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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

H.Res.252,Can it happen?;Israel-Cyprus pact;Greece-Serbia link;EULEX,organ evidence;PACE talks;START;Arab Christians,Canada

Turkey's foreign minister says that the country's prime minister urged U.S. President Barack Obama to stop a resolution in the U.S. Congress that would classify as genocide the mass killings of Armenians during World War I. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the Turkish parliament today that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote Obama a letter warning that if the resolution was passed -- it is up for debate in the House as early as December 21 -- it would harm U.S.-Turkish relations. Armenia estimates that 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1917 and says the deaths amount to genocide. Turkey denies this. To read more about the Armenian Genocide, please visit the Armenian National Institute by clicking here.

Turkish authorities yesterday warned that a bilateral economic deal between Cyprus and Israel aimed at mutual prospecting for oil in the eastern Mediterranean could strain ongoing United Nations-mediated talks aimed at reunifying the divided island. According to Turkey’s semiofficial Anatolia news agency, the Turkish Foreign Ministry’s undersecretary, Feridun Sinirlioglu, warned Gaby Levy, Israel’s ambassador to Turkey, that the deal would have a negative impact. Sinirlioglu argued that “such unilateral moves [on behalf of the Greek Cypriots] that ignore the will of the Turkish-Cypriot side will harm ongoing settlement talks on the island.” Meanwhile, diplomatic sources told Kathimerini that Ankara aims to pressure Israel into breaking its pact with Cyprus. The sources said Ankara may use its ties with Lebanon and militant Shiite movement Hezbollah as a way of exerting pressure on Israel. Nicosia has made similar deals with Lebanon and Egypt, which Turkey also has urged the Arab nations to break. Israel yesterday defended its decision. “This agreement is an issue between Israel and Cyprus and it in no way affects a third country,” Israel’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. “We do not see how a third country would have anything to say about it,” he added. Another unidentified Israeli official accused Turkey of “monstrous chutzpah” for using “as an argument its occupation of the northern part of Cyprus to denounce the deal.” The agreement defines the sea border between Cyprus and Israel and delineates an exclusive economic zone between the two countries, allowing them to prospect for oil together. Already the discovery of a huge gas deposit off the Israeli port of Haifa, and close to Cyprus, has fueled great interest in the region’s potential.

Greek conference dubbed “Greek businessmen in Serbia: strong link in Greek-Serbian bilateral relations” held in Belgrade last week under the aegis of the Greek Embassy. Greek Ambassador to Belgrade Dimosthenis Stoidis opened the conference in the Serbian Chamber of Commerce (PKS).Mihailo Vesovic vice president of PKS and Vesna Arsic, State Secretary for International Economic Relations in the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, have, also, addressed the participants.Moderator of the meeting was the minister plenipotentiary for Economic and Commercial Affairs in the Greek Embassy Stylianos Liagis. Greek Ambassador to Serbia Demosthenis Stoidis said that his country's investments in Serbia have reached about EUR 1.5 million so far, pointing out the importance of the positive Serbian-Greek economic relations. He also said that more than 200 Greek companies are operating in Serbia and that they had mainly invested in banking, energy supply, telecommunications, food industry and construction. State Secretary of Economy and Regional Development Vesna Arsic recalled that under the Hellenic Plan for development and reconstruction of the Balkans, EUR 440 million will be spent, and that more than EUR 100 million will be allocated to Serbia for infrastructural projects. Mrs Vesna Arsic announced that the construction of an eight kilometre section Srpska Kuca–Donji Neradovac, from Bujanovac to Vranje, will soon begin. Addressing the forum of Greek and Serbian businessmen at the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, Arsic said that that this section of Corridor 10 will most likely be completed by mid-2012, stressing that a down payment of €4.5 million has already been secured for the contractor – Greece’s Aktor. Within two months, a tender will be announced for the section from Lesovoj to Srpska Kuca, which will also be financed from the Hellenic Plan, she added. Mrs Vesna Arsic pointed out that total Greek FDI in Serbia 2000-2010 reached about 2 bln EUR while 80 Greek companies operating in Serbia and 150 more have joint venture with domestic companies. Mihailo Vesovic vice president of PKS described Greece as significant Serbia's economic partner; Greece is the 15th foreign trade export parnter and the 21th foreign trade import partner of Serbia. Mr Vesovic highlighted also the bilateral economic relations from the Chamber's viewj presenting the very good ans stable inter-chamber relations. The other discussed topics related to Greek banks in Serbia, Coca-Cola HBC activities in Serbia: a successful story, new product – traditional market etc.

EULEX, has asked Council of Europe (CoE) Special Rapporteur Dick Marty to send all the evidence he has to EU prosecutors in Priština. "EULEX has sent a letter to Mr. Marty where we encourage him to provide the prosecutorial authorities within EULEX with any information or evidence that could shed light on the allegations made in his report," EULEX spokesman Blerim Krasnici said quoted by Reuters. In his report about the human organ trafficking, Marty identified the outgoing Kosovo Albanian Prime Minister Hashim Thaci as the leader of the mafia-style group involved in criminal activities including murders, organ, weapons and drug trafficking during and after the war in Kosovo. Marty said who in his report that Thaci and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) are responsible for the illegal activities. He drafted his report for two years at CoE request after former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) Carla Del Ponte first published information on human organ trafficking in her book The Hunt, in which she also said she was not allowed to carry out a full investigation of KLA activities.

Russia calls for the involvement of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in PACE talks on the current situation in the Caucasus. A statement to this effect was made by Konstantin Kosachev, the head of the Russian State Duma’s International Affairs Committee, during his meeting with the chairman of the PACE Monitoring Committee Dick Marty in Moscow on Monday. The meeting came ahead of the upcoming closed-door PACE hearings on the Russian-Georgian dossier. The past couple of years have seen an about-face in PACE stance on the situation in the Caucasus, Kosachev said. We can talk about the Council of Europe’s considerable contribution to the resolution of the respective issues, Kosachev says, citing Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg. We can also single out the PACE report on the humanitarian crisis in the Caucasus in the wake of the 2008 war between Russia and Georgia over South Ossetia. Mapped out by the PACE Migration Committee, the report was based on an unbiased approach to the matter, which was sadly not the case with a slew of other surveys, which were earlier released by the PACE Monitoring Committee, Kosachev complains. Those reports failed to contribute to the resolution of a spate of problems that the people of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia are currently dealing with. The Russian delegation hails PACE’s present push for doing more to rectify the situation in the Caucasus, Kosachev points out, adding that Moscow’s standpoint is also shared by other countries. The 2008 Caucasus crisis began spiraling when Georgian forces launched a surprise deadly attack on South Ossetia in August of that year in a bid to regain control of its breakaway province. The Georgian aggression caused casualties among civilians and Russian peacekeepers, who were deployed in South Ossetia in accordance with a UN mandate. Moscow was quick to send troops to the conflict zone to compel Georgia to peace. It took Russian forces five days to drive Georgian troops out of the area in a move that infuriated many in the West, who swiftly accused Moscow of a disproportionate use of force. The subsequent months, though, saw a turn-around, with Western media admitting the fact that Georgia instigated the conflict, referring to the use of force against South Ossetia. During the Moscow talks, Kosachev specifically bemoaned the no-show of Abkhazia and South Ossetia officials at the forthcoming PACE hearings, which he said “creates additional problems for a large-scale participation of the Russian delegation in the gathering.”

The White House is exuding confidence heading into a key Senate vote today on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. Senate Democrats will seek to cut off debate today on the treaty, clearing the way for a final vote on START amid Republican criticism that it could undercut U.S. missile defense efforts. President Obama and Senate Democrats said the treaty will have no effect on missile defense, but will instead cut the number of nuclear weapons and assure inspections of Russia's nuclear arsenal. "The White House believes that before Congress leaves town, that the Senate will ratify the New START treaty," said Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs. The White House picked up a key START endorsement yesterday, when Republican senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts said he would back the treaty. The White House needs at least nine Republicans to win the two-thirds Senate vote necessary to ratify the treaty. In addition, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sent a letter to senators calling the treaty "vital to U.S. national security." Russia, meanwhile, objected to Republican proposals to revise the treaty to address the missile defense issue. "It cannot be opened up and become the subject of new negotiations," Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov told the Interfax news agency. Republicans, meanwhile, said Democrats are seeking to rush START through a lame duck session that also included such items as gays-in-the-military and immigration. "No senator should be forced to make decisions like this so we can tick off another item on someone's political check list before the end of the year," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

More than 100 Canadian-Arab Christians are listed on an Al Qaeda affiliated website, apparently targeted because of their alleged role in attempting to convert Muslims... The Shumukh-al-Islam website, often considered to be Al Qaeda's mouthpiece, listed pictures, addresses and cellphone numbers of Coptic Christians, predominantly Egyptian-Canadians, who have been vocal about their opposition to Islam. In a forum on the website, one member named Son of a Sharp Sword, says "We are going to return back to Islam and all of the Mujahedeen (holy warriors) will cut off their heads." Three pages of the fundamentalist, Arabic-language website titled "Complete information on Coptics" sets to "identify and name all of the Coptics throughout the world who hope to defame Islam," The website calls the Coptic Christians living abroad "dogs in diaspora," a derogatory reference in Arabic... Coptic Christians are predominantly a part of the Orthodox Church. Coptics are synonymous with Egypt and make up the largest Christian community in the Middle East... Shumukh-al-Islam lists more than 200 Arab Christians in Egypt, Europe and North America. More than 100 of them are listed as being in Canada. According to two of the Coptic men listed on the website, Canadian officials from the RCMP and CSIS met with representatives from the Canadian Coptic Organization in October... The struggle between the Coptic Christians and the Egyptian government has intensified in recent years over what they say are efforts by the government to curtail their religious freedoms. While the existence of such websites is often criticized even by free speech activists, one security expert said they are a treasure trove of intelligence... Intelligence agencies around the world are able to extract information on who is visiting such sites....