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George Papandreou: “We Defend Our National Interests”

Friday, 16 April 2010 14:10

papandreou_vouli645Addressing the House on Friday, the Prime Minister touched on national affairs. Georg-e Papandreou underlined that the only dispute with Ankara to be resolved is the continental self. Communist leader Aleka Papariga expressed her concerns over Greece’s national affairs, arguing that after the Imia incidence, NATO ratifies the disputes raised by Turkey.

“Figments of Imagination”

“You are nourishing worries and associate everything in a manner befitting a conspiracy-like reasoning, and of course, these are the stereotypes you usually employ when dealing with national affairsG. Papandreou “Press reports referring to the division of the Aegean at the 25th meridian or to Greece’s commitment to support Kosovo’s independence and the use of FYROM as a US protectorate are nothing by figments of imagination,” Papandreou replied to Aleka Papariga.”If you wish to believe them, you are building your policy upon false information,” added he.

In her question, Aleka Papariga cited press reports on the division of the Aegean. She also cited a document issued by the US chief of the NATO air base in Izmir, whereby the Aegean is a grey zone. She then referred to positions that believe that the talks on the Greek-Turkish disputes include more than the issue of the continental shelf.


Papariga expressed her party’s concern, arguing that the press reports were not all wrong.

“Ever since 1996, our national sovereign rights have been under dispute. The EU does not associate our rights and the Aegean border with Turkey’s EU bid. There is the deal brokered because Simitis and Demirel. We know that Turkey believe that some Greek islands are not covered by the continental shelf and NATO keeps excluding those islands from its drills,” commented Papariga.

“You are trying to cover up the issue by dividing the Aegean, something that will have an adverse effect on the islands’ defence. We do not suggest a war, problems can be resolved. However, the acute rivalry in the area and the fact that NATO recognizes the grey zones that Turkey recognizes make us feel concerned. There are no agreements in the modern worlds that do not lead to new rounds of wars,” noted the Greek Communist leader.

In response, George Papandreou said: “You have adopted a position whereby the Imia isle is officially disputed for petty party expediencies. There is no such a thing. Greece does not recognize that. Imia is a Greek isle. Of course, various issues are referred to the Hague and that’s why we suggest referring to the Hague,” and urged Papariga to cease nourishing phobias and concerns based on false and groundless information.

The Prime Minister also said that his government requested the US chief of the NATO air base in Izmir to recall the document regarding the Aegean which he finally did. He then went on to add that Greece is working on to have Europe pledge to accept the Balkan nations in the EU in 2014.

“With regard to the FYROM name dispute and the Cyprus issue, we have set the red lines and we ought to promote the said issues to all the nations and to our bilateral talks. In every trip and meeting, we promote the above positions and despite the tough financial conditions, we know how to defend our national interests,” stressed George Papandreou.

Source: NET, NET 105.8, ANA/MPA


Investing in Turkey’s poorest children will spur economic growth, report says

Thursday, April 8, 2010
ISTANBUL — Hürriyet Daily News
Children in Şırnak. DHA photo
Children in Şırnak. DHA photo

Turkish children have vastly different odds of success in life and too often their chances are decided by factors they have no control over, such as the wealth or education of their parents, according to a new World Bank report.

Investing in children and in the youth will give them the skills to escape the cycle as opportunities tend to be passed from one generation to the next, the report found. It also means they can contribute more to Turkey’s economic growth and social development, according to the report, entitled Turkey: Expanding Opportunities for the Next Generation.”

“There are important inequities in Turkish society today, and girls are at a particular disadvantage. A girl born in a remote village to a poor family and parents with primary education degrees will very likely struggle in almost every area of her development,” said Jesko Hentschel, lead author of the report. “Compared to a boy born to well-off parents with higher education in an urban center on the West coast, she is four times more likely to suffer from low birth weight; she is one-third as likely to be immunized, and 10 times as likely to have her growth stunted as a result of malnutrition. Similarly she has a one in five chance to complete high school, whereas the boy will likely finish school and move onto university.”

Although there have been projects in Turkey to reach out to and support disadvantaged children, currently only 6 percent of the total public social spending in Turkey reaches children below the age of 6 – about four times more is spent on a middle-aged or elderly person than on a child.

“Turkey has set ambitious targets for early childhood development, including strengthening preschool education and the role that family doctors play in monitoring children’s growth and ensuring that families have access to the resources they need,” said Reza Hossaini, UNICEF representative in Turkey, commenting on the report. “These programs, especially those that boost early childhood development programs for the most vulnerable children, have the potential to make a huge difference in Turkey, improving the lives of children now and those of all Turks in the long run.”

In its assessment of only one program – preschool education – the World Bank report finds a large positive economic and social impact. If today’s adult generation below the age of 40 had all benefited from one year of preschool education when they were 6 years old, family incomes could be up to 8 percent higher, one-10th of these families would not live in poverty as they do today, and many more women – about 9 percent – could be working or looking actively for a job today.

“When you provide opportunities for children from diverse backgrounds, it drives economic growth by allowing them to break the cycle of poverty that families can get trapped in, where children grow up poor and stay poor their entire lives,” said Ulrich Zachau, the World Bank’s Country Director for Turkey. “This makes it an economic as well as a moral imperative to make sure that opportunities are blind to circumstances for Turkish children. Achieving that will help the next generation reach its full potential as it shaped Turkey’s future.”

Iranians find refuge in Turkey

Dissidents flee regime’s crackdown and try to continue their work in the neighboring country


Hesam Misaghi (l) and Sepehr Atefi (r) being interviewed by The Associated Press in Nigde, Turkey, on February 16. The two Iranians are members of the independent Committee of Human Rights Reporters.

By Scheherezade Faramarzi – The Associated Press

NIGDE, Turkey – Light snow was falling when the two young men set out on horseback for the border to flee Iran. By the time they were deep in the mountains, the snow had become a blinding blizzard, the temperature had dropped below freezing, and they were barely alive.

Hesam Misaghi and Sepehr Atefi were joining what has become an exodus of dissidents fleeing Iran’s political turmoil. For them that meant a harrowing journey through the country’s rugged northwest in the dead of winter, with the help of Kurdish smugglers.

At a river crossing, the ice broke beneath them and their horses stumbled in, soaking the two with freezing water. “There was no feeling in my legs and hands,” recalled Misaghi, a tall, wiry 21-year-old. “I felt drunk. I didn’t know where I was. I was laughing from pain.”

Atefi, 20, spotted a van in the distance, grabbed Misaghi’s arm and dragged him toward it through the snow. “There was no life left in me to move forward, but we had to reach the highway,” Atefi said.

The men, both Iranian human rights reporters, reached the van, begged a ride and made it to safety in Turkey.

At least 4,200 Iranians have fled their homeland since disputed presidential elections in June, according to a list compiled by activist Aida Saadat, who herself slipped across the border into Turkey in December. These refugees have scattered to the United States, Europe and the United Arab Emirates and other Persian Gulf nations.

Most of all, they have come to Turkey – around 1,150 of them, according to the UN refugee agency – taking advantage of the porous border and Turkey’s policy of not requiring visas. Most of the new arrivals fled for political reasons, including those who took part in opposition protests after the vote. They bring the number of Iranians in Turkey to 4,440 as of February – including “undesirables” in the eyes of the clerical regime, such as homosexuals or members of the Baha’i religion.

The danger these Iranians face back home is clear. A month after Atefi and Misaghi’s January escape, police raided their homes in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. Among the charges against them: “moharebeh,” or “waging war against God,” a crime punishable by death.

Police arrested their friend and colleague, Navid Khanjani, who was supposed to have fled with them but changed his mind at the last minute. With Khanjani’s arrest, eight people in the independent Committee of Human Rights Reporters have been jailed, and three remain in prison and could face execution.

In Turkey, the refugees are safer, but they live in limbo.

Almost all brought little money and cannot work because of Turkish restrictions, so they cram into small, coal-heated apartments with minimal furniture.

Hope in UNHCR

Many Iranian refugees hope the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees will arrange resettlement for them in the United States or Europe. The wait for that could take years, as the refugee agency also is dealing with thousands of Iraqis who have fled to Turkey here from their own war-torn homeland in recent years.

Many of the Iranians have been put in the central town of Kayseri and nearby towns such as Nigde. Like other refugees in Turkey, they are required to live in particular towns designated by the Interior Ministry, must regularly report to police to confirm their locations, and must get permission from authorities to move to other cities.

In addition to rent and other expenses, each adult is required to pay the Turkish government about $200, along with $100 for each child, every six months to stay in the country. The interior minister signed an order in March to lift the permit fees, but the order has not yet been enforced.

In the meantime, they watch events back home, where hundreds have been arrested, and two have been executed out of 11 sentenced to death for taking part in opposition protests. From exile, some try to continue their activism, and some try to recover from their trauma.

Political activist Mahdis, 35, who once worked for a dissident cleric in the holy city of Qom, said she fled Iran more than a year ago after having been repeatedly raped in jail. Mahdis spoke on condition her last name not be used to avoid public embarrassment.

When she arrived in Turkey she was again raped, this time by a fellow Iranian refugee. She said police would not allow her to transfer to Kayseri unless she paid $200, which she did not have.

“I was sobbing, saying, ‘I swear to God’ I don’t have the money,” recalled Mahdis. It took her 40 days to come up with the money, which she borrowed from fellow refugees.

Another refugee, Mehrdad Eshghi, was the official singer for the state-run Iranian TV and Radio, known as Seda va Sima. Then authorities questioned his loyalty because he worked in the election campaign of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s top rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi.

After he refused to perform for Ahmadinejad’s campaign, security forces began harassing him. He was detained and threatened with worse consequences.

“I was surprised by the way they treated me,” said Eshghi, 40. “I was one of them. When I had the mike in my hand doing live programs, it meant they trusted me with their lives,” he said in his apartment in Kayseri.

After security men began staking out his home around the clock, Eshghi went into hiding. He took a bus to Turkey six months ago, and his wife and daughter joined him a couple of months later.

Eshghi, a singer, calligrapher, painter and composer, mourns his former life in his homeland. “I was at my best in Iran,” he said. “Here, I’m just an ordinary person.” Like others, he said his attempts to keep up political activism from exile are prevented by Turkish authorities.

Eshghi said authorities refused to allow him to put on an exhibition of his paintings or a concert for Iranian refugees. “They tell me no one must know of my whereabouts because it poses danger to my life.”

Kayseri’s police chief said any restrictions on Iranians are for their own protection. “They are free here,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of police regulations. “But for their own personal safety, they cannot be interviewed by reporters.”

Russia Will Own Majority of Turkish Nuclear Plant, Zaman Says

By Steve Bryant

March 5 (Bloomberg) — Russia is likely to own at least 51 percent of the shares in the company building Turkey’s first nuclear power plant, Zaman newspaper reported, without saying how it got the information.

The two countries aim to finish an agreement on the plans by a visit to Turkey by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in May, the newspaper reported from Ankara.

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Last Updated: March 5, 2010 01:45 EST