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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Michael's Morning 7 - 28 May

European officials sought Wednesday to pressure the US into accepting Guantanamo Bay detainees on its own territory amid negotiations over rules governing their release overseas, diplomats said. Ambassadors from the 27 European Union nations discussed for the first time what they want to see included in a joint EU-US declaration being drawn up. The Czech EU presidency was scheduled to discuss the text with US officials at a video conference in the evening ahead of EU interior ministers addressing the issue at a meeting in Luxembourg next week. A draft of the EU-US declaration presented by the Czech EU presidency to its fellow member states stresses that "the EU and the US share fundamental values of freedom, democracy, respect for human right and the rule of law. In general, while European nations back the Obama administration's plan to close down Guantanamo few are willing to take in those freed from the camp. Certainly the European Union is offering no overall figure. Six countries have said they are willing to accept former detainees: Britain, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and, recently, Belgium. Obama's plans to shutter the controversial prison camp by January 22, 2010, have faced criticism from both Republicans and his Democratic allies.

The refusal of Kosovo's ethnic Albanian leadership to ensure minority rights is driving out many non-Serb minorities, a new human rights report says. The London-based Minority Rights Group International (MRG) says exclusion from political and social life and discrimination are forcing ethnic Bosniaks, Turks, Roma, Croats, Gorani, Ashkali Egyptians and even some Serbs out of Kosovo. Since declaring independence, ethnic divisions have worsened between the enclave's two million Albanians, 120,000 Serbs, and 80,000 others from smaller ethnic groups, despite the presence of 14,000 NATO peacekeepers and a 2,000-strong European Union mission overseeing a fragile peace. Serbia still regards Kosovo as part of its historic heartland and has asked the International Court of Justice in The Hague to rule on the legality of its secession. Serb President Boris Tadic, ahead of a visit to France on Wednesday, told the French daily Le Figaro that Serbia would "never recognize" the unilateral independence of Kosovo. Kosovo's independence has only been recognized by 60 of the world's 200 countries.

Political ties between NATO and Russia are gradually improving following the break caused by the Russo-Georgian war, but a ministerial meeting is needed to pave the way for military cooperation. Ambassadors from NATO's 28 nations and Russia's envoy to the alliance were determined to hold a meeting of foreign ministers "as soon as logistically possible." The ambassadors met on Wednesday within the framework of the NATO-Russia Council, a panel set up to improve cooperation between the former Cold War foes. A meeting of foreign ministers had been scheduled in April, but tensions soared again over the expulsion of two Russian diplomats for alleged spying and the retaliatory move by Moscow which expelled two NATO officials. Moscow also strongly objected to a NATO military exercise in Georgia, and the planned ministerial talks were called off. Russia has allowed NATO nations to use its road and rail networks to transport military supplies to Afghanistan, after the alliance's main supply chain through Pakistan came under repeated attack by pro-Taliban guerrillas.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband met with officials in Ankara to discuss Turkish accession to the European Union. Miliband met Wednesday with his Turkish counterpart Ahmet Davutoglu as well as Egemen Bagis, the chief negotiator for Turkey's bid to join the EU. Miliband arrived from Turkey after a stopover in Greece to meet with government officials to discuss bilateral cooperation in the foreign policy arena. Miliband on his Web site says Greek foreign policy is frustrated by "a forward position on Turkish accession to the EU, and an important role in Cyprus talks."

Bulgaria intends to send soldiers who will hunt down hijackers in Somalia. Today Bulgaria's Council of Ministers will discuss the proposal Bulgaria to take part in the EU naval mission 'Atlanta'. If the proposal is approved, two servicemen will leave for Somalia to join the EU forces in the Gulf of Aden. The objective of the mission is to stop the hijacking attacks on ships and to protect the humanitarian aid for Somalia's citizens. So far Atlanta naval mission includes Greece, France, Spain and Italy. Three more countries will participate with ships and another three will send in man force.  

South Korea on Wednesday became the 95th member of the Proliferation Security Initiative, an ad hoc alliance of states working to stop shipments of weapons of mass destruction. Following are key facts about the PSI, touted by many experts as a possible tool to rein in North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions and proliferation of missiles and other illicit weapons. HISTORY - Launched by U.S. President George W. Bush on May 31, 2003, based on U.S. National Strategy to Combat Weapons of Mass Destruction issued in December 2002 as part of a U.S. response to threats highlighted by the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001. PROMINENT MEMBERS - Argentina, Australia, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mongolia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United States, Yemen.

When U.S. President Barrack Obama visited Turkey last month, he raised the plight of a small religious school of the Greek Orthodox Church. The Halki seminary was closed by the government in 1971, and despite intense pressure by the church and diplomats the school has remained shut. But pressure is growing on Ankara to reopen the school. The school was closed in 1971, as part of legislation to close independent university institutions. But observers say the closure was as much to do with the then high tensions between Turkey and Greece over the island of Cyprus. Ecumenical Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church, says the school's specialized role of training priests does not fit the country's university structure. "We would like have our school as it was before. It is not a medical school or school for engineers. It is school which is not just to train priests for our community here in Istanbul, but also other Orthodox churches around the world. And I think this is our right, to have our schools like our churches. And everything that is related to this community, which did not came from outside but is part of this land. They were born here. They are Turkish citizens. They serve in the army. They are loyal to society and as a Turkish citizens they have also their own rights."