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Friday, February 25, 2011

Greece:Illegals;Cyprus:Libya sanct's;Serbia-Kosovo;Russia-U.S. Docs,Afghan deal;Paleolithic Alaska;Orthodox Prison Ministry

Government officials on Thursday said that Greece cannot open its borders to thousands of economic migrants arriving from the Middle East or offer legal status indiscriminately to migrants living in the country. Speaking from Rome following talks with five of his European Union counterparts, Citizens’ Protection Minister Christos Papoutsis said they had agreed that Europe “will not tolerate an uncontrollable influx of illegal immigrants crossing its external borders and staying on its territory.” In a joint statement, the ministers from Greece, Italy, Malta, Cyprus, France and Spain noted that the EU’s borders were already under pressure from a large influx of would-be migrants from Tunisia, where pro-reform protesters brought down the government last month, and would come under further pressure from citizens of other Arab states currently in turmoil. The joint communique warned that such an influx could entail “serious consequences and potential risks to the EU’s internal security.” Greece also faced negative repercussions on its crucial tourism sector as migrants often enter Greece via the Aegean islands, Papoutsis said. Meanwhile in Athens, Interior Minister Yiannis Ragousis called on 237 undocumented immigrants who have entered the fourth week of a hunger strike to call off their protest, saying that the government could not grant them the legal status they demand. “We cannot do mass legalizations; it would be a major risk,” Ragousis said, noting that the hunger strikers might be given a six-month grace period. The minister said that boatloads of immigrants from Africa were expected to reach Greece soon. “If they go on hunger strike too, what do we do?” he said.

Cyprus Foreign Minister Marcos Kyprianou has said that any sanctions against Libya must be targeted so as not to harm the people of Libya. Speaking after a meeting he had on Friday with EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response Kristalina Georgieva, Kyprianou said there are some ideas about the sanctions that the EU may impose on Libya. He noted that any sanctions must be targeted so that the people will not be harmed. “The fact that we advice for caution does not mean that we are taking a position towards any direction,” he said. Kyprianou noted that “due to the particularity of the country we must be cautious, reflect on the situation and remain targeted.” He said that he expects that the EU will take its decision on the issue of sanctions in the next few days. Asked whether humanitarian aid will be sent to Libya, Kyprianou said that this is an issue addressed by the Commission, who will send humanitarian aid, as Commission Georgieva informed him. Kyprianou stressed that Cyprus always provides its help once it is asked to do so while he noted that almost all Cypriots that wanted to leave Libya have been evacuated. He added that approximately seven Cypriots are still in a region from where it is difficult to be evacuated. He also underlined the very close cooperation between the governments of Cyprus and Greece. He said that Cyprus is grateful to Greece for its help and tangible support and noted that he spoke on Thursday night with Greek FM Demetris Droutsas. Responding to another question, Kyprianou said that has been no request so far to Cyprus to investigate whether there are any assets of Mubarak’s family in Cyprus. As to his meeting with Georgieva, Kyprianou said that the EU Commissioner informed him about her priorities and policies and that they discussed ways to promote better coordination and improvement of the processes. He also noted that they discussed about issues that will emerge during Cyprus EU Presidency, noting that development policy and humanitarian aid will be among the EU Cyprus Presidency priorities. Kyprianou also said he discussed with the Commissioner efforts for the coordination at the European level to promote the issue of EU citizens repatriation, adding that there is an informal cooperation mechanism between various EU members in the region, at an intergovernmental level.

Serbia will try to overcome administrative obstacles to trade with Kosovo, regardless of its policy not to recognize the secession of its former province, state-run Tanjug newswire reported, citing Deputy Prime Minister Bozidar Djelic. Delegations from the two governments will meet in the coming months to discuss customs procedures and other “technical” issues unresolved since Kosovo declared independence three years ago, the newswire said.

Russia's lower house of parliament ratified an agreement Friday to allow the United States to ferry troops and supplies across Russian territory for military operations in Afghanistan. The Kremlin-controlled State Duma voted 347-95 in favor of the 2009 deal, which has already been implemented pending ratification. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the Duma that there have been 780 U.S. flights over Russia — carrying 115,000 U.S. troops and more than 19,000 metric tons of cargo to and from Afghanistan — since September 2009. Ryabkov said the air route has accounted for 16 percent of all U.S. military shipments to and from the country. He said the agreement has helped improve ties with the U.S. and NATO and protects Russia's interests in other areas. Russia has struck similar deals with Germany, France and Spain and has touted them as a key contribution to international efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. Communists, who opposed the ratification, denounced the agreement with the U.S. as a "unilateral concession."

The U.S. ambassador to Moscow on Friday formally returned to Russia 21 historical documents that were recovered by U.S. law enforcement after being smuggled from Russia to the United States. The documents, which were stolen from Russian national archives in Moscow and St. Petersburg between 1994 and 2002, include two decrees signed by Catherine the Great and a decree and an award signed by the last tsar, Nicholas II. Hosting the ceremony at his Spaso House residence in Moscow, Ambassador John Beyrle told Russian and U.S. officials that the return of the documents marked the end of a detective story on two continents. "Today we celebrate a success in the battle against the theft and smuggling of cultural and historical artifacts, and a success in our effort to build a closer and more productive relationship between Russia and the United States," the ambassador said. Russian Deputy Culture Minister Andrei Gagarin said it was right that the priceless documents should return home. He said the event was a result of improved ties between Russia and the United States fostered by Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Barack Obama. "This is evidence that the reset in Russian-U.S. relations is working," Gagarin said. Russian officials say 2,500 documents were stolen by Ze'ev Feinman, a Russian antiquarian who now has Israeli citizenship. Representatives of the Russian State Archive said at the ceremony that the bulk of the documents were stolen from the Russian State Historical Archive, and some from military archives. More than 500 papers have already been returned to Russia.

Discovery of the burial site of a cremated child in Alaska offers a unique look at one of the peoples who first populated the Americas. The child, which was between two and four years old when it died, lived in central Alaska about 11,500 years ago. At that time the land bridge between Russia and Alaska - the route that humans took to colonize the Americas - was either still open or had only recently been flooded. Called the Beringia Land Bridge, it was the crossroads between the Old and the New Worlds... The team of archeologists who investigated the site say the young child, whose sex could not be determined, died during the summer months. Why it died isn't clear from the bones. People, including women and other children, were living in a seasonal summer home. There they foraged for salmon and other fish, ptarmigan and other birds, ground squirrels and other small mammals. When the child died, it was placed in what was probably the hearth of the house, covered with wood that included poplar branches and cremated. Almost immediately afterwards the pit was filled in and the house was abandoned. The house is one of only a very few discovered from the first 2,000 years of North America's human occupation. All the rest are either in the lower 48 states or in Siberia. The only other known burial site from this time period is at Ushki Lake in Siberia. The find appears to answer a long-standing question about whether the people who lived in central Alaska during the late Pleistocene and early Holocene were part of one large cultural group or several different groups. Because the tools and remains found at Upper Sun River are similar to others in the region, the find supports the single culture theory.

The annual Convocation of the Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry [OCPM] will be held at the Sheraton Centre Downtown Toronto June 28 - July 2, 2011. This year's Convocation will bring together the many Orthodox clergy and laity from around the world who are participating in, or interested in initiating, prison ministry. The gathering will provide ample time for education, fellowship, encouragement, communal worship and the free exchange of ideas. OCPM is the official prison ministry of the Assembly of Canonical Orthodox Bishops of North and Central America. For more information or to register, as well as for a wealth of ideas and models for initiating or expanding prison ministries, please visit Orthodox Christian Prison Ministry.