA news agency.

He will replace President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate whose government signed the 2015 nuclear accord with the United States and other world powers. Later, Rouhani was left facing the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure campaign” aimed at crippling Iran’s economy using sanctions and other measures. Trump withdrew the United States from the nuclear accord in 2018.

Raisi has expressed a willingness to revive the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, in line with Khamenei’s wishes. But his presidency seemed certain to mark a radical departure from the Rouhani era, with little prospect of liberalizing domestic reforms or any broadening of Tehran’s relationship with the West, analysts said.

Polls in the days leading up to the election predicted low turnout amid voter fatigue and calls to boycott the election after accusations that the contest was rigged to favor hard-line candidates. The balloting was held as Iran struggles to bring its coronavirus cases under control after experiencing one of the world’s worst outbreaks early in the pandemic.

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The Interior Ministry said Raisi received nearly 18 million votes out of more than 28 million cast. His nearest rival, Mohsen Rezaei, received about 3 million votes. Fewer than 50 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in the election, a historic low.

The result was no surprise.

Iran’s Guardian Council, which approves candidates seeking office, last month disqualified several prominent politicians who might have challenged Raisi. (Rouhani was term-limited from running again.) Critics called it an unusually brazen effort by the clerical establishment to engineer the election results.

Half of the council’s members are clerics appointed by the supreme leader, and the other half are jurists nominated by the head of the judiciary. Raisi nominated three of the council’s members.

Rouhani, who soundly defeated Raisi in the 2017 presidential election to secure a second term, congratulated the judiciary chief.

“I hope that with your efforts and with more cooperation by all the pillars and forces of the country, in these critical times, we will see effective actions for the progress and development of the country,” he said in a statement.

In the run-up to the election, Iran’s reformists vigorously debated whether to vote or boycott it, given the widespread perception that the contest was fixed in Raisi’s favor. As the balloting got underway, some fervent boycotters harassed Iranians who decided to vote, by posting their pictures online.

There were also ugly scenes at some overseas polling stations. A video shared on social media showed a small crowd in Birmingham, England, attacking at least one female voter with fists and flagpoles at one of 11 polling stations in Britain.

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Others allowed to compete in the election included Rezaei, a former Revolutionary Guard Corps commander who had previously run for president; Saeed Jalili, a hard-liner and a former nuclear negotiator; Abdolnaser Hemmati, the centrist governor of Iran’s central bank; and Mohsen Mehralizadeh, a reformist politician and former governor of Isfahan province.

In a short campaign season, the candidates tried to energize an electorate frustrated by the dismal state of Iran’s economy, government mismanagement, widening repression and the layers of sanctions imposed by Trump. Raisi, for his part, remained vague about his plans to repair the country and generally sought to avoid controversy.

During debates and other appearances, Raisi “was very cautious not to use the radical rhetoric that his hard-line supporters are using,” while also trying to convince swing voters that hard-liners would not necessarily be part of his administration, said Ali Reza Eshraghi, a visiting scholar at the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies at the University of North Carolina.

Raisi’s reticence to lay out specific plans, along with his lack of charisma, left many Iranians with more questions than answers about the incoming president. “Beyond speculation, no one knows what he is going to do,” Eshraghi said.

Two days before the election, Hemmati, the former central bank governor, pleaded with potential voters in an online discussion not to boycott the election, saying it would cede political ground to Iran’s hard-liners. “Why should we surrender all the power in our country to one camp?” he said.

Early Saturday, in an Instagram post, he congratulated Raisi. “The decent and proud people of Iran righteously expect a life full of hope, peace and welfare. I hope your government will bring about honor together with better welfare and peace for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

Anahita, a 45-year old travel agent from the northern city of Tabriz who lost her job during the pandemic, said she argued with friends over whether to vote in the election. She decided not to, while her friends went to the polls and voted for Hemmati.

Interviews, News, Perspectives 0 comments on No Breakthrough in Biden-Erdogan meeting

No Breakthrough in Biden-Erdogan meeting

Neither US President nor Turkish counterpart provide any details on how exactly they will mend the relationship or lay out steps that will help ease tensions between the NATO allies.

US President Joe Biden and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan sounded upbeat after their first face-to-face talks on Monday, although they did not announce major breakthroughs in the relationship between the two allies, at odds over Russian weapons, Syria, Libya and other issues.

“We had a positive and productive meeting, much of it one-on-one,” Biden told a news conference after their meeting in Brussels.

“Our teams are going to continue our discussions and I’m confident we’ll make real progress with Turkey and the United States,” he added.

Erdogan characterised his talks with Biden on the sidelines of a NATO summit as “productive and sincere.”

“We think that there are no issues between US and Turkey relationship that are unsolvable and that areas of cooperation for us are richer and larger than problems,” he said.

Despite their publicly optimistic tone, neither provided any details on how exactly they would mend the relationship or lay out steps that would help ease tensions between the NATO allies.

Turkey, with NATO’s second-largest military, has angered its allies in the Western military alliance by buying Russian surface-to-air missiles and intervening in wars in Syria and Libya. It is also in a standoff with Greece and Cyprus over territory in the Eastern Mediterranean.

As president, Biden has adopted a cooler tone than predecessor Donald Trump towards Erdogan. Biden quickly recognised the 1915 massacre of Armenians as genocide – a position that angers Turkey – and stepped up criticism of Turkey’s human rights record.

Washington has already removed Ankara from the F-35 fighter jet program and imposed sanctions over Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 surface-to-air missiles.

One area where Erdogan hoped to showcase a central Turkish role in NATO is Afghanistan, where Ankara has offered to guard and operate Kabul airport after US and NATO forces withdraw in coming weeks. NATO head Jens Stoltenberg said Turkey would play a key role but that no decision was made at the Monday summit.

At the start of the main leaders’ session at NATO, Biden spoke to Erdogan at length in a small group before they took their seats.

Later in the day, the two leaders and their top aides sat mostly silently on opposite sides of a conference table, ignoring questions shouted to them by journalists briefly invited into the room.

Erdogan also met French President Emmanuel Macron. Ankara and Paris have been at odds over Syria, Libya and Turkish criticism of the fight against what Macron calls Islamist separatism, among other issues.

“President Erdogan confirmed during our meeting his wish that the foreign mercenaries, the foreign militias, operating on Libyan soil leave as soon as possible,” Macron told a news conference afterwards.

News, Perspectives 0 comments on Biden confuses Libya and Syria three times during remarks at G-7 summit

Biden confuses Libya and Syria three times during remarks at G-7 summit

President Joe Biden confused Libya and Syria three times during a press conference from the G-7 summit.

“There is a lot going on where we can work together with Russia,” Biden said Sunday in response to a question from NBC’s Peter Alexander on how the president plans to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“For example, in Libya, we should be opening up the passes to be able to go through and provide food assistance, an economic, I mean, vital assistance to a population that is in real trouble. I think I’m gonna try very hard — by the way, there’s places where — I should not be starting off by negotiating in public here, but let me say it this way: Russia has engaged in activities which we believe are contrary to international norms,” Biden continued, apparently attempting to allude to Russia’s military presence in Syria.

Biden then appeared to confuse the countries two more times as he continued to make his point.

BIDEN APPEARS TO VIOLATE BRITISH ROYAL PROTOCOL

“They have also bitten off some real problems, and they’re gonna have trouble chewing on them. For example, the rebuilding of Syria, of Libya. They’re there, and as long as they’re there without the ability to bring about some order in the region, and you can’t do that very well without providing for the basic economic needs of people, so I am hopeful that we can find an accommodation where we can save the lives of people in, for example, in Libya consistent with the interests of — maybe for different reasons, but for the same reasons,” Biden said.

Speaking of Putin specifically, Biden cautioned that it would be difficult for him to “change a person’s behavior.”

“There is no guarantee you can change a person’s behavior or the behavior of their country. Autocrats have enormous power, and they do not have to answer to a public,” Biden said. “The fact is that it may very well be if I respond in kind, which I will, that it does not dissuade him. He wants to keep going. But I think we’re gonna be moving in a direction where Russia has its own dilemmas, let us say, in dealing with its economy, dealing with COVID, and dealing with, not only the United States, but Europe writ large and the Middle East.”

Biden’s aides dismissed the apparent gaffe, saying he meant to say Syria instead of Libya.

The gaffe comes as Biden prepares to hold his first meeting with Putin during a summit this week in Geneva, Switzerland. Those close to the president say he has been studying intensely ahead of his meeting with the Russian leader, spending his mornings during the G-7 summit consulting with aides about the talks.

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“He’s overprepared!” boasted first lady Jill Biden of her husband.

Biden’s talks with Putin are set to begin Wednesday.

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